PROSPECT PARK — In spite of a recent cold snap in the city, everyone’s favorite bird is still hanging around Prospect Park, delighting birders looking to include the Painted Bunting on their 2016 birdwatching lists, a local expert said.
The colorful male bird rang in the New Year from his perch at the park’s Lakeside skating rink, where lots of birdwatchers came out on the first day of 2016 to see the multicolored cardinal not spotted in Brooklyn since 1927 said Robert Bate, president of the Brooklyn Bird Club.
“Everybody wants the Painted Bunting for their 2016 list,” he said. “It’s one of the things birders do … They keep patch lists and state lists and area lists and life lists for the whole world. But a yearly list is the thing to do.”
On New Year’s Day, lots of bunting visitors documented their glimpse of the rare bird online.
Brooklyn's Painted Bunting was apparently unfazed by last night's fireworks and continues munching seeds by the skating rink. HAPPY NEW YEAR— Rob Jett (@thecitybirder) January 1, 2016
The brightly colored bird appeared in Prospect Park in late November and though his kind is usually only spotted in warmer climates, experts say they expect him to spend the winter in the city. Bate agrees, especially because he made a home in a specially designed habitat created by the Prospect Park Alliance for woodland creatures, including birds.
“He has a place with plentiful food. He doesn't have to spend a lot of energy hunting for food. It’s pretty much all right there laid out before him,” he said.
But that hasn’t stopped curious visitors from trying to feed the bird; Bate recently heard of someone trying to give the bunting mealworms.
“People have a natural tendency to want to help the bird, but he’s best left alone,” he said.
For now, Bate says the Painted Bunting appears happy and healthy despite the recent freezing temperatures in the area, which are expected to continue this week. But you never really know; over the weekend, the longtime birder saw thousands of geese in migration patterns over the park, a sign that they sensed colder weather to come. And it's possible the bunting could follow suit, he said.
“It’s a day-to-day affair with a creature like this and we hope for the best,” he said.
For those still looking for way to learn about the rare bird, visit the park’s Audubon Center, which will offer nature walks for kids on Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 12 for 4 p.m. And on Jan. 23, the Urban Park Rangers will lead a bird walk starting from Grand Army Plaza at 10 a.m.
And if he’s still in Brooklyn, catch the Painted Bunting on Feb. 7 when the Brooklyn Bird Club will lead its next monthly Early Morning Bird Walk, from 10 to 11 a.m.