July 18, 2023 was a magical day for bird photography. After photographing a dazzling male Indigo Bunting, I had another stroke of luck when I came across a banded male Painted Bunting on the road. This brilliantly colored bird was intently focused on courting a nearby female, allowing me to inch my truck sideways and slowly open the door to snap a few photos. The Painted Buntings quickly darted into the brush, but not before I captured this stunner on camera.

A Banded Male Painted Bunting

A Banded Male Painted Bunting

When I zoomed in on the photos at home, I noticed this male has a small metal band around its leg. Our local wildlife refuge bands birds here a couple times per year to track migration patterns and survival rates. I’m curious whether this bird was originally banded at the refuge or somewhere else along its migratory route. Banding provides valuable insights that help inform conservation efforts for fragile species like the Painted Bunting.

The brilliant red, green, and blue plumage of the male Painted Bunting looks like it was painted by an artist. These birds breed in the southern coastal states and winter in Mexico and further south. Their populations have declined due to habitat loss, so it’s encouraging to see them here at the refuge during breeding season.

Banding birds requires special permits and training, as the process can stress birds if not done properly. At the refuge, trained experts carefully capture the birds in fine mesh nets, then quickly process and band them before release. I’m glad qualified conservation groups carry out this important research to shed light on songbird migratory patterns and survival rates. It was a special treat to see one of their banded beauties posing so nicely for me!

I feel fortunate to have witnessed such magical moments with two stunning bunting species. Coming across that banded Painted Bunting made it even more meaningful. I love having opportunities to enjoy and photograph these jewel-colored birds near my home. Moments like these remind me why it’s so important to protect habitats where these migratory birds breed and overwinter.

Steve Creek
Wildlife Photographer

Equipment Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Technical Details:

  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: July 18, 2023 (06:57 A. M.)
  • Exposure Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f7.1
  • Shutter speed: 1/1000
  • ISO: 8000 (Auto)
  • Exp. Comp.: +0.7
  • Focal Length: 500 mm