The colors of North American’s Buntings rival those of any tropical bird. Several species are popularly kept in Europe, Asia and Latin America, but laws limit the availability of most in the USA (check a local Softbill Society for legal specimens). I recently wrote about the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), one of the most colorful of the group (please see article below). Today we’ll discuss the Rainbow, Indigo, Versicolor and Lazuli Buntings.
There are a few husbandry tips that apply to all Buntings. One of the least known is that they relish the resin produced by pine and spruce trees. Branches from these trees will keep your birds busy for hours. Many aviculturists believe that something in the resin helps to keep the birds in good color as well.
Finch and Canary Color-Enhancing Foods, which are readily accepted by most Buntings, will also help to maintain their bright coloration.
A wide variety of live and canned insects is important to the health of captive Buntings and essential for nesting pairs. Canary Seed Mix, Softbill Food, greens and some fruit will round out the diet. Grit and Cuttlebone should always be available.
Rainbow Bunting, Passerina leclancheri
This beauty hails from Mexico, and therefore is legally available to aviculturists in the USA. Sky blue, green, cream, yellow and orange feathers give validity to the “rainbow” part of its name. A bit more delicate and less cold-tolerant than other Buntings, this is a bird for folks who can maintain a densely-planted outdoor aviary year-round. A bit of meat hung in the aviary will allow Rainbow Buntings to exhibit their acrobatic skills in snatching flies, a favored food, from the air.
Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea
Deep blue feathers suffused with violet and tinted with green assure that you’ll not soon forget your first sighting of this beauty. Well-known to birders in its natural range – the Eastern and Southern USA and Northern Mexico, Indigo Buntings are also regularly bred by softbill specialists. As tough as they are beautiful, Indigo Buntings can be wintered outdoors in much of the USA, but are intolerant of other birds.
Lazuli Bunting, Passerina amoena
Blue is an uncommon color in birds, but not so with this native of the Western United States and Mexico. Sporting both bright blue and slate blue feathers, a breeding male Lazuli Bunting is simply breathtaking to behold, and produces a very pleasing song as well. Their care follows that of other Buntings, although more fruit is required in the diet.
Versicolor Bunting, Passerina versicolor
True to its name, this Bunting exhibits a great many colors that, while more muted than those of its relatives, none-the-less render it a much-desired species for advanced aviculturists. The first impression it gives is of a purplish-blue bird, but upon closer examination the deeper purple of the breast and scarlet patches on the head and throat are revealed. Ranging from the Southern USA through Mexico to Central America, the Versicolor Bunting must be kept in a quiet, protected setting and is intolerant of cold weather.
Please see The Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) for more information and husbandry advice applicable to all Buntings.
Although native birds are protected by law in the USA, licensed wildlife rehabilitators sometimes have the opportunity to work with injured Buntings. Please see the website of the National Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators for more information.
Rainbow Bunting chewing wood image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jerry Oldenettel and Ltshears
Indigo Bunting chewing wood image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Kevin Bolton