occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: BREEDS: southern Baja California, northern Sonora, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western and southern Texas south through most of Mexico to central Guatemala. WINTERS: southern Baja California, southern Sonora, southern Chihuahua, central Nuevo Leon, southern Texas south through rest of breeding range (AOU 1983).
Length: 14 cm
Weight: 12 grams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Arid thorn brush and thickets, dry washes and arid scrub (Tropical and Subtropical zones) (AOU 1983). Often near water. Often stays close to ground cover (Oberholser 1974). Nests usually low in tree, bush or vine, 0.5-1.5 m above ground (Terres 1980).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Migratory in most of southern U.S. and northern Mexico. Arrives in U.S. breeding areas April-May (Terres 1980).
Comments: Feeds probably primarily on insects and seeds.
Life History and Behavior
Clutch size is 3-4. Incubation probably lasts 12 days (Terres 1980).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Passerina versicolor
There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Passerina versicolor
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2008Least Concern
- 2004Least Concern
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4B - Apparently Secure
The range of the Varied Bunting stretches from the southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States south throughout Mexico as far as Oaxaca. Small disjunct populations occur in the state of Chiapas in Mexico and southeastern Guatemala. This stocky bird has a short tail and rounded bill. It is 11–14 centimetres (4.3–5.5 in) long, has a wingspan of 21 centimetres (8.3 in), and weighs 11–13 grams (0.39–0.46 oz). Breeding males are purple-red with a bright red patch on the nape, which becomes browner in the fall. Females are plain light brown, resembling the female Indigo Bunting but lacking streaking on the breast. Varied Buntings inhabit deserts and xeric shrublands, preferring thorny brush thickets, thorn forests, scrubby woodlands, and overgrown clearings. They forage on the ground for insects, fruit, and seeds. Varied Buntings weave open-cup nests of grass and spider webs in the outer branches of thorny shrubs, usually near water. Females lay 2-5 bluish-white to bluish-green eggs, which they incubate for about fourteen days. The young are fully feathered after 10 days, and are ready to leave the nest several days later.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Passerina versicolor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- "Varied Bunting". 2007 Audubon WatchList. National Audubon Society. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "Varied Bunting Life History". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
Further reading 
- Groschupf, K. D., and C. W. Thompson. 1998. Varied Bunting (Passerina versicolor). In The Birds of North America, No. 351 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
- Klicka JT. Ph.D. (1999). A molecular perspective on the evolution of North American songbirds. University of Minnesota, United States—Minnesota.
- Klicka J, Fry AJ, Zink RM & Thompson CW. (2001). A cytochrome-b perspective on Passerina bunting relationships. Auk. vol 118, no 3. p. 611-623.
- Thompson WL. (1968). The Songs of 5 Species of Passerina Passerina-Leclancherii Passerina-Ciris Passerina-Versicolor Passerina-Cyanea Passerina-Amoena. Behaviour. vol 31, no 3/4. p. 261-287.
- Woolfenden GE & Van Deventer M. (2006). First record of the varied bunting from Florida. Florida Field Naturalist. vol 34, no 1. p. 1-3.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: A mitochondrial cytochrome-b study confirms that P. VERSICOLOR and Ciris are sister species (Klicka et al. 2001); the two are known to have hybridized (Storer 1961). Linaria is an invalid generic name for North America buntings (Banks and Browning 1995).