by Steve White
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
When you witness your first bluebird, you’ll know why Thoreau claimed that these birds carry the sky on their backs. In the right light, no other bird shows its true American colors than the Eastern bluebird. That marvelous blue forms the backdrop for the rusty, red chest and white belly.
Bluebirds are permanent residents in the southern USA, but are typical migrants in the northern regions. They arrive on their breeding grounds early in the spring, around mid-March and usually depart for the winter in September. The Eastern, Western and Mountain bluebirds make up the three distinct species in America.
All three species prefer plenty of open habitat surround by trees and shrubs. These birds are called cavity nesters and will utilize dead and living trees for raising their young. Nests are primarily built by the female and they typically lay 4 or 5 light blue eggs. Females do the incubating while the males provide food and sustenance for their mate. The incubation period is about two weeks and the hatchlings will spend another three weeks in the nest before fledging.
Bluebirds fell on hard times in the last century when the widespread cutting of trees eliminated potential nest cavities. Being opportunists, the bluebirds switched to cavities in wooden fence posts. As farmers switched to longer lasting metal fencing, bluebirds began to disappear from natural habitats.
When it was discovered that these wonderful birds would happily utilize mad-made nest boxes, the species rebounded. Thousands of bluebird aficionados put up nest boxes throughout the country and in a decade, the number of successful bluebird nestings dramatically increased. Bluebird trails became a regular feature at farms and golf courses. Man had righted a wrong and this American bird shined again.
Mealworms are a favorite staple of these wild birds. Freeze dried medium-sized mealworms are available for purchase during the cold March weather. As the temperatures allow, you can serve live mealworms to your colorful visitors in specially designed mealworm feeders or in a simple dish. An average bluebird family can consume approximately 500 mealworms in a single day.
Break out of your winter doldrums by trying to attract bluebirds to your backyard. Once you see that red, white and blue, you’ll be singing right alongside them as they spread their joy to all who will listen.
Enjoy your birds!
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.