Painted Buntings - Season Three


Painted Bunting
Photo by Bill Munro

Welcome to Season Three of color banding Painted Buntings (PABU) in south Florida.  To understand the program please see the pages for Seasons One and Two.  We were very happy to have one of our banded birds documented on territory in Georgia this summer.  See the very end of Season Two for details!

August 24, 2015:  Like last year, Painted Bunting reports have been coming in since early August.  It seems these birds were not going to hang around for very long.  We have yet to band an early bird.  But excitement started on August 24 - our first returning color banded birds.  A male and a green returned to PB 44.  Banded last March.

Photos by Vicki Rogerson

August 31, 2015:  A returnee to PB 20 - male banded as a male last November.

September 4, 2015:  I have added a page called Encouraging Painted Buntings.  If you are already a host you likely know most of this.  I needed a place to send folks so they could find out more about Painted Buntings.  If there is information I should add, please email me.  PB 44 had another banded bird return.

September 8, 2015:  PB 4 reported a juvenile Painted Bunting and we were anxious to try to band this bird in hopes that were it ever re-sighted we might know more about where the early buntings come from.  There is a very short window to detect young buntings in Florida.  By the end of September birds that were born the previous summer undergo a full molt into green plumage.  No way to tell if they were adult females or just the new crop of males and females.  Remember the males do not get their full colors until their second fall.

We were serenaded by 2 pair of Barred Owls with 1 pair in a nearby pine.

distant Barred Owl
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise 

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Carol Newton

We did band several young Northern Cardinals.  One was especially fascinating as it still had retained juvenile feathers in its wing (arrow below) even though most of the other signs of being a young bird had disappeared.  The bird was almost done molting from juvenile brown (like to females) to the red of an adult male.  The bill had turned almost entirely orange.  Besides the retained feathers, the only other clue to its young age were a few brownish body feathers.  

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Nancy Price

Resightings of banded buntings have started to come in as have reports of birds at feeders.  It's time for buntings!!!!!

October 8, 2015:  Returning green to PB 1.  Banded last March.  Keep those reports coming in.  I'll try to keep up!

October 9, 2015:  PB 46  Banded 6 buntings; 2 male, 1 female, and 3 green.  We had a molting green bird with no evidence of juvenile feathers.  Since this bird went from green to more green it is a female bird aged as after-hatch-year.  Incidental captures:  Blue Jay 1, Blue-winged Warbler 1.  The Blue-winged Warbler was a new banded species for me.

molting female Painted Bunting (no juvenile feathers, still green in second season)
Photo by Bob Ellis

Blue-winged Warbler
Photo by Jane Wiewora

October 10, 2015:  A green returned to PB 5.  Banded last November.

Painted Bunting KGCS

October 13, 2015:  Another bird has returned to PB5 and it turns out to be our one bird that has been resighted on its breeding grounds.  This bird was observed in Georgia in June.  It has now returned to where we banded in Sebastian!  Good spotting Becky!  Amazing data for this and other studies.

Painted Bunting KGOS
Photo by Becky Cook

Also on October 13, Possum Long had its first return.  WKSP a green now showing male.  

October 14, 2015:  PB 27 is using a remote camera to photograph birds in their caged feeder - so far we have identified 3 returns (2 male and 1 female)

returning banded Painted Buntings BIKS and SRIK
PB 27 host

October 15, 2015:  PB 5 return #3

Painted Bunting KSRY
Photo by Becky Cook

October 16, 2015:  More reports from PB1:  Has had 4 more banded birds return and has 2 unbanded.  Exciting part if THREE of them are from Season 1.  Tally started.

PB 10 also reported 2 returns from Season 1.  1 male, 1 green which we now know is female.

October 18, 2015:  Two more returns.  One from PB 26 and another from PB5!

Photo by Becky Cook

October 19, 2015:  PB32 had its first return

October 20, 2015:  PB6 reported 4 returns and we banded a green at the Possum Long Banding Station.

October 21, 2015:  The caged feeders we put out at Possum Long (property of Audubon of Martin County) had at least 2 greens today!  Success.

