Painted Bunting

Passerina ciris


Demography and Populations

Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!

You are currently viewing one of the free species accounts available in our complimentary tour of BNA. In this courtesy review, you can access all the life history articles and the multimedia galleries associated with this species.

For complete access to all species accounts, a subscription is required. Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of complete access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store or call us at 877-873-2626 (M-F, 8:00-4:00 ET).

Figure 6. Regional trends in Painted Bunting populations, 1966-2013; data from the Breeding Bird Survey.

Data show best estimates of population change for the species over its range; from Sauer et al. 2014, which provides details.

Figure 4. Annual cycle of breeding, molt, and migration of the Painted Bunting.

Thick lines show peak activity; thin lines, off-peak.

Figure 5. Relative abundance of the Painted Bunting, 2007-2013; based on Breeding Bird Survey data.

Relative abundance of Painted Bunting in U.S., based on Breeding Bird Survey, 2007-2013. From Sauer et al. 2014, see text for details.

Measures of Breeding Activity

Age At First Breeding; Intervals Between Breeding

Age at first breeding for males usually is 2 yr, but some males breed at 1 yr (Lanyon and Thompson 1986); females likely breed at 1 yr and annually thereafter, but no data.


Usually 3 or 4 eggs; see Breeding: eggs, for details.

Annual And Lifetime Reproductive Success

No information on lifetime reproductive success. Daily survival rates for nests estimated between 0.947 and 0.940 in Louisiana with nest survival estimates between 0.271 and 0.227 (Vasseur and Leberg 2015); daily nest survival estimated at 0.895 in South Carolina (Garcia 2004).

Number Of Broods Normally Reared Per Season

Usually 2 broods/season (Sprunt 1968b, Audubon 1841, Wilson and Bonaparte 1831); sometimes 3 (Wayne 1910). For double-brooded females in Oklahoma, time from fledging of first nest to fledging of second was 29–30 d (n = 4; Parmelee Parmelee 1959, Parmelee 1964).

Life Span and Survivorship

Annual adult survival rate: Captive birds known to be kept for “several years” and “upwards of ten years” (Audubon 1841), and one lived 17 yr, 7 mo (Baumgartner and Baumgartner 1992). From 147 recoveries of 9,655 individuals banded (as processed through 1985), a female was recovered 10 yr, 6 mo after being banded as “subadult” (hatch-year) in Florida (Klimkiewicz and Futcher 1987); this longevity record still listed based on Bird Banding Laboratory data through May 2007 (177 recoveries among 25,800 birds banded; Lutmerding and Love 2009). In Florida banding study, bird reported as return was at least 12 yr old (J. Fleugel in Fisk 1974).

At a Florida banding station, 5 of 115 birds banded in 1966 were still returning after 8 yr (Fisk 1974). With 2 additional years of data and 1,167 buntings banded, about 26% (301) were returns; among these, annual return rate was 55–65% (return rate is not equivalent to survival, owing to potential emigration; Fisk 1979). In a 5-yr banding study in North Carolina, of 79 birds banded over 5-yr period, 23% returned following year (Tipton and Tipton 1978).

Survivorship data using modified Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark-recapture analyses (based on 2,644 captures and 312 returns) suggests annual survival at 0.54 ± 0.02 SE; higher survival rates for eastern populations (0.7 ± 0.13) (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship,

Disease and Body Parasites


Limited information. Painted Bunting known to have virus that causes psittacosis (Meyer 1940). Of 1,665 buntings banded at Homestead, Miami-Dade Co., Florida, 1 noted with foot pox; 2 birds with tumor or infection below eye were recaptured in “normal condition” (Fisk 1974).

Body Parasites

Limited information. Of 1,665 Painted Buntings banded at Homestead, Florida, 2 noted with louse flies (Diptera: Hippoboscidae) and 1 with lice (Mallophaga; Fisk 1974). Of 35 buntings examined for hematozoan parasites in Louisiana, 5 had Plasmodium vaughani infections and 6 had either Trypanosoma everetti or T. avium infections (Garvin et al. 1993).

