Painted Bunting

Passerina ciris


Conservation and Management

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Effects of Human Activity


Males are easily trapped from their territory by use of live or mounted bunting as decoy (Audubon 1841, Wayne 1910, Greene 1946) and have been popular cage birds (Audubon 1841, Wilson and Bonaparte 1831). Audubon (Audubon 1841) reported “thousands” caught each spring and that most ships leaving New Orleans transported Painted Buntings to Europe for 126-fold increase in value.

Painted Buntings are still trapped and sold in large numbers in Central America, especially in Mexico (Partners in Flight Watch List; CWT), although data on take are limited. Impact on populations is increased because breeding adults are targeted. Johnson et al. (2012) estimated maximum allowable take to ensure population stability for the closely related Lazuli Bunting; similar estimates are needed for Painted Bunting.

Degradation Of Habitat

Owing to their fairly limited distribution along the Atlantic coast, eastern populations more susceptible than western populations to loss and degradation of breeding habitat. Apparent decline in abundance during 1930s in Georgia is attributed to highway maintenance activities that cleared roadsides of shrubby vegetation favored for nesting (Murphey 1937); since then, highway maintenance practices maintain even more sterile habitats. In the Painted Bunting's stronghold along the coast and on coastal islands, development of swamp thickets and woodland edges have reduced prime habitat; projected sea-level rise would also reduce these habitats (Brittain and Craft 2012). Loss of riparian areas in sw. U.S. and nw. Mexico used during molt-migration of western populations could have a disproportionate effect on population numbers.

Collision Mortality

Few deaths reported at communication towers and tall buildings during migration. In Florida, at 1 site in Leon Co. with no breeding population to the north, only 1 casualty during 15 yr of monitoring; at another site in Orange Co., 4 casualties during 3 yr of monitoring; at a Brevard Co. site, 31 casualties in spring and 1 in fall during 11 yr of monitoring (Stevenson and Anderson 1994b).


Specific reasons for population decline unknown, but presumably loss of shrubland habitat is the primary cause. This species is listed on Partners in Flight Watch List as species of special concern. Monitoring numbers and studies of populations is warranted. Citizen science feeder watch programs have been successful in monitoring populations (Rotenberg et al. 2012).

Recommended Citation

Lowther, P. E., S. M. Lanyon, and C. W. Thompson (2015). Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.