Two greens in a feeder
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

October 23, 2015:  Banded at Possum Long trying to get the above birds.  We banded two!  Saw a third.  I was also witness to a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the property.  It flew in within 15 feet of me and nabbed a cicada.  Very wonderful experience.

PB 35 reported 3 returns.  PB 26 had their second return.

Last night PB 46 reported still seeing some of the birds that were banded earlier this season but many new, unbanded birds.  They also have a North Carolina bird!!  We will update when we get data from Dr Rotenberg.  

Photos by Bob Ellis

October 24, 2015:  PB 5 had 3 more returns, all male.

October 26, 2015: Returned to PB46 where we banded 13 buntings, and 5 incidentals (N Cardinal, N Mockingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Redstart).  Also of GREAT interest we recaptured a bird originally banded in North Carolina (reported above on 10/23).  Still no word on the original banding but now we have a federal band number to report.  We WILL update.

October 27, 2015:  Banded 4 greens at Possum Long during regular banding day there.  Looks like the new caged feeders are working.

October 30, 2015:  PB32 caught me up on a second return.

November 12, 2015: PB 47 Banded 4 Buntings and a Northern Cardinal.  3 male, 1 green

Painted Bunting - likely hatch year bird

November 15, 2015: PB21 reported a returned bird - another green now showing male.

November 17, 2015:  PB35 has built a wonderful smaller version of the caged feeders.  Good points:  Feeling of safety for feeding birds, flat surface to observe bands, can be "stored" during summer when no buntings are around.  I assume the tray has a screen to prevent seed spoiling.

PB 26 had a 4th return - and that's out of 7 banded.  Great average.

November 19, 2015:  I forgot to add a tip from PB 32.  They put perches across some of the corners in their caged feeder and they report the buntings LOVE it!

November 21, 2015:  Another report from PB 20 with 6 more returns over the last few weeks.  (7 of 14 banded)

November 23, 2015:  Returned to PB 5 - home of our only resighting (in Georgia!)  Banded 4 greens and recaptured 3 already banded birds.  (will be adding photos)  Incidental capture of Blue Jay, 2 Northern Cardinals, 1 Common Grackle, and a Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren
Photo by Becky Cook

Common Grackle (a handful!)
Photo by Becky Cook

PB 22 reported the return of a banded male Painted Bunting.

November 25, 2015:  Returned to PB 2 where we banded 4 Painted Buntings and recaptured 1.  

November 30, 2015:  PB1 sent a list of resightings!  13 more.  The first bird we ever color banded returned!  PB 1 now has a total of 18 returned this year.  Five returned from Season 1 and amazingly, all 5 also returned last year!

PB 32 also had another return.  

December 1, 2015:  It is highly possible that one of "our" birds is now at a feeder in Homestead.  The person reporting did not record a split band but did record a black one.  We know how hard it is to tell these bands.  If the black is really a split, the bird was banded in Wellington (PB 37) on February 10, 2015.  So all of you who worry when one of yours "disappears", maybe they continued on and your feeder is a stopping over place.

December 4, 2015:  PB 32 has another return.

December 6, 2015:  PB 48  Saw the reported buntings but sun and wind kept them from going in the net.  Frustration when one SAT ON THE NET!  We did band a female Red-winged Blackbird.  We will return to this location and try again.

December 7, 2015:  PB 49 Banded 11 green and 2 male.  There were quite a few unbanded buntings still around.  

December 9, 2015:  Another return to PB1.

December 11, 2015:  Banded at PB1. Added 4 green and 2 male.  Recaptured 3 returnees all from Season 1.  Two of these had been observed but one was new. It was banded as a male in 2013 so it is at least 4 years old and on January 1 will be in at least its fifth year.  Also exciting is that it was not observed in Season 2 but was back this season!

December 13, 2015:  Banded at PB50.  Caught 4 green and a male.  Incidental capture of a female Northern Cardinal which interestingly enough still showed black on its bill indicating that it was born this past year.

December 14, 2015:  Return trip to PB 46 where we banded 23 buntings.  8 male and 15 green We also banded a few Gray Catbirds.

