Friday, March 25, 2005
Spring is here! A painted bunting taken by Margaret England of LaBelle at her backyard feeder. The painted bunting is one of the most rapidly declining songbirds in the eastern United States. Florida breeding and winter season surveys show an astounding 4-6 percent annual decrease in this species' numbers. In some areas, counts have fallen from the hundreds to a mere handful.
The reason for their decline is a puzzle, although one suspect is the brown-headed cowbird, which lays its eggs in the nests of other songbirds rather than building its own. In the competition of nestlings for food, the faster-growing cowbirds win, often starving the young buntings and even ousting them from the nest. Another suspected reason for their decline is the illegal capture of hundreds of adults for the exotic pet trade, especially in the Caribbean.