A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Head of blue, back of green, shoulders like a slice of lemon, belly as red as a cherry sucker. Let’s be honest: The painted bunting looks like it was colored

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Head of blue, back of green, shoulders like a slice of lemon, belly as red as a cherry sucker. Let’s be honest: The painted bunting looks like it was colored

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Head of blue, back of green, shoulders like a slice of lemon, belly as red as a cherry sucker. Let’s be honest: The painted bunting looks like it was colored

Native to Carolina Beach, the Painted Bunting Lives Up to its Name

The Painted Bunting Lives Up to its Name

Head of blue, back of green, shoulders like a slice of lemon, belly as red as a cherry sucker. Let’s be honest: The painted bunting looks like it was colored by a third grader. Often called the most beautiful bird in North America — indeed, its nickname, the “nonpareil,” means “without equal” — the painted bunting breeds in tangled maritime forests and dense coastal shrublands. It adds a vibrant splash of color to the green-gray woods of the summer maritime forest. The species is in decline, and citizen-scientists with the UNC Wilmington-based Painted Bunting Observer Team banded the eastern population of buntings to figure out why sightings of these flying rainbows continue to be so rare.

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Feature image: Bands on a painted bunting’s legs can tell a bird’s age, where it’s from, and when it was banded. This guy is 5 years old, and was banded on June 5, 2012, about 100 miles southwest of where he was photographed.

This story was published on Aug 11, 2016

T. Edward Nickens

T. Edward Nickens

Nickens is editor-at-large of Field & Stream and the author of The Total Outdoorsman Manual. His articles also appear in Smithsonian and Audubon magazines.