Mystery Bird: Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris

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[Mystery bird] Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris, photographed at Pelican Island, A&M Property, Galveston, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 19 April 2007 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/320s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

There are very few bright green birds north of Mexico. This is a fairly small bird, with a short tail, medium-short wing, and a heavy, "seed-eating" bill. And it is well and truly green, above and below, its verdancy relieved only by a clear but narrow whitish eye-ring.

Our first thought when we hear the words "Painted Bunting" is the always the incredibly parti-colored adult male; but female-plumaged birds are just as beautiful. The intensely green color is shared by nothing else, out-greening even the brightest of Orange-crowned Warblers. The swollen, pointed bill, the small head and short tail, are typical of the Passerina buntings, and only Painted Bunting -- a bird on the move north and west -- is this bright, far brighter than the pale brown Indigo and Lazuli or the dark brown Varied.

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Eeek. First to guess... (gulp). Well, I believe this is a female Painted Bunting. The eye, and the overall green color, plus the apparent size.

The general 'sparrow' size and shape with the green color make me say female or juvenile painted bunting.

Now two birders have mentioned the bird's eye; that's a mark I'm not familiar with. What's helpful to the identification there?

For me, it's the way the eye looks to have a ring around it - it doesn't really, but there's just something about the way it looks.

Excellent photo, in fact all of yours! That the female of the species look just as beautiful contradicts most other animals. A lion or a peacock, for example is arguably more beautiful than their female counterparts. However, I find human females more beautiful!