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Now is the time to see Neo-tropical migratory birds | Bird Notes

The male Painted Bunting is a spectacular little bird.
The male Painted Bunting is a spectacular little bird.

The annual spring movement of northbound Neo-tropical migratory birds continues, with new birds arriving daily.

Last week several folks were happy to find rose-breasted grosbeaks taking advantage of black oil sunflower seeds in their backyard feeders. Male “rosebeaks” are striking birds, larger than a cardinal, with black backs and heads, white bellies and a red “v” extending down the top of their breast.

Females are brown with a dark cap, bold facial patterns and brown streaking on the upper breast and flanks. While these beautiful birds breed far to our north, they are annual visitors to our area in spring and fall during their migratory treks, and often stop off at feeders stocked with black oil sunflower seed.

Great crested flycatchers have returned to the neighborhood where I live in Conway. A fairly common breeding bird in our area, these birds are highly vocal. As they tend to stay in the tree canopy. They’re more often heard than seen. Great crested flycatchers are cavity-nesting birds, and will take advantage of nearly any acceptable site, including nest boxes, purple martin houses and even newspaper delivery boxes.

These birds have an interesting habit in they usually incorporate shed snakeskin around the entrance to the cavity, a practice believed to discourage predators from disturbing their nests.

Painted buntings, along with their indigo cousins and blue grosbeaks are currently returning to the area. Arguably the most beautiful bird to breed in North America, the male painted bunting is a spectacular creature, cloaked in blue, red and yellow-green, while females are mostly yellow-green.

In spite of it’s stunning plumage, our coastal race of painted bunting is a species of concern, whose populations have been decreasing over time. The primary reason is believed to be loss of habitat. The birds prefer what’s termed “maritime shrub-scrub habitat” frequently found along the edges of marshes. As areas are cleared for development, appropriate habitat for this amazing little bird is lost, and eventually so are the birds. If you’ve never seen an adult male painted bunting, I would encourage you to do so before they disappear from our area. They are easy to view taking advantage of feeders adjacent to the Nature Center at Huntington Beach State Park. Buntings are fond of white millet, the tiny seeds found in most birdseed blends, and a few folks in the area are fortunate to see these wonderful birds occasionally at their backyard feeders.