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Our Backyard Birds: The Painted Bunting

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A male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) perched on a stick.
Painted Bunting

Our Backyard Birds:

The Painted Bunting

(Passerina ciris)



If you want to attract Painted Buntings to your yard, it's best to plant native grasses like Switchgrass, Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, and Big Bluestem in small clusters. Their favorite native grass is Texas Cup Grass. Consider buying White Proso Millet seed, which is the best store-bought option. You can purchase it by the bag or as part of a seed mix that already includes it. Don't forget a shallow water source for them to drink and bathe.


Attracting buntings to your feeder requires patience as these shy birds prefer to hide in underbrush. To increase your chances, place a tube feeder, hopper feeder, or platform feeder in a quiet corner of your yard.


The Painted bunting, specifically the male, is often referred to as "nonpareil" or "without equal" due to its distinct and striking colors. The head is dark blue, the back is green, the rump is red, and the underparts are also red, making it quite easy to identify. However, despite its unique appearance, it can be challenging to spot since it tends to hide in foliage while singing. The female and juvenile painted buntings, on the other hand, have green and yellow-green plumage which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Nevertheless, adult females still stand out with their brighter, more actual green color compared to other similar songbirds.


Painted buntings are one of the most spectacularly colored and visually impressive birds in the United States. According to a legend from American Indian culture, the great spirit gave colors to all the birds, but when it came time to color the Painted bunting, there was not enough dye left. As a result, the bird received a multi-colored plumage from the remaining dabs of color.

A female painted bunting (Passerina ciris) on a small limb
Female Painted Bunting

Painted buntings are sociable birds that feed during the day by hopping on the ground. They stop every few moments to look around in a cautious manner. They can be shy and secretive and are often difficult to observe with the naked eye. However, if they get used to bird feeders, they can be fairly approachable. During the breeding season, males frequently sing songs that can last for about 30 seconds or more. This is a means of self-promotion and territorial defense since they become highly territorial during this period. The males also engage in visual displays such as flying bouncingly like a butterfly, upright display, body-fluff display, bow display, and wing-quiver display. Painted buntings migrate over short to medium distances at night and are active in the fall from the end of July to mid-October. They return in the spring from early April until mid-May.

The Painted bunting faces significant threats to its survival due to habitat loss, including breeding and migration stopover sites. In addition, they are often casualties of window strikes. Unfortunately, their strikingly beautiful feathers make them a target for the wild-caught pet trade, which further exacerbates their declining population. Despite being illegal in many countries, trapping of these birds is still common, especially in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America where they spend their winters.

A male Painted Buntiing (Passerina ciris) on a stick
Alert Painted Bunting

Attracting a Painted Bunting to your yard can be challenging since they are more cautious about being out in the open compared to other feeder birds like cardinals or wrens. They require a lot of nearby cover, but with the proper food, shelter, and water source, you can create a space that they won't be able to resist!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the Painted Bunting and how you can attract them to your backyard. If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them. Please share this blog post with your friends and family who have a love for birds, bird photography, or backyard birding.


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