11 Birds Similar To Painted Buntings


The painted bunting is one of the most colorful birds native to North America. It has distinct patches of red, blue, and green all over its body along with dark wings.

But the U.S. has plenty of other gorgeous birds, too. Read on to learn about 11 other beautiful and fascinating birds you might see in your own backyard.

1. Green Jay

Scientific name: Cyanocorax yncas

The green jay is much less common than its cousin the blue jay. But it’s no less vibrant and has a color pattern almost as striking as a painted bunting.

There’s no fading from one color to the next on either green jays or painted buntings. Instead, they have very defined sections of completely different colors.

Both species also live in the southwestern United States. The painted bunting has a larger range in the U.S. than green jays, though.

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2. Varied Thrush

Scientific name: Ixoreus naevius

Varied thrushes only live in a small sliver of the U.S.’s western coast. They like humid and thick, high-elevation forests.

Like painted buntings, they have sections of intense coloring instead of subtle shading.

Also, like painted buntings, varied thrushes can be very territorial.

They’ll use aggressive feather displays first, such as raising their tails. But if that fails, they will resort to physical attacks.

3. Blue Grosbeak

Scientific name: Passerina caerulea

The blue grosbeak is almost the exact shade of blue as a painted bunting. But instead of just a patch, most of its feathers are blue, while its wings have different colors of stripes.

Painted buntings and blue grosbeaks are also monogamous for the most part.

The females of both species build cup nests with occasional help from their mates. The males are usually busy protecting the nesting territory, often in aggressive ways.

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These birds can lay between one and three broods per year, each with three to five eggs. The nestling period for both species is about nine days. 

4. Violet-Green Swallow

Scientific name: Tachycineta thalassina

Even though their colors aren’t as bright as a painted bunting, the violet-green swallow still has impressive plumage.

Their feathers are a rich, almost iridescent green that fades into purple. Their bright white chests offset the colors even more.

Violet-green swallows are also about the same size as painted buntings. Both birds are about five inches (13 cm) long. They also have somewhat long tails that fork at the end.

If you want to attract violet-green swallows to your yard, offer them a good nesting box. They’re cavity nesters and will readily build a nest in a box or house close to a feeder and water source.

5. Scarlet Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga olivacea

Male scarlet tanagers and painted buntings are both famous for their vibrant plumage. But as their name suggests, scarlet tanagers are a solid bright red with black wings rather than multi-colored.

It’s the females that are similar for these species. They’re both different colors than their male counterparts. What’s more, female scarlet tanagers and painted buntings are the same color as each other.

They’re both yellow-green with darker feathers on their wings and tails. They also have rather stubby beaks they can use to eat insects, seeds, and fruits.

6. Tennessee Warbler

Scientific name: Leiothlypis peregrina

Female Tennessee warblers also look a lot like female painted buntings. The males don’t have bright colors at all and are instead mostly gray with olive-green wings.

Female warblers are actually much brighter and have yellow-green feathers all over. Like painted buntings, they’re also monogamous; each season they mate with a single male.

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Tennessee warblers are nectar eaters, but not pollinators. They use their sharp beaks to pierce flowers at the base instead of going in through the top.

This way, they can eat the nectar but not pollinate the flower. This makes them parasitic instead of helpful.

7. Orchard Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus spurius

Although orchard orioles don’t have as many colors as a painted bunting, they’re vibrant in their own right. Male orioles have jet-black backs and wings, while their chests are a vivid rust orange.

The females are completely different colors, just like female painted buntings. Both are a mix of yellow and green, with much darker colors on their wings.

Outside of the breeding season, both species are somewhat friendly with other birds. They’ll flock in small groups with other species after the same food.

8. Broad-Billed Hummingbird

Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris

The painted bunting is one of the only North American birds that can rival a hummingbird in color. The broad-billed hummingbird is especially colorful, with the same bright blue and green hues as the bunting.

It even has similar red coloring, although it’s on its bill rather than its feathers.

And although hummingbirds are famous for drinking nectar, they do also eat insects. The broad-billed hummingbird and painted bunting can snatch small insects out of the air while flying.

9. Varied Bunting

Photo: Alan Schmierer / Flickr / CC0 1.0 (Public domain)

Scientific name: Passerina versicolor

The varied bunting has more muted colors than the painted bunting, but it’s still a gorgeous bird. Its feathers are a mix of purple, red, and bluish hues all blending together like brush strokes.

In addition to colorful plumage, both bunting species are songbirds. They have several different short notes that they learn after they hatch.

In fact, birds that hatch near others will pick up the same notes, almost like a local language. 

10. Indigo Bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea

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Painted buntings live primarily in the southern United States. For those in the north, though, there is another bunting with equally bright feathers.

The indigo bunting doesn’t have a patchwork of colors like its cousin, but is instead entirely blue. Their blue is the same vibrant shade as that of a painted bunting, though. Both are easy to spot nesting in low foliage.

These two species are so close, in fact, that they can crossbreed and create hybrids.

11. Lazuli Bunting

Scientific name: Passerina amoena

The feathers of a lazuli bunting are a much softer shade than painted buntings.

Even so, the contrast between its blue head and tawny chest is part of what gives it its Latin name; “Passerina amoena” translates to “beautiful sparrow.”

But neither painted nor lazuli buntings are actually blue. Some birds get their colors from specific pigments. These can be the ones they naturally produce or get from their diets.

But what we see as blue isn’t a pigment at all.

Instead, it’s the way their feathers reflect light. This is the same way that the sky appears blue through the atmosphere. The blue is just a refraction in the microstructures of the birds’ feathers.

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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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