Painted Bunting with white primary coverts - this was seen on both wings

Male Painted Bunting with a bit of extra blue across the chest

December 16, 2015:  We got the wonderful news that Dr. James Rotenberg will be visiting our area January 21 - 23.  We hope to have events for the public as well as our hosts.  Emails will go out with details and hopefully be in local newspapers.  Dr Jamie is the originator of the study of Painted Buntings on their breeding grounds.  He started the Painted Bunting Observer Team web page that we all use (should be using) to record observations.  He will be looking into a compilation of all of the resighted birds that have overwintered in Florida.  It should be a lot of fun.  For details email me at  More information on websites for Audubon Society of the Everglades and Audubon of Martin county.

January 5, 2016:  A few more returns and hoping that the cold weather has brought in more birds.  If you have buntings that we can band, please email

January 9, 2016:  All of our buntings have turned a year older.  Males are now after-second-year and greens are after-hatch-year.  We banded at PB 28 and banded 6 male and 10 greens.  Incidental captures were an Indigo Bunting, a Gray Catbird, and a Northern Cardinal.  

January 12, 2016:  Returned to PB 21 and banded  2 male and 7 green Painted Buntings.  Incidental captures: Northern Cardinal 2, Mourning Dove 1.  

One of the incidentally captured Northern Cardinals appeared to suffer a recent loss of feathers.  The wing was missing its secondaries and showed no regrowth. 

The body had also been stripped enough to show a feather tract.  Feathers do not cover the entire body of a bird.  They grow in rows and fan out to cover the bird.  Hopefully both sets of feathers will grow in very soon.

Northern Cardinals
Both photos by Pete Grannis

January 13, 2016:  If you live in the Vero Beach area I will be the speaker at the Pelican Island Audubon meeting on January 25.

January 18, 2016:  Banded at PB 51.  Banded 4 male and 6 green Painted Buntings.  Incidental capture of 5 Chipping Sparrows, 2 Northern Cardinals, and 1 Gray Catbird.

Chipping Sparrow
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

January 21-23, 2016:  So much news to catch up on.  Dr James Rotenberg from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and Painted Bunting Observer Team creator/director/leader came to visit us in Florida.  (view and or enter Painted Bunting data at  Once we knew he was coming we planned a tremendous number of events.  He asked for and got 2 lectures, birding, and banding.  On January 21 Jamie landed at Palm Beach International and we met him at security.  We held up the only possible sign to greet him - a print of Bill Munro's photograph of the bathing bunting at the top of this page!  Before his arrival we got a few looks and one "I like that" and a very big Huh!  Jamie found us and we swept him away to bird at Peaceful Waters near Wellington.  After 50-some species we left for dinner with some of the folks who made the Palm Beach area lecture possible.  We are indebted to Audubon Society of the Everglades and Mindy Rose of the Palm Beach Gardens Library as all the arranging and advertising they did made it possible for me to focus on all the other details of this visit.  Jamie shared a lot of current data and theories with us and mentioned the possibility of a new PBOT web page!  We will keep you informed.

Dr Rotenberg's lecture
Photo by Jane Wiewora

The next day we picked up Jamie bright and early for a banding session at Dupuis Wildlife Management Area outside of Stuart.  We caught and banded a few buntings (Painted (1) and Indigo(6)) as well as Chipping Sparrows and Common Ground-Doves.  

banding at Dupuis - Dr Rotenberg and Pete Grannis
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Rain drove us away a tad early so we chased a Martin county rarity - a Horned Grebe and then went to Possum Long for a Banders and Host luncheon.  11 hosts attended and a good time was had by all.  Folks shared their beginnings with Painted Buntings and Jamie answered many questions.  I think this was my favorite event.

Banders and Host Luncheon Round Table Event at Possum Long
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Then we did a bit more birding before a quick supper and Lecture #2.  We are very thankful to the staff and Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park who provided the meeting space, publicity, tech support, and all the set-up for this session.  Many thanks to Georgia Binderow, Pat Marshall, and Linda Wishney who did a lot of the planning and purchasing for both the lunch and lecture events.  

