Pick a pair of painted buntings!

There I was, sitting at my computer, minding my own business, talking on my cell phone, French door open letting in the gorgeous fall breeze, and I saw a quick flit of red land in the oak branch just off the edge of the porch.

I slowly rolled my chair back so I could see into the branch, but all I could see was a slight hint of red.  The person on the phone, also a birder, told me to take a picture.  But alas, when I got out of my chair to get the camera, the little bird flew away.  From what I could see, it looked like a scarlet tanager stocking up for its flight south.  Thing is, though, I didn’t have a bird bath set up yet or any bird feeders out to attract anything.

The next day, I saw another zip of red pass by and land in the same oak tree, and I knew it was not a cardinal.  I watched it as intently as I could to see where it would land, and even though I had neither binoculars nor camera in hand, I swear I saw three colors on that bird.  And then while I was sitting there straining my eyes, a little bird, almost solid green, landed on a wire that runs from my porch down to the oak tree and just sat there:  A FEMALE PAINTED BUNTING, and where there is a Mrs., there is also a Mr.

Painted buntings once flew through here heading south and again heading north in the spring by the thousands, as told to me by oldtime birders.  They were so plentiful, that Mr. S. from Grand Isle shot them with his BB gun when he was a boy, about seventy years ago.  There aren’t as many painted buntings passing through here these days, but I don’t think Mr. S. and his BB gun are what caused the declining numbers of painted buntings.

The declining numbers are caused by a receding shoreline and sinking barrier islands.  When the birds leave their wintering grounds–places like Panama and Yucatan–they fly across the Gulf of Mexico for days until they see that first ribbon of land.  Many of them literally fall out of the sky, exhausted from the journey; tired, hungry, and thirsty.

As Isle Derniere, (Last Island) once a twenty-one-mile island chain, eroded away and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, the birds had to fly farther and farther before reaching their respite from flight.  Many of them fell far short of the receding shoreline, drowning in the Gulf waters.

Of course, the buntings aren’t the only species in decline for these reasons.  But it seems each spring when I go to Grand Isle, now the first island many of these migrating birds see, everyone wants to see the illusive and rare painted bunting.

I remember the first time I went to Grand Isle for the “fall out”, spring 2004.  Isat in the back yard of Mr. S. gleaning wisdom from his years of attracting the migrating birds to his yard.  He said, “Cher, you can have the same birds in your yard if you just plant the right trees, put out some seed, and hang a water hose in the tree.”

I feel very fortunate, even blessed, that even though I have not had the time to do any of those things at the new house (because what was once the “back yard” of the old house is now the “front yard” of the new house), a pair of painted buntings paid me a visit this week.

Mr. P.B. is on the left and the Mrs. is on the right.  She looks sort of yellow in this bad lighting.  But isn’t he a beauty?

You can see them a little bit better in this one.  I apologize for the poor quality photos.  I took these from the porch of new house, and they were almost out of range for my lens.

They flew up into the oak tree for a minute when something frightened them.  She is just barely visible.

Just now while I was typing this post, The Captain called me out onto the porch to ask me what kind of bird this was . . .

Oh my gosh!  It’s another Mr. Painted Bunting!

Isn’t he attractive?

And then there were two.  This one was down in the grass eating, while the other one was up in the bushes.

Last count, and this is a first I am so excited I could POP!  There are FIVE male painted buntings in my yard, but they are out of lens range.

We’re doing our bird watching from the new retro porch furniture that The Captain asked for.

This sweet green retro glider . . . . reminds me of a chair my mom had in the sixties.

And these chairs remind me of the chair Mom had, but hers was green, as I recall.

The fall weather, the migratory birds, and the porch furniture all inspired me to start designing a bird sanctuary in the back-yard-turned-front-yard.  I moved all the old potted plants from the old house today.  Everything is in disarray, but the plan will work itself out in my mind, and maybe LilSis will help me with it when she gets here.

Bird watching and waiting on LilSis,


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  1. Awesome birdies. I got a authentic table and chairs up in the barn next to the kayak. I remember the family cabin had about a dozen of those in 50’s. Is it trout thirty yet?

    Buzzed by the great horned owl at lake last Sunday.
    White egrets are passing through.

    Remodeling den in planning and packing stages.

  2. Back before my cats became in-and-out cats, (and the area much more built up) we had a bird feeder up, and a “regular” painted bunting visitor.

    They are a special treat.

      1. They did for a season or two. Probably the place started getting a bit built up. I don’t recall seeing any since Katrina, but that is probably due to some expletive who had 45 acres of woods clear-cut for building houses that never got built. That bit of insanity also signalled the start of raccoon and possum visitors.

