Painted Bunting: Passerina ciris
The painted bunting is one of the most rapidly declining
songbirds in the eastern United States. Florida breeding and winter
season surveys show an astounding 4-6 percent annual decrease in
this species' numbers. In some areas, counts have fallen from the
hundreds to a mere handful.
The buntings seek brushy vegetation in open areas such as
roadside thickets and edges of fields. They frequent backyard
gardens, searching for seeds. They nest in the early successional
shrub edges in coastal hammocks.
Breeding takes place in Atlantic coastal counties from northern
Brevard County to the Georgia border. Painted buntings lay about
four eggs in deep-cup nests of grass and sticks constructed at the
end of branches, usually in Spanish moss.
The reason for their decline is a puzzle, although one suspect
is the brown-headed cowbird, which lays its eggs in the nests of
other songbirds rather than building its own. In the competition of
nestlings for food, the faster-growing cowbirds win, often starving
the young buntings and even ousting them from the nest. Another
suspected reason for their decline is the illegal capture of
hundreds of adults for the exotic pet trade, especially in the