Day three and we were tired but extremely happy.  What a good time of sharing and strengthening the bonds of friendship formed by Painted Buntings.  I have never met a more wonderful group of people as those on my team and the hosts we have worked with!  Years ago when Dr Rotenberg visited, he met one of our future hosts.  He had to stand in her bathtub to see the buntings at her feeder.  I thought I had a copy of that photo and I will post it if I get another.  He had fun recreating the photo as well as banding with us.

The re-creation 
Photo by Debbie Carrier

 Dr Rotenberg with a male Painted Bunting
Photo by Georgia Binderow

Most of the banding team
Photo by Debbie Carrier

Though not all the people who helped have been mentioned by name, I could not have done this event and enjoyed it without their help.  I think this meeting has resulted in renewed enthusiasm, new contacts and hosts, as well as stronger connections to Dr Rotenberg and the work he does during the Painted Bunting breeding season.  Together we make a great team.  

We enjoyed being "live" with family in Tennessee (amid the snow they had).  Bill released a Painted Bunting and amazingly Jane caught its departure.  An amazing time was had by all but like the bunting it was time to fly home.

Fly away home
Photo by Jane Wiewora

January 25, 2016:  I gave a talk at the Pelican Island Audubon Society meeting. I am very enthused that we may have more contacts there and may be able to establish a Painted Bunting habitat and feeding area at their property.  May education follow!  I thank them for their generous support!  

January 26, 2016:  A little more catch up to do.  One of our hosts has had a tremendous number of American Goldfinches this year (as well as more Painted Buntings!).  We intend to revisit but in the meantime we would like to share that they had 2 banded goldfinches.  We are anxious to see if we can capture them to see if we banded them or if they are from another location/bander.  As you can see in the photo, the bands are quite shiny where typically after a year, like ours, they become quite dull.  Also, one of the goldfinches was missing its black pigment.  The bird looked so much like a canary!  

 banded American Goldfinch
Photo by Jean Potvin

American Goldfinch
Photo by Pete Grannis

January 30, 2016:  Return visit to PB 20 as the host reported many more unbanded birds.  They had built a caged platform feeder (plans on the Encouraging Painted Buntings page) that held our traps very well.  We banded 19 buntings - 7 male, 12 green.  Some really interesting photos to follow soon.  

PB 20 has a Painted Bunting that appears to have both female and male characteristics.  It is mostly green but the green on the back is much more like that of the males.  Its head is green but there are a few blue feathers around the eye area.  The belly is red but not quite as red as most males.

Oddly colored Painted Bunting
This photo and the following by Bill LaFramboise

Blue feathers around the eye

Only a little bit of red in the uppertail feathers

Some reddish tones in the wings

(March, 2016)  Since the original posting above, we have found out that as birds age their hormone levels can shift and females may start to show male characteristics in their feathers.  Likely this bird is an older female.

February 1, 2016:  PB 52 - banded 3 male and 2 green.  Incidental captures included an American Goldfinch, a Northern Cardinal, and a Mourning Dove. 

February 2, 2016:  PB 53 - banded 2 male and 3 green.  Incidental capture of a House Sparrow.

February 3, 2016:  We have been seeing some male Painted Buntings with magenta upper tail coverts.  Dr Rotenberg told us that these may be from a population in southern, coastal South Carolina.  This color is very hard to photograph.  This is somewhat like hummingbird throats that sometimes look black instead of metallic.  These photographs sometimes only show red though our eyes can see the magenta.

 Magenta upper tail coverts

February 8, 2016:  PABU 54 - banded 10 buntings (9 green, 1 male) and a Blue Jay, a Gray Catbird, and 2 Red-winged Blackbirds.  The male had a very unusual undertail that was yellow instead of red.  The male Red-winged Blackbird sported one white feather (wing covert).  There are many incidences of albino and partially albino red-wings but this one feather was fun to find.  We love reporting the strange colors we see but do not fear, there's no epidemic, just natural variation!

Painted Bunting
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Red-winged Blackbird - male
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Red-winged Blackbird - female with typical rosy throat
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

February 10, 2016:  Revisit to PB 3.  Banded 4 Painted Buntings (2 male, 2 green).  Recaptured a bird that had been banded at Possum Long before we ever color banded!  4/10/2013.  The bird was showing male colors was born in or prior to 2011 and was at least 3 years old at banding.  Now it is at least 6!

