Something really cool and unusual is happening in Brooklyn right now, guys. An adult male Painted Bunting has been hanging out in Prospect Park for the last three days, and as the NY Post put it, people are losing their shit over him. You know how people say, “only in New York?” Well, this is a “never in New York” kind of situation.
Painted Buntings are “locally common” in parts of the Southeast, according to Audubon. What this guy is doing up here in our neck of the woods seems like a bit of a mystery. The NY Post says that this is the first recorded sighting of an adult male painted bunting in Brooklyn—so it is a very big deal!! DNAInfo quoted one bird enthusiast as saying, “It’s like a unicorn emerging from the fog.”
I first heard the news on Facebook around 1pm today, in that annoying “Trending” box on the right side of my feed. I usually ignore that stuff, but I noticed that it said “Prospect Park: Rare Painted Bunting Bird Spotted in Brooklyn, NY” so I clicked on it and found the aforementioned NY Post article.
When I read that the bird has been hanging out near LeFrak Center at Lakeside I realized I had to get myself over there posthaste; it’s only about a mile and a half walk from our apartment and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see such a rare bird in this area. So I basically flew over there (hehe) and started wandering around, looking for a crowd of people. I finally saw a group of about eight to ten people with cameras near a fence and I knew that had to be the place.
I asked one of the bird nerds (I say that with respect, truly—we’re all nerds about something!) if they’d had any luck, and he told me that they had just seen the bird hanging out on a tree stump for a bit but that he had gone back down into the brush. I only had to wait about five minutes before someone spotted him again, and the cameras came out. A very nice man let me use his binoculars to take a peek. There was a better viewing spot over on the other side of the fence, so the crowd moved over there and then after a bit the bird popped up enough for me to snap some photos. My pics aren’t pro quality like many of the ones you’ll see in the news articles, but my little Canon point and shoot was still able to capture him pretty well (you can click on the photos to see larger versions):
I also took a short video—again, not great quality, but you get the idea.
A Parks Department guy driving by in a truck saw the crowd and stopped to ask what we were looking at. Everyone explained what was going on and I showed him one of the crappy pics I took with my iPhone. There was a lovely sense of camaraderie that you just don’t generally have in NYC; we were all just there to see this one little bird.
I cannot call myself a bird watcher in any way. However, I did get really into bird watching when I was in fourth grade, after we did a unit on birds in science class. I would spend time bird watching through binoculars in the yard, and I kept a log of my bird sightings (once a nerd, always a nerd!). My favorite was the adorable Tufted Titmouse (heehee). I would pore over the bird field guides and I always remember this one super colorful bird that stood out from the rest. Living in St. Louis, the most colorful birds we had around were male cardinals and blue jays, so those painted buntings in the books seemed magical. If you had asked me this morning to name that colorful bird I wouldn’t have been able to, but when I saw the photo in the Post article I knew immediately that it was THE bird from the field guides. What a special experience I was able to have today—not only to see a painted bunting in person, but to find it less than two miles from my Brooklyn apartment!
If you’re in Brooklyn and have any interest in birds, I highly recommend you get yourself out to Prospect Park to see this guy while he’s still here. Who knows how much longer he’ll be around for? I’m so, so glad I went. My feet are hurting from too much walking today, but it was WORTH IT!