Here at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory our resident Eastern Bluebirds are working on their clutch of the spring already. Amazingly, these industrious birds will often raise three broods per nesting season. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and thus build their nest in the cavity of a tree or in boxes provided by humans. The male attracts a mate by bringing nesting material to the nest hole or box and then flutters his wings while sitting on top of the box or outside the cavity to attract a female. Once the female is satisfied with the nest, she lays 4 or 5 powder blue eggs per clutch and only she incubates them. Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days. Once the eggs hatch, both parents stay very busy feeding their brood until they are ready to leave the nest in 16 to 22 days. Often we will see the adults bring the young birds to our shallow bird bath and show them how to bathe. It doesn’t take long and they are in the water splashing and flapping their wings.
Bluebirds are such beautiful birds as they fly. The sun really shows off the vivid blue back and wings of the male. The underside is rusty or brick-red on the throat and breast. Females are grayish, mottled above with bluish wings and tail, and a more subdued orange-brown breast. Young birds have speckled breasts and can easily be identified with their parents. Bluebirds are in the thrush family so they have general characteristics of erect posture, round eye, and plump body.
photo by Terry Sohl
They perch on our power lines and scan the open ground for insects. For feeding aficionados, live meal worms are a favored delicacy. In winter you may find them feeding on berries but in Texas we have insects year round for their satisfaction. They also perch on top of the nest boxes or in trees surrounding open fields to scan for insects. In winter when it is cold they will get in their box or you may find them in old woodpecker holes.
We have several nest boxes scattered around the open areas of our property. If you want to add a bluebird nest box to your yard or bird habitat, you can find plans for building bluebird boxes and information on habitat requirements on the internet. The most important things are to make sure you have enough open space and the hole size in the box is the right size (1½ inches in diameter). You may also want to consider putting up a predator guard to keep snakes from getting to the eggs or young birds. Bluebirds are most common along fence rows in pastures and agricultural fields, and in suburban parks, backyards, and golf courses. Next time you see a flash of blue dart in front of you along a roadside or in a park, check and see if it was a bluebird catching a meal for itself!
By Carol A. Jones