February 12, 2016:  Banded at PB 55 where we banded 7 buntings (3 male, 4 green) and a few incidental birds including a Palm Warbler, a Gray Catbird, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Also had a team at PB 50 at the same time.  (Banded 2 male, 3 green.)  These 2 locations are close together and near another PB host. It will be very interesting to see how far these birds travel.   

February 19, 2016:  Return to PB 6 where we were hoping for resightings.  We documented 2 resightings; banded 1 Painted Bunting and 5 Indigo Buntings.

February 22, 2016:  Revisit to PB 13.  Banded 3 Painted Buntings (all green). Banded a Palm Warbler and a Gray Catbird.

February 23, 2016:  PB 56  Banded 9 Painted Buntings (2 male, 7 green). Incidental capture of 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2 Northern Cardinals, 1 Northern Mockingbird, and 2 Gray Catbirds.

February 25, 2016:  Return to PB 48 and this time SUCCESS!  We got 6 of the buntings that eluded us last visit.  (3 male, 3 green)

February 29, 2016:  Excellent to have fellow bander and teacher, Tony Leukering at a return visit to PB 32.  We accommodated his wish to process a Painted Bunting!  We banded Painted Buntings (4 male, 1 green).  Incidental captures:  6 Indigo Bunting, 4 Brown-headed Cowbird, 1 American Goldfinch, and 2 Gray Catbird.

Processing a male Painted Bunting
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

March 1, 2016:  Banded a green at Possum Long

March 2, 2016:  We banded at PB 57 and captured a banded bird that had been reported to us.  It did not have a black/white split so we knew it was not one of our birds.  We do not have information yet but we will add it as soon as we do. We also banded 3 other buntings (2 male, 1 green).  We look forward to returning to this location.

March 3, 2016:  PB 58 - Our first ever banding in Broward county!  We saw more buntings than we were able to catch.  We banded 4 greens.  Incidental captures included a new species (107) for me - Boat-tailed Grackle!  What a big bird! It seemed bigger than the Mourning Dove we banded.  We also banded a Northern Cardinal, a Blue Jay, and a Northern Parula.  

Boat-tailed Grackle
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Boat-tailed Grackle
Photo by Jane Wiewora
"My what big feet you have!"

March 7, 2016:  Weather has not been our friend at PB 59.  We cancelled once due to rain and this day was quite windy.  We saw at least 7 Painted Buntings but caught only one.  This is a location we will return to next season!

March 8, 2016:  Banded 2 green Painted Buntings at Possum Long.  It is always nice to hear from hosts after we have left.  PB 58 reported that all of the banded birds had returned to the feeders.  It will reassure future hosts to know that we do not "scare birds away".

March 10, 2016:  PB 60 had fantastic Painted Bunting habitat.  We banded 22 buntings (mostly male) and had incidental capture of 1 Indigo Bunting, 1 Gray Catbird, and 1 Northern Cardinal.  We have now tied the Season One total of 249.  Seven sessions left to go......

March 11, 2016:  Return to PB 48 where we banded 2 more greens.

March 14, 2016:  PB 61 - our second Broward county site!  Great site where we banded 17 buntings and had incidental capture of 2 Gray Catbirds.  On site were 2 Spot-breasted Orioles!  Wish we had gotten one of those!  One of the males had just one green feather in its tail.  We consulted with Erik Johnson, the teacher from our trip to Louisiana.  He told me that sometimes the first feathers to grow in (central tail feathers) may not get the correct hormonal signals to grow in red.

March 16, 2016:  PB 62.  Banded 22 buntings.  More to come - I will update males/greens soon).

