Archived 2018 topic: Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris): revise global status?

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) is a migratory songbird that breeds in southern and eastern U.S.A. and northern Mexico, overwintering from central Mexico south through Central America, as well as in southern Florida (U.S.A.) and parts of the Caribbean (see Brewer 2018). It inhabits scrub habitat in the west of its breeding range, but in the east is found in coastal plain agricultural land (Lowther et al. 1999).

The key threats that the species faces appear to be loss and degradation of its habitat through agricultural intensification, and anthropogenic developments, as well as capture for the cagebird trade (Lowther et al. 1999, Iñigo-Elias et al. 2002, Phillips Lynch 2004). Individuals are not only trapped for local markets but they also pass into international trade, being sold to Europe, Asia and South America (Ramos 1982, Iñigo-Elias 1986, Iñigo-Elias et al. 2002). The impacts of these threats had been thought to be severely impacting the species and data from continental U.S.A. and north-east Mexico suggested that the population may have declined by as much as 55% over 30 years (Iñigo-Elias et al. 2002, Rich et al. 2004). This led to the species being listed as Near Threatened (BirdLife International 2018).

However, recent evidence suggests that its popularity as a cagebird may not be impacting the population as severely as previously thought (G. Butcher in litt. 2016). Instead, population declines may have been quite slow, or indeed non-significant (see Rosenberg et al. 2016, Sauer et al. 2017), and Partners in Flight have now removed the species from their Yellow Watch List (Rosenberg et al. 2016 cf. Rich et al. 2004). Therefore, we have reassessed the species here against all criteria to see whether it warrants a change in Red List status.


Criterion A – The North American Breeding Bird Survey shows a non-significant decline of 0.14% per year for the period 2005-2015 (Sauer et al. 2017). Even if this were statistically significant, extrapolating this would equate to a decline of only 1.8% over three generations (13.2 years). Partners in Flight estimate the decline over 44 years (1970-2014) to be 9% (Rosenberg et al. 2016). This may then equate to a decline of 2.8% over three generations.

This data only comes from continental U.S.A., however this does represent the majority of the species’s breeding range. Therefore, the global rate of population decline is unlikely to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under this criterion.


Criterion B – The species’s range is far too large to warrant listing under this criterion.


Criterion C – Partners in Flight estimate the population at 12,000,000 mature individuals in continental U.S.A. out of a total of 14,000,000 (Rosenberg et al. 2016, Partners in Flight 2018). Thus the population size would be far too large to warrant listing under this criterion.


Criterion D – The species’s population size and range are far too large to warrant listing under this criterion.


Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge, there has been no quantitative analysis of extinction risk conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.


Therefore, the species does not approach the threshold for Vulnerable under any criterion and it is proposed that Painted Bunting be downlisted to Least Concern. Comments are welcome, but please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of the species’s Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the information that is sought, or about the species’s Red List status.



BirdLife International. 2018. Species factsheet: Passerina ciris. Downloaded from on 31/01/2018.

Brewer, D. 2018. Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 31 January 2018).

Iñigo-Elias, E. E. 1986. Active trade threatens Mexican avifauna. TRAFFIC Bulletin 6(4): 6-7.

Iñigo-Elias, E. E.; Rosenberg, K. V.; Wells, J. V. 2002. The danger of beauty. Birdscope 16(3): 1,14-15.

Lowther, P. E.; Lanyon, S. M.; Thompson, C. W. 1999. Painted Bunting Passerina ciris. In: Poole, A.; Gill, F. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 398, pp. 1-24. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia and the American Ornithologists’ Union, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Partners in Flight. 2018. Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2017. Available at Accessed on 05/02/18.

Phyllips Lynch, I. 2004. Bird without equal. Wildlife in Carolina 68: 24-29.

Ramos, M. 1982. El comercio y la explotación de las aves vivas en México. Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.

Rich, T. D.; Beardmore, C. J.; Berlanga, H.; Blancher, P. J.; Bradstreet, M. S. W.; Butcher, G. S.; Demarest, D.; Dunn, E. H., Hunter, W.C.; Iñigo-Elias, E.E. and Kennedy, J.A. 2004. Partners in flight North American Landbird conservation plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.

Rosenberg, K. V., Kennedy, J. A., Dettmers, R., Ford, R. P., Reynolds, D., Alexander, J. D., Beardmore, C. J., Blancher, P. J., Bogart, R. E., Butcher, G. S., Camfield, A. F., Couturier, A., Demarest, D. W., Easton, W. E., Giocomo, J. J., Keller, R. H., Mini, A. E., Panjabi, A. O., Pashley, D. N., Rich, T. D., Ruth, J. M., Stabins, H., Stanton, J. and Will., T. 2016. Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision for Canada and Continental United States. Partners in Flight Science Committee.

Sauer, J. R.; Niven, D. K. ; Hines, J. E.; Ziolkowski, Jr, D. J.; Pardieck, K. L.; Fallon, J. E.; Link, W. A. 2017. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015. Version 2.07.2017 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.

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2 Responses to Archived 2018 topic: Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris): revise global status?

  1. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Tim Meehan has kindly provided analyses of Christmas Bird Count data. Taken from long-term trends (1966-2017), these data suggest an annual increase of 0.16% (1.23% annual decline to 2.68% annual increase) in this species. This would equate to an increase of 2.10% (15.06% reduction to 41.80% increase) over three generations.

  2. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2018 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.
    The final 2018 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.