News

Natural Highlights: Eastern Bluebird

                    

Thanks to a proliferation of nest boxes and bluebird trails, the Eastern, Western, and Mountain Bluebirds have all made quite a comeback since the first half of the 20th century.  Both the rapid conversion of habitat and competition with introduced House Sparrows and European Starlings for nest cavities caused a dramatic decline in bluebird populations.  Fortunately, bluebirds take readily to constructed nest boxes in open habitat.  There are currently numerous pairs raising their first broods of the year in boxes placed along the Wolf River Greenway and on Wolf River Conservancy lands.

Several students groups with Shelby County Schools have been working cooperatively with the Conservancy to build and install nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, Prothonotary Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, and Carolina Wrens, among other species.  Not only are the students learning about birds, ecology, and nest box construction, they are often making their first visit to Wolf River Greenway, where they are making a positive difference.

Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are members of the Thrush Family, which includes American Robins.  The male is easy to recognize with his bright blue back and rust red breast; females are more muted.  A male attracts a female by selecting a nest site, flying in and out of the hole carrying pieces of grass or other nest material, perching nearby, and fluttering his wings.  Apparently, once the female decides to enter his nest box or other cavity, the knot is tied.  From that point on, all nest building and egg incubation is the female's work alone, though the male will join her in feeding the nestlings by foraging for insects.

It is important to note that, though nest boxes are crucial to the continued success of the Eastern Bluebirds, it is habitat that they depend on most. Their diet is mainly comprised of insects and spiders, along with a wide variety of wild berries when they are in season - from dogwood, hackberry, blueberry, holly, viburnum, pokeweed, and other plants.  To succeed, bluebirds need natural habitat and healthy ecosystems with a diversity of native plants and their associated insect communities, along with plenty of cavities for raising the next generation.

For more information on Eastern Bluebirds, including nest box plans, see the following links:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Bluebird/overview

https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/eastern-bluebird/

http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/nestbox-plans/

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/eastern-bluebird

 

Posted by Cathy Justis at 11:58 AM