March 18, 2016:  PB 63 - one of the most patient hosts we have had.  She read about us last year but we never got to her.  Finally at the end of this season we visit.  We banded one male and one green today.  We have plans to go back early next season with a loaner feeder that fits the traps.  There were birds there but not in the net today.  This seems to be the theme of this year.

banded Painted Bunting in feeder
Photo by PB 63 host

March 21, 2016:  Return to PB 46 and one of the best days this season.  We banded 33 buntings.  We not only broke 300 for Season Three but also passed last year's total of 312.  We also totaled 75 banded buntings for this location. These hosts had reported an oddly colored bird and we were lucky to capture it (photo 1 below). Much like the green with male characteristic from January 30, this bird is likely an older female with much more red than typical green/female birds.  On December 14 at this location we banded a bird that had been injured.  The injuries had healed at that time but you never know if a compromised bird will survive.  We recaptured it again only to see that the feathers that grew in came in blue (photo 2 below).  We can only hope that next year it will return and we can see if it develops full male plumage.  At this point the blue head does not prove it is male.  We also found another male bunting with a green tail feather (photo 3 below).

March 22, 2016:  Banded a green at Possum Long

March 24, 2016:  PB 64 banded 3 males and 3 greens.  Incidental capture of a -Red-bellied Woodpecker, 3 Mourning Doves, and a Northern Cardinal.  Pete and Jim returned to PB 57 and observed the already banded NC bunting.  However, they did not band any additional birds.

March 29, 2016:  Banded a male Painted Bunting at Possum Long.  Recaptured one from a year ago!

April 1, 2016:  Revisited the headquarters at DuPuis.  Banded 8 Painted Buntings (7 green, 1 male), several Blue Jays, an Indigo Bunting, a Gray Catbird, and a Chipping Sparrow.  The 5th bird put us at 900 for our total of all 3 seasons!  We only saw 2 males so maybe they have departed.  Most of the greens were young birds.

Chipping Sparrow
Photo by Jane Wiewora

April 3, 2016:  Return to PB 1.  We hadn't planned on much more banding but it worked out to go today.  Boy, are we glad we did!  We caught 11 new birds (3 male, 8 green).  We caught a bird that we had not banded.  It only had the silver federal band, no color.  A "foreign" recapture is always exciting.  Hopefully we will find out where and when it was banded.  We also recaptured 4 birds from past seasons and one had not been sighted this year.  It was banded as a male in Season 1; resighted during Season 2; and now resighted for Season 3.  This bird is at least 5 years old.  A very good morning.

April 12, 2016:  A green Painted Bunting at Possum Long.  

April 29, 2016:  Surprise after season was mostly over - a green at Possum Long!


Banded Painted Bunting from PB 57

I didn't realize I caught a banded bird sitting ON (not IN) our net.  

TALLY:  74 returns  (Season 1: 11  Season 2:  62 and 1 from Possum Long from before color banding)  

SEASON 3:  355 banded (114 male, 241 green).
Part way through the season we learned how to determine "older" greens that would then be known females.  Of the 241 greens that we banded, 106 were females and most of the rest of the "greens" were still young birds that we cannot tell if they were male or female.


  1. Hi Nancy. I am so happy to find your site. Perhaps you know Tom and Paula Bartlett. I met them in Ohio and the banding they did included being able to walk with them and observe. Do you do this also? I am in south Florida on vacation and that would be an incredible thing to do here. Thanks, Laura

    1. Laura, I do have folks who visit Possum Long when we are banding there. They can observe all aspects of our work. Most of the Painted Bunting banding is done on private property so I cannot host visitors there. However if you know someone with Painted Buntings and we can get to that location you could certainly see what we do.

  2. Great job Nan on keeping this Blog and for it being so informative.I enjoyed you & Team being here as I always do. I was especially excited to have Dr.Jamie here to witness the event. Loved getting him back into my bathtub for a reenactment shot. I promise to look diligently for the original picture.Thank You for coming over.Look forward to having a spring session without the extreme wind.
    Debbie Carrier

  3. It is thrilling to read and see in pictures, how much the Painted Bunting banding program has grown. It is a reflection of the care, Nan, you take, of every single bird you band, and of your incredible team.

  4. Love how the Painted Bunting section of this great site has grown with some amazing reports, lots of wonderful photos, and so much information! A terrific blog site! Wishing you and your team continued banding success. Keep up the good work you do collecting data for PBOT research concerning our beloved wild birds. Thank you for all that you and your team do! ~Becky Cook~

  5. It was great to have you and your crew at our house March 21 for another banding session. It exceeded all of our expectations!
    We'll see you soon,
    Bob & Lis