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Varied Bunting

When seen in the sun, the mix of colors shimmer in the light, and actually vary depending on the angle at which you see them.

Varied Bunting

Passerina versicolor

Habitat

oak/mesquite canyons, Madera Canyon, Patagonia area

Fun Facts

On rare occasions, winter flocks of over 200 Varied Buntings have been recorded.

Have you seen a Varied Bunting? I mean, really seen one? Painted Buntings seem to get all the press for visual awesomeness, and for good reason. That is one out-of-this-world bird, but they are easy to see. And yes, Varied Buntings can, and usually do, look like a blob of darkness when you find one. Get them in the right light though, and you will quickly learn to appreciate the subtle detail and amazing mix of colors this bird displays.

Varied Buntings are a mostly Mexican species, but are in Southeast Arizona now, having arrived in May and really spreading out in June. They prefer dense thickets of mesquite and hackberry along the washes of mountain canyons. Good spots to find them locally are Catalina State Park, Madera Canyon, and Patagonia. Because they tend to hide in this dense shrubbery, they are often seen in the shade, but if you see one perched up and singing, prepare to be dazzled. Males are mostly a purple-blue color with a red eye ring, throat, breast, and nape, and a tidy black mask. When seen in the sun, the colors shimmer in the light, and actually vary depending on the angle at which you see them. The mix of colors is mind-bending!

Varied Buntings are intimately tied to our summer rains and wait until the first significant storms to sing and lay eggs. Eggs are polymorphic in color (spotted vs. unspotted) among the different populations, a rare phenomenon in passerine birds.

written by Matt Griffiths

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