Painted Bunting

Passerina cirisA rare, resplendent adult male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) has been in Prospect Park for two weeks now, attracting an enormous amount of media attention and hordes of viewers. Passerina cirisNote this big seed-cracking bunting bill. The bird has stuck to the area around and atop the new ice-skating complex, which has a green roof. The native plants there seem to be instrumental in providing him food. This mild weather, too, has made it feel like home. The attention paid to the bird means a feral cat in the area was even removed.Passerina cirisIt turns out there are two distinct populations of Passerina ciris, one found in the coastal southeast and the other in the south-central U.S. (I’ve seen them before, in Texas.) Perhaps this specimen is from the southeast (?). Word is that these populations will probably be split into two species soon by the taxonomic high lords.Passerina cirisMeanwhile, you couldn’t ask for a finer dissertation on feather color. We see feather color because of two reasons: pigments and the physical structure of the feather itself. Blues, for instance, are created by the way light reflects off of the feathers. The reds are pigments. Passerina cirisTalk about a twofer! Also, such a bold bird raises the question of why it’s so vibrant. Birds have better vision than we do, better here being defined as a greater range of light reception: they have four cones to our three and see into the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. What we see is quite different from what birds see. So this peacock makes quite a display of himself, the vibrancy of his colors suggesting to potential mates that he’s got what it takes to sire a hardy next generation. At the same time, he stands out so much that he’s a vivid target for predators, including the bastards in the illegal pet bird business. The only place he’d be camouflaged is Wonkaland. It’s an interesting series of compromises and trade-offs, evolution. Passerina cirisOf course, he’s a small songbird. Even with twenty birders and photographers lined up on the path (every notice about the bird has gone out with a reminder to stay on the paths) pointing their devices at him, it still takes a second or two to pinpoint him at ten feet.

4 Responses to “Painted Bunting”


  1. 1 elwnyc December 13, 2015 at 9:35 am

    What a gorgeous bird! And you got great pictures. I haven’t got over to Prospect Park yet, but I have seen (and not got good pictures) of the bird in Florida – Green Cay, I think, though it may have been Wakodahatchee.
    Common birds there.

  2. 2 mthew April 25, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Backyard and Beyond and commented:

    In honor of Prospect Park’s 150th year, I’m reposting some of my old posts about things seen and experienced in the park in the last seven years.


  1. 1 6th Anniversary Highlights | Backyard and Beyond Trackback on March 3, 2016 at 6:31 pm

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