I was sitting at my desk today when I received a phone call asking if I could identify a particular bird. Of course I tried by asking as many questions as I could think of and eventually together we came up with the answer which was a bluebird. I’m wondering if the reason for so many sightings of bluebirds this far south is the last all-consuming cold front that hit the entire United States. No matter the reason, we are glad to see each and every one of them.
Bluebirds are some of the most sought after backyard birds, whether they are eastern, western, or mountain bluebirds. Backyard birders who know how to attract bluebirds can enjoy the benefits of these colorful thrushes throughout the year.
All three North American bluebirds, eastern bluebirds, western bluebirds, and Mountain-Bluebirds,are small thrushes, songbirds related to the American robin. While all three species are migratory, large portions of their range are occupied year-round, and many backyard birders actively try to attract bluebirds in every season.
Eastern Bluebird Photo By Jerry Davis
It is the eastern bluebird you will see here in Brazoria County though the other two can be found in Texas you will have to go to the hill country to see them.All three bluebird species have stunning plumage with rich blue backs and rusty or pale underparts. That color alone makes them desirable for a beautiful backyard, but their diets also make them welcome guests because they will readily eat large numbers of insects.
Their trilling, warbling song is another great reason to attract these birds, and successful backyard birders will enjoy bluebirds’ serenades throughout the summer breeding season. Bluebirds consume a wide variety of insects, particularly during the nesting season when hatchlings need protein for adequate growth. Bluebirds will also eat a wide variety of berries, such as sumac, holly and elderberry, and adding these berry-producing shrubs to the yard will help create a bluebird-friendly landscape. Suet offered as crumbles or shreds can also be valuable for attracting bluebirds, particularly with insect or fruit blends.
Bluebirds require fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing, and a low basin with 1-2 inches of water is ideal for these thrushes. Moving water with a bubbler or small fountain will attract their attention more quickly, but choose a bird bath design that is large enough to accommodate bluebird family flocks that may have a dozen birds all vying for a drink.
Bluebirds typically prefer mature, widely spaced trees, and they are less likely to visit a backyard with dense areas of foliage. Instead, choose just a few mature trees and opt for low ground cover surrounding open grassy areas to provide these ground-feeding birds security while foraging. Berry-producing shrubs that are a good food source are an excellent choice for plants that will do double-duty as food and shelter.
Bluebirds are Cavity-Nesting birds, and they will regularly nest in wooden bird houses of the appropriate dimensions, which should ideally be placed 4-7 feet above the ground in open areas. Putting out nesting materials such as pine needles and cotton scraps may attract bluebirds’ attention to the houses. Monitor bluebird houses to discourage house sparrows and European starlings that may usurp the nesting spots and could harm the bluebirds, and clean bird houses after each brood fledges to encourage additional nests. If your yard is already a haven for the beautiful birds then you have done a good job and now it’s time for you to relax and enjoy watching them.
By Alice Roemer