    1. That’s just it, I didn’t do anything. While I was finishing up the post, I leaned back, looked out in the yard, and said to myself, “I would freak out if there were a little flock of these here right now.” And no sooner had I though it than a small flock flew from the tall grasses down to the short grass in the yard to eat bugs, I guess. The females were harder to see, but the males were easy to spot. They just kept flying back and forth between the tall and short grasses. It was amazing. It’s just now getting dark, and I’ve been watching them for two hours!! And I wonder something you might know . . . where do migratory birds sleep at night? I mean, they have no nest.

      1. Long ago and far away I helped with a migratory bird conservation project in South Carolina. We built up brush piles, you know like you were clearing land. The conservationist said she was expecting the piles to draw a snake or two to offset the rodents which would think it was for them. but the smaller birds like areas like that, or like your crab traps where they feel safe and can see out.

        We planted some honey suckle around the brush piles and some type of milo. I understand that lots of habitat is lost due to the our vacation population growth each year along the coastal areas. BTW this was back in the 70’s, conservation is not new.

        I can’t tell you if it worked, I never went back and checked. I was in the service at the time and trying too hard to impress a cute little conservationist.

  3. What a coincidence that you should write about these gorgeous birds. When Hubby and I were in Grand Isle earlier this week, we were talking with friends about the area being a bird sanctuary. I even told them about your blog and the post you’ve done about birding on Grand Isle.
    I LOVE the furniture. The glider is great, but I really like the bounce of the chairs. I’ve spent many an hour on Hubby’s grandparents porch “bouncing” , sipping sweet tea, and talking.

  4. Cypress Rockers is why plus there are 30-11 coats of various yukky paint on them.

    When is the ‘fall out’ weekend I might zip down.

  5. Those are beautiful birds. I know you are excited to see them back and in your yard! We have had some very colorful ones coming thru here lately and I have not a clue as to what they are. Some are almost all green, some blue, some yellow. They are small and cute.

    We have those 50s chairs also out back. Adirondacks I believe they are called. They were my late father-in-laws and he and my husband would sit on his front porch and watch the cars go by and the sun set while they remembered earlier years. There are several layers of pain on them too.

  6. Painted buntings are pretty danged special. I’ve seen one, once. Whether it’s mate was around, too, I don’t know. But to have a flock of them – just amazing.

    A friend who lived up in the Texas Hill Country had one that hung around for a couple of months. It used to eat from the feeders. I think they’re finch-like in their preferences – millet and misc. seed, but you can find that out easily enough.

    Love the chairs, too. When I was a kid in Iowa there were three or four of them on the front porch of my grandparents’ house – that would have been early 50s. I remember a kind of chartreuse green, and a couple of red ones. They were just great chairs – but when fall came you had to put pads or a blanket on them – the metal got cold before we weren’t inclined to sit in them any more!

  7. BW……Painted buntings are supposedly popular in Georgia–however I have never seen one. The local bird report says that their food of choice in a bird feeder is White Millet seed, so if you have a feeder, maybe try it so that you will continue having them visit! I’m so envious!

  8. Beautiful birds and you are so lucky to have so many visit. We have had a lot of hummers this fall but with last cool spell most left. The last few weeks we have had to fill feeders everyday and would have 10 or more flying around them.

      1. Geese are here in Ascension Parish. I’ve been hearing them “honk” for several weeks. They fly from pond to pond in my area.

  9. I swear I saw one of these not very long ago in a tree in the back pasture, I don’t know if they even are supposed to be here. I thought at first it might have been someones pet that escaped. It was really pretty, haven’t seen one since but I’ve been looking.

  10. Watch what you wish for. Untold mountains of goose poo around here. I wear knee high boots bank fishing all year now. Most folks have learned to hate the 25 lb lawn rats.

  11. I miss country living … now that I’m living in the big city (haha) all I see are the occasional cardinal and tons of pigeons that like to poop all over my driveway and porch! I thought about putting out a bird feeder and bath, but I know that will just attract even more pigeons.

    1. I hear pigeon taste a lot like chicken! You might want to reconsider a feeder, to cut down on your grocery bill. LOL

  12. What beautiful birds! And I love your furniture. 🙂
    Remind me to show you a photo that I took of a little greenish yellow bird that flew into a floor-to-ceiling window at a high school. (So sad!) I want to know what it is.

  13. Roger aka Luna has them in Homestead, Fl over on the hole for kayak fishing.

    Been watching osprey eagle and beezillions of swallows at crappie spot.