During the summer months, some of the most beautiful bird species in the country can be found on our island and in the surrounding ecosystems. Photographers and birders from all over flock to Amelia Island in summer to look for Swallow-tailed Kites, which have flown here from Brazil because our island is home to their breeding grounds.
Their tuxedo-like plumage of black-and-white, 49-inch wingspan, long forked tails, and graceful flight skills make Swallow-tailed Kites a thing of wonder and beauty. Those kites are found in only seven states, and only for a few months each year. Luckily for us, one of those states is Florida!
The pretty-in-pink Roseate Spoonbill, the strawberry-red Summer Tanager, and the pearl-gray Mississippi Kite are also beautiful summer visitors to our area. But if you were to stand before your mirror and ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who on Amelia Island is the fairest summer visitor of all?” what would the answer be? Without a doubt, it would be the Painted Bunting!
Stunning, vivid, and spectacular are just a few of the adjectives that immediately spring to mind to describe the Painted Bunting. In the French language, the Painted Bunting is called “nonpareil,” meaning without equal, which is the perfect moniker for them.
Painted Buntings have a wingspan of about eight inches and they only weigh about half an ounce, yet they command attention where ever they are seen. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that “with their vivid fusion of blue, green, yellow and red, male Painted Buntings seem to have flown straight out of a child’s coloring book.”
The male has a striking cobalt-blue head, a lime-green back, and a bright red chest and rump. The females and immature males are a beautiful bright green. Females and immature males look (for the most part) the same and are often called “greenies.” If you see a greenie singing, you will know for sure it is an immature male because only the male of this species sings. If you recognize their beautiful song, you will have an advantage in finding Painted Buntings here on Amelia Island.
Go to the app store on your phone to get the free Sibley Birds (second edition) app. Search your app to hear and learn the Painted Bunting song. You will also find additional information on this and other birds.
To tempt Painted Buntings to your backyard feeders, be sure to offer white millet seed; it is their favorite. Try a tube-shaped feeder with small perches filled with millet. Fill the feeder halfway so the seed you offer is always fresh. In addition, offer a source of fresh water if you can. A small bubbling fountain or a bird bath will attract all species of backyard birds.
Because of their beauty, many Painted Buntings are trapped and sold as pets in other countries each year, despite it being a federal crime. Audubon reports that the practice of trapping and selling these wild birds was documented as far back as the 1800s, but it is thought to have been happening as early as the 1700’s. In 2017, the Jekyll Island Banding Station banded a Painted Bunting with a U.S.
Geological Survey band. The band was engraved with a number assigned solely to that bird so that it could be identified. In 2021, that same banded bird was seen for sale in a cage at a market in Cuba. If you see illegal trapping or a caged bunting, call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert at (888) 404-3922.
For bird identification help, tips, and other information, www.allaboutbirds.org is your best source. Painted Buntings will migrate south by October, so keep your “eyes to the skies” so you don’t