Texas’ most spectacular bird probably lives near you

Painted buntings are so colorful that when people spot them, they think somebody’s parrot has escaped. But these birds range across most of Texas. They just like to hide in brush, so they’re rarely seen. To make them pop out like magic, here’s all you need: white millet seed.

ImageI made this poster a few years ago from a photo I took at my folks’ place. We spread what I called “the river of millet” across the back porch and watched every day right before sunset; it only took the buntings a few days to start turning up en masse. Right about now is a good time to try this. From March 5 to May 22, says Texas A&M’s Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, painted buntings return to Texas from Central America and Mexico to start building nests and laying little blue-grey-white eggs with red markings. They’ll start heading back south at the end of June.

Painted buntings are found in other states, but Texas has the largest breeding population, with Oklahoma second. I won’t lie, it’ll be pretty hard to pull out as many males as you see in this photo. But they are total suckers for millet, so give it a try. There are probably buntings hanging out in your shrubbery right now. 🙂

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