Causes of Mortality


Of 45 nests monitored in Oklahoma, 1 or 2 were lost to ants, 1 to rain (Parmelee Parmelee 1959, Parmelee 1964).


See Behavior: predation, above.

Competition With Other Species

No information.


Initial Dispersal From Natal Site

No information.

Fidelity To Breeding Site And Winter Home Range

In a Georgia study, most returning males (19 of 20 in one year; 12 of 13 in succeeding year) retained the same territory as in the previous year (Lanyon and Thompson 1986).

Painted Buntings showed “strong site tenacity” for a Florida overwintering area; birds still returning to banding site after 8 yr; nevertheless, 10 of 1,665 birds banded were found 1–8 km from station at which originally banded (Fisk 1974). A male banded in Veracruz, Mexico, returned following year to overwinter at same site (Rappole and Warner 1980); 5 of 18 birds banded in s. Mexico (Chiapas and Oaxaca) returned for a second winter, 1 returned for a third winter (Ely et al. 1977).

Dispersal From Breeding Site

No information.

Home Range

On Sapelo I., McIntosh Co., Georgia, occasional flights observed up to 700 m away from core area to foraging area (J. M. Meyers, E. G. Springborn, and L. K. Duncan unpubl.).

Population Status


Few data. Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data give overall relative abundance of 5.31 individuals/route, based on 249 routes, 1966–1994. Three BBS regions in central Texas (South Texas Brushlands, East Texas Prairies, and Edwards Plateau) form this species' region of high density (Figure 5); Painted Bunting counts on BBS routes in these 3 regions declined, respectively, from 35.7, 24.0, and 27.3 individuals/route in 1966 to 15.8, 11.0, and 20.1 individuals/route in 1995 (Sauer et al. 1997). Total number of males in Florida estimated at 19,319 in 2008 and 15,268 in 2010 (Delany et al. 2013).

Point counts surveys conducted from North Carolina to Florida in 2003 reported densities ranging from 9 males/100 ha in young pine plantations to 42 males/100 ha in maritime shrub (Meyers 2011). Densities across breeding range within Florida, 12.4 males/100 ha in 2008 and 9.8 males/100 ha in 2010 (Delany et al. 2013). From 12 Breeding Bird Censuses in se. U.S., density 8.2 pairs/100 ha ± 2.8 SE (Hamel et al. 1982). Densities of 7.5 males/100 ha in clonal persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) plot in nw. Arkansas (Shugart and James 1973); on St. Catherines I., Georgia, 51 males/100 ha in preferred habitat (Finke 1979, SML); on Sapelo I., McIntosh Co., Georgia, 9.4–21.1 males/100 ha in preferred habitats (J. M. Meyers, E. G. Springborn, and L. K. Duncan unpubl.).


BBS data for 1966–2013 showed a non-significant survey-wide decline of –0.33%/yr (95% confidence interval (CI) = –0.83, 0.17; n = 502) (Sauer et al. 2014). By region, overall population trends for 1966–2013 were mixed; e.g., declining in Texas by –0.91%/yr (CI = –1.48, –0.39; n = 206) and in Louisiana by –1.83%/yr (CI = –3.09, –0.79; n = 86); rather stable in Oklahoma at 0.15%/yr (CI = –0.76, 0.97; n = 55); increasing by 4.74%/yr in Arkansas (CI = 2.42, 6.83; n = 41) (Figure 6; Sauer et al. 2014). In the Southeastern Coastal Plain region for 1966–2013, significant declining trend of –1.63%/yr (CI = –3.86, –0.24; n = 72); however, BBS data are sparse for the eastern population and caution is advised in interpreting results (Sauer et al. 2014). Possible reasons for declines are discussed under Conservation and Management, below.

Population Regulation

No information.

Recommended Citation

Lowther, P. E., S. M. Lanyon, and C. W. Thompson (2015). Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.