Tracking Buntings

No other South Carolina bird can out-gaudy the Painted Bunting. Photo: Larry Smith

The Painted Bunting once made an annual splash in every coastal Carolina garden.  Now these vividly-colored birds are hard to find.  Their eastern population, which declined 60 percent between the 1960s and the 1980s, is probably still in steep decline. 

The challenge in South Carolina is habitat loss.  Urban sprawl is replacing farms and scrubby areas where Painted Buntings love to nest.  There are likely other challenges wherever they spend the winter.  They might,  for example, might be captured illegally and sold as pets.  But there’s no way to know what perils our state’s buntings face down south until we know where they go.

So Audubon South Carolina is now capturing buntings and attaching tracking devices.  For most declining bird species, the benefits are thought to outweigh the risks of using these tiny electronic “backpacks.”    

At Audubon South Carolina, we feel a special responsibility to the eastern Painted Bunting.  One-third to one-half of these birds rely on South Carolina habitat to survive.  So we’re thrilled to be involved in this research  which will likely involve merging our data with data from a larger study for maximum impact.

PROJECT CONTACT:  Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell,