An Evening with “the Bird Guy”

On May 29th the Seabrook Island Birders welcomed Dr. James Rotenberg, PHD, aka Dr. Jamie, aka The Bird Guy, to Live Oak Hall for a presentation about the Painted Bunting. 

To an almost full house of Painted Bunting lovers, Dr. Jamie shared his research information gathered with his Painted Bunting Observer Team “PBOT” and a group of citizen scientists on how habitat and environmental changes affect the viability of the Eastern Painted Bunting in North and South Carolina. The encouraging news for our area of coastal South Carolina, despite all the new development, is that the survivorship numbers are fairly good and stable. 

Male Painted Bunting feeding a young Painted Bunting at the feeder – Charley Moore

There were a few fun facts learned on Wednesday evening as well.  The Painted Buntings migrate to South Carolina from southern Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba for their breeding season. The female and male might build and locate a very small nest either in low dense shrubs or high in trees. They generally have at least two broods per nesting season. The green Painted Bunting that is normally identified as a female may actually be a juvenile male. The young male Painted Bunting will remain green until his second year. Also, the Painted Bunting is the only green wild bird in South Carolina. Therefore if you see a green bird you can confidently identify it as a female or juvenile male Painted Bunting. Their song is easily recognizable and a male uses this song to establish boundaries. The Painted Bunting also makes a chipping sound very much like a Northern Cardinal.  Dr. Jamie encouraged feeding the birds. The Painted Bunting loves white millet and for them it’s a real treat, like whipped cream. During breeding season they will eat insects for the protein, but are year round seed eaters. So putting a tube feeder filled with white millet in a secluded area away from the other feeders may attract Painted Buntings to your yard.

A video of Dr. Jamie’s interesting and informative program is posted on the Seabrook Island Birders Facebook page for anyone unable to attend.

One final note, during the summer of 2017 and 2018, adult male Painted Buntings were fitted with geolocators (a light-level tracking device) on Kiawah Island. The birds were banded with an aluminum band on the right leg and either a yellow or pink on the left leg. To retrieve the valuable data stored on the geolocator, we need to recapture these birds and take off the device. If you happen to see a Painted Bunting with a yellow or pink color band coming to your bird feeder, please contact Aaron Given at
agiven@kiawahisland.org or call (843) 768-9166.

Article submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo
Photos by Jackie Brooks, Charley Moore and Aaron Given