Thursday, July 1, 2010

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Male Painted Bunting

Red, white and blue are Fourth of July colors. But for folks in the Texas Hill Country, July is the season of red, blue and neon green.

The first morning in our Hill Country house, June four years ago, I rose creaky from sleeping on the floor, wondering what life would be like in central Texas, so far from the Atlantic Ocean. Happy and anxious at once, knowing salt water would never spill into my house again, but dolphins and sea turtles would no longer be neighbors.  Gain of safety, loss of magic.

I moved to Florida in 1987 for the magic.  Left everyone I knew and loved so I could scuba dive without getting in an airplane.  Miami was a city of creative chaos, where music, art, orchids and birds spilled into the streets.  And I spent thousands of hours hovering weightless above coral reefs, living an alternate universe.

Outside my Texas bedroom window was sun-baked clay, rubble and weeds bounded by an Ashe Juniper thicket.  

And then flashes of wild color fluttered among the weeds.  Painted buntings, maybe the most beautiful species in the Americas.  Eagerly sought and declining from cropland poisoning, paving North American habitat, and clear-cut/burning in Central America.
Female Painted Bunting

That first summer and every summer since, painted buntings have shopped our yard for bugs and brought their babies to our birdseed and baths.  

A different kind of magic.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Great post! So far, none of your buntings have headed this way. Could you send one over? Please?

  2. Well I need to head back out to the Hill Country ASAP because I haven't seen one of those yet. He is beautiful!

  3. Lovely post dear Kathleen, you have certainly had an interesting life so far and no doubt many more adventures to come.
    The painted buntings are really beautiful, both the male and the female, how dull life would be without the songs and presence of birds. xoxo ♡

  4. Wow! They are beautiful.

    Love you, Kathleen. Happy 4th to you and Denny.


  5. Oh, you lucky duck! I've only glimpsed one in person once, and then it was gone. I'd love to get another visit. You got some good shots and wrote such a nice post about it to boot.

  6. Oh wow... that is one of the prettiest little things I've ever seen. Your life story (though admittedly I don't know very much of it) seems to be as bright and colorful as your little painted friend!

  7. I've never seen one in person or scuba dived in Florida. Thank you for this wonderful revelation and such great shots. Really, you have to glad to be in Texas!

  8. When we lived in Florida, we would drive miles in hopes of seeing a painted bunting. And sometimes we did. We were transported with wonder at the miraculous sight!

    Now that we live in the Texas Hill Country, these little birds visit our yard every day in the summer. We never take them for granted....

  9. You spin such loving tales and pictures of your hill country. The impact of place on us is so profound -- I love reading your blog --

  10. That last photo is just everything.
    I love it !

    I 'm glad you found magic , and share it.

    I hope you had a good long weekend.

  11. What gorgeous visitors you have. I'd love to have them here just South and West of Austin, but so far no luck. I suppose I'll simply admire yours and know they are safer where you are, further from the clear cutting and pesticide problems of urban/suburban living.

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. I live landlocked now too, and no longer have the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay to wander, but this is home for now. I love your buntings, they are the most beautiful birds! Sadly, they don't come this far north, but at least I have hummingbirds. Great post, thanks for the photos.

  13. I've never seen a painted bunting before, either in Missouri or anywhere else... incredible pictures. Hope springs eternal :)


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