While the specifics below directly pertain to one individual vagrant, the
overall take home message should be valuable to anybody who tries to
classify natural organisms.

This winter’s incursion of Painted Buntings into the region has brought
delight to many New York birders. All three of the lingering Long Island
individuals are green. The bunting that was found at Brooklyn Bridge Park
by Heather Wolf in late December has been seen by hundreds of people at
this point, and eBirded perhaps a couple of hundred times.

Of those reports, many have comments regarding the age or sex of the bird,
and of these, a not-insignificant portion refer to the bird with certainty
as a female and a an immature male, virtually none of which have any
discussion as to why it is being classified as such.

In January, I E-Mailed Peter Pyle some photos, to see if he could make
sense of it. He sent me a detailed analysis, which I have pasted as the
bottom of this E-Mail, but the concise version is this: *The bird IS an
immature (hatched in 2019). It CANNOT, in its current plumage, be visually
identified to sex*, and it seems most likely that it is a young male (as so
many vagrants are) if he had to guess.

On that note, and given that eBird reports become a part of the permanent
record, it would be great if the comments, when people look back years from
now, were not just consistent, but accurate. Rather than having the very
careful and earnest eBird moderators (a wholly volunteer and typically
thankless job), in this case Sean and Shane, whom many of you know, reach
out to every single person who writes “female” or "_ male" in the comments,
it would be great if those reporting the bird going forward make comments
that reflect only the highest level of certainty, rather than assumptions
or guesswork. Also, if you have gone to see the bunting, please also check
your prior observations to see if your comments can use some amending.


In the meantime, the young Painted Bunting does indeed continue at Brooklyn
Bridge Park, seemingly becoming more acclimated to passers by as time goes
on. Here are some photos and video of it from a couple of days ago, where
it seems, though it may be my imagination, that there are some brighter
green feathers and a bluish tinge starting to appear around the nape:

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64302675


*Full text from Peter Pyle:*




*"So you are correct, this is a first-winter bird (SY now). The rectrices
have been replaced during the preformative molt, so shape and condition
of these are no longer useful for ageing. However, you can see molt limits
in the remiges indicating an "eccentric" preformative molt, which
confirms SY. It looks like p5-p9 and s5-s9 or s6-s9 have been replaced
leaving p1-p4 and s1-s4 or s1-s5 as juvenile. I can't quite decide on s5 in
the photos you sent but the limit is easiest to see on image 3563 between
the green tertials/s6 and  the browner s1-s4. The limit in the primaries
is also subtle here but seems to be between p4 and p5.So, reliable sexing
in formative plumage is not really possible, but its brightness and
the relatively big bill suggests male to me. If it winters, keep an eye out
for some blue and/or red featherd to come in within the next 4
months. These would probably be accidentally lost and replaced feathers
rather than molt. If it gets away without replacing any feathers like this,
best to leave it as sex unknown.Hope this helps and feel free to re-post
these comments."*

Good Birding,
-Doug Gochfeld. Brooklyn, NY.

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