Corkscrew SIGHTINGS: Feeders provide closer look at colorful snowbirds



Painted bunting at bird feeder

Painted bunting at bird feeder

Each winter, many snowbirds, including the kind with feathers, migrate to a warmer climate in South Florida. While migratory birds can find the food they need at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, bird feeders recently re-installed behind the Blair Audubon Center give human visitors an up-close look at bird behavior and characteristics. Studies show that observing animal behavior and listening closely to bird song can ease anxiety, engage the brain, and enhance mental alertness.

The painted bunting (Passerina ciris) is a favorite of bird watchers here. The male’s bright blue, green, and red plumage is one of the most colorful in North America, while the female is better camouflaged with olive-green feathers above and yellowish feathers below.

There are two populations of painted buntings in the United States. Birds in the Coastal Southeast population migrate to and through southern Florida each winter, from as far north as North Carolina to as far south as Cuba and the Caribbean.

Their primary habitat in winter, or non-breeding season, is in shrubs along forest edges and grasslands. In Florida, their diet consists primarily of grass seeds and fig with about a quarter of their diet including beetles, flies and caterpillars. Painted buntings can sometimes be seen in the native pollinator gardens by the Blair Visitor Center entrance, at the edge of the wet prairie along the boardwalk, or at the bird feeders.

The bird seed in these feeders was carefully selected and includes millet, sunflower hearts and thistle, providing the birds with a nutritious supplement to the native plants in the sanctuary. Caged feeders deter squirrels and larger birds. Installing feeders at this height makes them less accessible to bears.

Next time you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, calm your mind, or reinvigorate your energy, look for birds out your window. Or take a trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. You might even see a painted bunting.

A Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has been an Audubon-protected site for more than 100 years. Science-driven land management protects these 13,450 acres, including the world’s largest remaining old-growth bald cypress forest. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually explore the sanctuary’s 2.25 miles of boardwalk through ancient forest and marsh habitat. Memberships and donations provide crucial support for conservation work at the sanctuary.

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the last admission at 1 p.m. Online tickets are recommended at corkscrew.audubon.org.