The male painted bunting is often described as the most beautiful bird in North America and as such has been nicknamed "nonpareil," or "without equal." Freeuse photo
Exploring Nature: Painted Bunting
At a recent gathering of birders, there was a discussion of what nice birds had been seen recently. A recitation of lesser goldfinch, caracara and dark-eyed junco brought favorable commentary.
But then someone mentioned she had seen a painted bunting and there was a palpable increase in excitement and interest. It was agreed she had been most fortunate to see such a lovely bird.
Indeed, this is truly a beautiful species. With a blue head, red eye ring, and fire-engine red body, complimented by a glow-in-thedark chartreuse back, the male painted bunting is a bird to behold.
The female painted bunting is a more subdued light green and a most handsome bird in her own right, but does not compare with the wildly-colorful male.
To Spanish-speaking settlers in Texas, the male bunting was called the “mariposa pintada,” the “painted butterfly.” French colonists called it “nonpareil,” “without equal.”
This bird arrives in our area around April and then departs in October or November for its winter home in Mexico and Central America.
Unfortunately, the great beauty and cheery song of the painted bunting makes it popular as a caged bird in Mexico and points south. That is a major reason its numbers are in decline.
Roger Tory Peterson called this bunting “the most gaudily colored American bird.” I call it “the rainbow bird” and hope it survives as one of our most beautiful avian treasures.