Of all the birds in North America, the male painted buntings are the most vividly colored. Painted buntings have a dramatic combination of red, blue, and green. Though not as colorful, the female is distinctive too, with a color combination no other bird has—lime green above and otherwise unmarked.
Other small greenish birds (such as the vireos) do not have the painted bunting’s large bill and overall unmarked plumage. Vireos have thinner bills and other obvious field marks (wing bars, eye lines, spectacles). Painted Buntings are about 5 ½ inches in length.
The painted bunting’s song is a long, sweet warbling phrase. It has the musical quality of the indigo bunting’s song, but the notes are more slurred together. Call note is a sharp, metallic vit!
Despite the male’s brilliant plumage, painted buntings can be hard to find. Their range is more limited than those of other buntings. They are shy birds that prefer thickets and brushy cover during the breeding season.
A painted bunting will predominantly feast on seeds except during spring and early summer when they will eat mostly arthropods. They use a variety of methods to acquire food.
Nests are usually placed in low vegetation. They are well constructed and bound together by cobwebs. Clutch sizes are 3 to 4 eggs and female will incubate for 11 days. The female painted bunting cares for the young all by herself. However, her mate may feed the fledglings when she starts a second brood.
Young fledge after 9 days. Painted buntings’ molt cycle is unusual in that young birds will undergo two inserted molts during their first fall, which results in plumage similar to the adult females.
Another name for the painted bunting is nonpareil, which is French for “having no equal.” On their tropical wintering grounds they are often illegally captured and kept as pet birds.