The painted bunting is widely recognized that the most beautiful songbird seen in Georgia. However, most of us never have the opportunity to gaze on the amazingly gorgeous bird in our backyards. However, from time to time, one ventures outside its traditional range breeding range and shows up at a backyard. A week ago, two male painted buntings made such an appearance in a backyard near the small town of Culloden in Monroe County. This appears to be the first time that the species has ever been documented in this Middle Georgia County.
The main reason why most of us never host a painted bunting is that the bird’s breeding area hugs the Georgia Coast. Consequently, if you live away from Georgia’s coastal counties, and want to see the colorful birds, you must travel to spots such as Skidaway Island State Park and Jekyll Island to see one.
It is not widely known that a small number of the birds breed in and around Luther Williams Field and Central City Park in Macon. In addition, the birds are also known to breed near Americus in Sumter County.
In addition, the painted buntings that breed in the Peach State winter from Central Florida to Cuba, the Bahama Islands at other locations in the Caribbean and beyond. However, on rare occasions, painted buntings will winter far north of the traditional wintering areas. For example, in 2015, a painted bunting wintered in New York City’s Central Park. Now that was one hardy bird!
For those of us hoping beyond hope that we will someday see one feeding in our backyards, the odds of this happening may be getting a little better. The reason I say this is the Georgia Breeding Bird Atlas Project revealed that some painted buntings are actually nesting in a few counties scattered across the Georgia Coastal Plain. This bolsters the chances that folks living in those counties will see the handsome birds.
In addition, since painted buntings are known to scatter widely after nesting, perhaps some of the birds that breed or are raised some distance from the coast, will begin showing up at more backyard feeders before heading south for the winter. Time will tell.
In the meantime, if you keep your feeders stocked with the bird’s favorite foods, perhaps one will appear in your yard. Some experts consider white proso millet to be their favorite feeder food. The birds are also very fond on black oil sunflower seeds.
Interestingly, the birds the appeared in Monroe County fed exclusively on peanut butter suet plugs, nuggets, and cakes in addition to dried mealworms. White proso millet was not available to them. In addition, the only sunflower seeds that were present were hulled sunflower seeds treated with pepper.
If you want to enter the painted bunting lottery this spring and summer, offer the foods the birds like best at you backyard café and cross your fingers. Perhaps some of us will get lucky this year.