The bird at the feeder had me stymied. The green body color, yellow underbelly, and eye ring had me wondering what bird was enjoying an afternoon treat.
It didn’t have the bill of a warbler, but the coloring reminded me of female warblers I’ve seen in spring.
After watching the bird for five minutes and puzzling over what it could be, I decided it was best to ask the expert on site.
I walked inside the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and asked the staff behind the desk.
She took one look at the feeder outside their window at the feeder, and grinned,
That’s the female Painted Bunting.
A wide smile broke out across my face.
Really? I replied.
I found it! Finally.
After seeing a blur of a Painted Bunting a couple years ago at Merritt Island, I had finally seen the Painted Bunting.
My Quest to See the Painted Bunting
Seeing the Painted Bunting in mainland United States is a dream come true for many birders.
The brilliantly colored birds are seen in southern United States, but prove to be elusive birds for many birdwatchers, including me!
I had chased Painted Buntings for years, traveling to Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. To no avail.
I would learn the bird had appeared a few days earlier, but no one had seen it since.
This time, after talking with the staff at the Visitor Center, I was given a bit more hope.
They said if the female was at the feeder, the male would soon appear as well.
And that’s what happened about 20 minutes later. Though in a similar fashion as a couple years ago, but with a better outcome.
Hiding in Plain Sight
I stood still on the deck of the Visitor Center, my binoculars scanning the nearby shrubs and plants.
A blur of bright color appeared in my binoculars: the male Painted Bunting perched on a branch behind the feeder!
Unfortunately, as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared into the greenery,
Scared off by four aggressive Red-winged Blackbirds that stayed at the feeder for more than 15 minutes before they took off in flight.
I waited patiently for the Painted Bunting to return to the feeder.
I heard sounds behind the feeder, but due to my location, I couldn’t see any birds on the rim of the feeder.
After five minutes, my patience was rewarded!
A blue head peaked out from behind the feeder, the male Painted Bunting had been there for the past few minutes, but was blocked by the tubular feeder.
He never showed himself fully, as the female Painted Bunting did. But I could see his brilliant red and green body as he paused to eat bird seed.
He and his mate were a glorious sight to see!