Thursday, June 25, 2015

When The Stunning is Found in Phoenix

On Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, a remarkable rarity was found at Tres Rios Wetlands in Phoenix.  Not surprisingly, Caleb Strand was involved in finding this bird.  Caleb has found rarity-after-rarity over the last few years throughout Maricopa County and the area right around his patch.  This time, Caleb and Walker Noe, two younger birders with a lot of promise, discovered an adult male Painted Bunting at the western end of Tres Rios Overbank Wetlands.  When I saw the report come in, I thought, "What the heck", but anything with Caleb's name attached to it means a legit sighting.  Take a look at the male Painted Bunting.  It is one of the best looking birds in North America, and most think it is probably the best looking.  It probably is.  True to it's name, it looks like an artist got super creative and painted this small bird all sorts of different colors.  Painted Buntings are rare in Arizona but are annual in the state during fall migration, especially in southeastern Arizona.  They are very rare outside of that time frame.  Last November, Caleb found me my Maricopa County first Painted Bunting.  It was a female in the area near his house.  Females aren't as striking as males are, but are certainly cool-looking too.  And Walker found a female-type Painted Bunting at Tres Rios last year.  What is with these two kids and Painted Buntings?  For them to discover one together added to the awesomeness of the fact that this is their luck bird in Arizona (for now anyways, they are far from done I'm sure and will probably add more luck birds).

The next day, June 24th, I had the craving to see this neat bird.  I have seen Painted Bunting males in southeastern Arizona before in fall migration.  They are striking at this time, but lose a lot of the green coloration on their back, thus they aren't nearly as cool as they are in spot-on breeding plumage like Caleb and Walker's bird is.  I joined Barb Meding, Susan Fishburn, and Steve and Joan Hosmer at Tres Rios in pursuit of the Bunting.  It would be a life bird for Susan if we could land it.  We actually parked at Baseline and Meridian Wildlife Area and walked a shorter distance to Tres Rios in the area where the Painted Bunting was found.  After 45 minutes went by, I heard the bird singing in a grove of mesquites in the area where Caleb and Walker had the bird.  I yelled to my party that I had the bird singing and we all began to look.  Susan and her eagle eye then spied our source perched high up in a distant willow.

Although distant at first, the bird was still distinctive as ever.  Blue head, red body, green back.  Holy Painted Bunting!  I had to get closer.  Walker and Caleb reported the bird to be highly vocal.  The case was the same when I was there.  This bird couldn't stop singing.

Branches got in the way here, but gosh, look at those colors..

I'll be honest, when I started birding avidly in Maricopa County, I thought I'd eventually get a female Painted Bunting in the County (which I already have), but I never thought I'd see an adult male singing in front of me.

Whether close or far, the Bunting's colors were evident.  Good grief.

The Painted Bunting was rather shy when I would get closer, but throughout the thirty minute observation I managed a few decent photographs and even better binocular views.

Hopefully the Painted Bunting will stay put, because it would be cool to see it again!  Thank you Caleb and Walker.  

My party of five were grateful for the sighting.  It was cool to see Susan get her lifebird on a scenario like this.  An adult male Painted Bunting in Phoenix in June was unheard of before this discovery.  Here's my group: Steve, Barb, Joan, and Susan.  Thank you everyone for a great morning of birding and succeeding on our main target in the Painted Bunting!

We saw two Barn Owls too.  I can't leave any post owl-less.  


  1. Wow Mr. Tommy you got some pretty good looks! The male PABU is just amazing!!!!!

    1. Thanks Caleb! Thanks to you, you made those looks possible!

      Definitely one of the coolest birds North America is blessed with...

  2. Awesome! Glad you got it. I've been reading your blog for a while and it's funny to see my name on it. I hope that incredible male will stick around for a while!

    1. Thanks Walker! With awesome birding and great discoveries like that, you'll probably be on my blog quite often!

      Congrats on a great find Walker and Caleb!

  3. Daaaaaaaannnnnnnggggggggg!!!!!

    Actually, Caleb and Walker must have a cage full of these that they release every now and then just to spice up the local birding scene.

    1. No kidding Josh! My thoughts exactly. I'll tell them to release some near your parents home in Maricopa next year..

      My thoughts exactly too when I saw the initial report: "DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNGGG"