Winter Banding of Painted Buntings

Painted Buntings usually summer in the Charleston area but are largely gone from November through March. Aaron Given from the Town of Kiawah Island decided to study this further and posted on Facebook:

Over the past 10 years, the number of Painted Buntings wintering in South Carolina, particularly in the Charleston area, has dramatically increased. To understand why, we need to learn about the population demographics, survivorship, and site fidelity of these overwintering birds. I am looking for people in the greater Charleston area that have Painted Buntings regularly coming to their bird feeders, and that would allow me to trap and place bands on the bird’s legs. Each bird would get a series of colored bands that would be unique to that individual so that it can be identified without having to recapture it again.

Three birds in caged feeder

Melodie Murphy saw this post and knew her backyard met the criteria as she had recently seen as many as 5 Painted Buntings at a time at her feeder. On a recent cold morning, Aaron came to her house and set up his station. Previously, Aaron has banded Painted Buntings in the summer using  a specially designed cage with a feeder placed inside. He placed this same feeder/cage next to Melodie’s now empty feeder. Within 10 minutes, 3 Painted Buntings were inside.

Each bird was then measured, weighed and aged. The three birds were a hatch year (sex indeterminate), an adult female and an adult male. A unique numbered metal band was placed on one leg of each bird. Each was then given the colored bands that would allow it to be easily identified. Before Aaron left, he had banded 6 Painted Buntings (1 adult male, 3 adult females, 2 immatures sex unknown). Melodie was given a log to record her resightings.

View the slide show to see the entire process.

If you have Painted Buntings at your feeder and are interested in participating, contact Aaron at

Photos: Dean Morr

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