Monday, June 4, 2018

Breeding Painted Buntings

Yesterday was the usual date of the monthly group walk, but I had to cancel it because of a planned software upgrade last weekend for work, and I didn't know if I'd still be working on it Sunday morning. Happily I was not, so I was free to go birding. I started at the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail, and soon I was happy to hear a singing Painted Bunting. I followed the song towards the Parmer Lane bridge over Lake Creek, and finally was rewarded with this look at the bird peeking out from a cedar tree:

Painted Bunting in Juniper

You can see its blue head and red throat. What's hidden on this mature male is the red breast and belly, and green back of this mature male. This amazingly colorful bird calls most of Texas home in the spring and summer. But you usually have to get away from the city a bit to find them. I've always seen them in our neighborhood during spring (and sometimes fall) migration, but they are usually absent during the summer, preferring not to use neighborhoods for nesting.

For the last few springs there has usually been a singing male Painted Bunting on the Parmer Village end of the trail in early June. (See my blog post from June last year.) But I've always wondered if this was just a single male in an isolated patch of habitat. Yesterday morning as I slowly made my way upstream beside the creek, this male flew upstream and downstream a few times, stopping to sing at a couple different spots.

Around 9:30 I ran into Steven McDonald who had already seen this bird, but we stopped to listen to it singing near the branch in the trail that goes down to the last dam on the creek. As we watched and listened, this green female appeared in a low tree carrying some kind of insect in its bill:

Female Painted Bunting with Insect - 1

As we watched she disappeared into the base of a nearby dense low tree covered in grape vine. She soon emerged and left carrying something large and white in her bill. A few minutes later she returned to the same tree and again emerged carrying something large and white as she left. Steven realized this was a fecal sac, and we had been watching this female attend chicks in a hidden nest. We were excited to see that Painted Buntings are breeding on Lake Creek Trail!

Besides the Painted Buntings, it was a fun morning of birding that included finding a late north-bound Nashville Warbler. Part of me wishes I could have been leading my usual monthly group, but I doubt I would have seen the female bunting if 10-15 people were with me. You always see more by yourself than you do in a group.

Here's my complete bird list.
Here are more photos on Flickr.
And here are the same photos as iNaturalist observations, plus a couple audio recordings.

1 comment:

cricket said...

are you birding on 1 July? If so, what hour and what part of Broadmeade?