Jan 29, 2024 - News

Rare painted bunting spotted in Philadelphia

Painted bunting bird

You can spot this beauty in or around Bartram's Garden. Photo: Courtesy of Jason Weckstein

A rare Southern bird has taken up its winter residence at Bartram's Garden.

Why it matters: The region has seen shifts in bird populations in recent years likely fueled by global warming, habitat changes and other factors.

What's happening: Amateur bird watchers spotted an adult male painted bunting at the West Philly gardens earlier this month.

  • The discovery┬álit up local active birding chat groups and social media.
  • Eager crowds have since gathered at the gardens to catch a glimpse of the colorful avian, Bartram's Garden spokesperson Caroline Winschel tells Axios.

Between the lines: Painted buntings are migratory birds native to the Southern U.S.

  • They typically winter in southern Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.

Zoom in: Painted buntings are rare but not uncommon for this area, Jason Weckstein, curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, tells Axios.

  • They're known to be vagrants, or species known to appear outside of their normal geographic habitat.
  • These bright-colored birds have also been spotted in Cape May, New Jersey, during their migration period.

The intrigue: A painted bunting was reportedly seen around Bartram's Garden last year too.

  • The birds are known to return to winter in the same location.

The big picture: As climate change has led to rising temperatures in the Philly metro during the summer and winter, some bird species like black vultures, red-bellied woodpeckers and northern mockingbirds have moved northward over the decades to nest in our region.

  • Meanwhile, some northern bird species like the common raven are now in Philly and New Jersey.

By the numbers: Birders have identified 218 different species of birds at the gardens, per eBird.org.

­čžá Pro tips: Most people have spotted the painted bunting in the north end of the gardens along Bartram's Mile trail near the Schuylkill River.

What they're saying: "It's a damn colorful bird," Weckstein said, who caught sight of it last week.

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