Eastern Bluebirds: Good news story
Eastern Bluebirds are still calling and darting about our Pontiac countryside: they’ve not yet departed for their winter territory which includes the Southern USA, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
In fact, as I write, the adults and this year’s fledgelings are chattering to one another as they flutter about the nestboxes we’ve built and erected on our property.
Apparently, adults are imprinting these safe, summer nesting sites onto the juveniles’ memories. As they chatter, they take turns perching on the roofs of the nestboxes, and we’ve observed them popping inside, obviously checking them “inside and out.”
As twilight advances, we see 15-17 of these birds lined up on the overhead hydro wires, continuing their chattering prior to retreating to their evening roosts.
Eastern Bluebirds are beloved. Remember hearing of “The Bluebird of happiness”? We human beings do seem to insist on anthropomorphising about wildlife, and bluebirds are considered cheerful and friendly.
Likely this is due to a combination of factors. First, their lilting song and chatter sounds cheery. Then there’s their outstanding beauty. The male is neon-blue: its dramatic blue head and back is beautifully complemented by its russet/chestnut breast and white abdomen. (The female is similarly coloured yet “faded-looking” in comparison to her partner.)
And for anyone who has observed them raising their brood, we see they are dutiful parents who bring their babies insects to eat.
Primarily insectivore diet
Of course, the fact that they eat insects has long been appreciated by gardeners and farmers, who often build and erect nesting boxes close to their gardens and fields.
It’s fascinating to watch them hunt: their hunched-looking silhouette is easily recognized as they perch on a branch or overhead wire, peering at the ground for insects. They swoop down to the ground to capture their prey or can be observed catching insects in mid-air: they are graceful hunters.
However, their diet can include other critters: “Insects caught on the ground are a bluebird’s main food for much of the year. Major prey include caterpillars, beetles crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders. … Rarely, Eastern Bluebirds have been recorded eating salamanders, shrews, snakes, lizards, and tree frogs.” (Cornell Bird Lab, All about Birds: bit.ly/3QShRWV)
Conservation: a good news story
Possibly because of this species’ beauty, people rallied when we were told in the late 1990s that the Eastern Bluebird was in serious decline. Nestboxes were built and put up along country backroads such as chemin Wilson Road near Quyon.
This is what the Cornell Bird Lab explains regarding this species’ status: “Eastern Bluebird populations increased between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 23 million. The species rates a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Eastern Bluebird populations fell in the early twentieth century as aggressive introduced species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows made available nest holes increasingly difficult for bluebirds to hold on to. In the 1960s and 1970s, establishment of bluebird trails and other nest-box campaigns alleviated much of this competition, especially after people began using nest boxes designed to keep out the larger European Starling. Eastern Bluebird numbers have been recovering since.” (bit.ly/3Bme1j7)
So we can all take heed of conservation concerns, and we can indeed make a difference. Perhaps because of the Eastern Bluebird’s cheerful demeanour, we have collectively rallied to do our best to conserve it. Ditto for Bald Eagles and other creature.
You and I do care. So, let’s do our very best to conserve biodiversity and give other animals a healthy life amidst our own home environments.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her: email@example.com and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/