Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Carolina Project

Reproductive Success of Painted Buntings on Golf Courses in South Carolina,

January 2008 - December 2011


Participating Agencies

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) has been placed on the Audubon WatchList due to a steady decline since 1966. The reason for the decline is unknown, but habitat loss is suspected to be the predominant factor. Painted buntings have established 2 breeding populations in the US, one in the southwest and one in the coastal southeast. The southeastern distribution ranges from southern North Carolina to northern Florida. This coastal population often uses salt marshes for foraging and nests in dense shrubbery or Spanish moss. The lowcountry of South Carolina supports a large breeding population of Painted Buntings. This area has experienced substantial development in the form of golf courses and associated communities. Thus, shrub habitat typically used for nesting by Painted Buntings is being removed and altered, and wetland systems often used for foraging are being modified. This changing landscape presents management concerns for Painted Bunting populations. During the breeding season of 2008 and 2009, we searched Spring Island and Chechessee Creek Club in Okatie, SC for nests. Once found, nests were monitored until they succeeded or failed. We recorded signs of success or failure, nest height, nest plant species, and GPS location. During these two seasons we located 18 nests. Of these, 13 were located in shrub habitat and the remainder in trees. Three nests occurred in clumps of Spanish moss. Most nests were located during incubation and most failed although causes of failure were difficult to document. During the 2010 breeding season, we surveyed the breeding bird community of 24 golf courses along the coast from Beaufort to Hilton Head, SC. On each golf course, point counts were conducted on a 440m grid with 200m detection radius. Points were selected for use if any portion of in-play area of the golf course fell within the 200m radius of the point. There, all birds seen and heard were tallied. Each course was surveyed twice in a morning, and twice throughout the season. Upcoming analyses will use GIS data to examine point- and golf course-scale landscape characteristics with respect to the breeding bird community. Painted buntings will receive special focus in our results. We will assess vegetation characteristics with presence/absence of painted buntings and additional species of concern, thus lending insight to possible land management techniques for southeastern coastal golf courses.