[texbirds] Re: Painted Bunting color variation Kingsland

  • From: Mitch@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: highlandbirds@xxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2012 20:23:12 -0500

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About Painted Bunting with red in back....

There are two different types of 'red' color I see in
the backs of male Painted Bunting.

One is the maroon line where the blue head meets the
green back, the other, actual red like the underparts
in the green field of the back.  Sibley showed the
maroon line at nape/back junction, which many guides
missed.  It varies in width, some don't show it (younger
ad. males?) and some show it broadly (older males?).

Then there is the red of underparts that can be seen
in the green field of the back.  This seems to me to
be a result of molt, as I've only seen it during the
post breeding period.  I've watched the area change
in size and shape over a couple weeks on the same bird,
first getting larger, then smaller.  It looks like there
is an undercoat, say like a ladies slip, of red feathers
under the green back which becomes exposed when the
green back feathers are being replaced.

I'm guessing this is what you saw/speak of?  I'd say it
is normal, though not often seen or noticed.  Perhaps
all don't molt a big enough patch of feathers at once
to expose it?  I have one of these birds outside now,
with nearly a square inch of solid red like the underparts,
dead center in the area of lime green back feathers.
It was half that size a week ago.  It is in post-breeding
molt.

But even more interesting to me is that there are immature
male Painted Buntings of at least three different plumage
types their first summer.  Most field guides show one type.
There are the green ones that look like females to the
extent you can't tell it's a male unless it sings.  That
is the standard imm. male (first summer) usually depicted.

Then there is the type with pale salmon underparts (obviously
a male) and green upperparts, and then there are the ones
with brighter yellowish underparts, this type will always
have some blue feathers in the head, unlike the other two
types of immature males.  Why three different strategies
(or genetic lineages?) to the same end?

Some probably have this all figured out but I am not
up on the latest literature, so don't know what the
deal is, besides birds being fascinating to study.

Most of the color variation in the green back is a matter
of lighting and wear, I doubt any subspecific attribution
is a factor.

Mitch Heindel
Utopia

Quoting David Bryant <highlandbirds@xxxxxxxxx>:

As the wild flowers and seeds have begun to dry up, I have noticed more Painted Buntings in my yard.  Saturday, I saw a bird with red colors on it's back.  Does anybody know if these variations indicate different sub species or are they just genetic anomalies?
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