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Painted Bunting Flies Off Course, Attracting Bird-Watchers To Brooklyn

Dec 03, 2015 01:39 PM EST
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The rare sighting of a male painted bunting has drawn many bird-watchers to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

A painted bunting (Passerina ciris) appears to be something straight out of a children's coloring book with a bright indigo head, yellow-to-green ombré colored shoulders and a scarlet-orange belly. While the birds are commonly seen throughout parts of the south-central U.S., it is rare for the finch-like birds to travel north of Arkansas.

What's more is the male painted bunting is not just out of range, he is out of season. Generally, the species breeds in the southern Plains and migrates in September to parts of Florida and Mexico to keep warm during the winter.

"It's known for vagrancy, but this is very rare," Tom Stephenson, author of The Warbler Guide, told the New York Times, adding that painted buntings have been spotted perhaps seven or eight times in New York City. Stephenson also developed a bird-identifying app known as Bird Genie that allows anyone to identify birds in their backyard.

Painted buntings do not have their dazzling colors until they mature, so juveniles tend to be very "drab." Additionally, female painted buntings are generally a uniform greenish-yellow color, so the Brooklyn tourist with the bright blue head is clearly a male. Stephenson was surprised to see an adult roaming throughout the park, since first-year birds are typically the ones that wander.

While Stephenson was unsure what brought the male painted bunting so far north -- perhaps westerly winds -- he is sure the unseasonable temperatures will invite him to stay. Nonetheless, the bunting put on a theatrical and entertaining performance that spectators said was remarkable to watch.

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