Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Ah, the Bluebird of Happiness. This cheerful little bird is a member of the Thrush family. You can't mistake that brilliant royal blue of the male Bluebird, and their warm red breast might remind you of another popular member of the Thrush family - the American Robin. There are three species of Bluebirds in the United States - the Eastern Bluebird (pictured here), the Western Bluebird, and the Mountain Bluebird.
These beautiful birds have made a remarkable comeback since the early 20th century when habitat loss and pesticides caused an alarming rate of population decline. Introduced species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings also became a major problem for Bluebirds. These invasive species (which are also cavity nesters) are more aggressive than Bluebirds, and they quickly took over habitats and suitable nest cavities for the Bluebirds.
Fortunately, we were able to recognize the problem and step in to help these birds before their population was completely wiped out. Of course, becoming aware of the dangers of pesticides and discontinuing their use contributed greatly to their resurgence - but organizations such as "The North American Bluebird Society" have been instrumental in their recovery not only through education but also through the promotion of artificial nest boxes (which Bluebirds readily take to) and Bluebird trails.
Again, winter can be particularly hard on these birds. They are "partial migrants," which means that some do fly south, but others stay near their nesting grounds. Bluebirds typically forage for insects and berries in open country surrounded by trees, but when extreme weather conditions make this more challenging, they may be brave and visit backyard feeders if you have the right food. If you are lucky enough to have Bluebirds in your area, you can help them out by providing hulled sunflower seeds, suet, and they especially love mealworms!
Are you one of the fortunate few to have Bluebirds visit your yard during the winter? I'd love to hear from you!
Eastern Bluebird, male Middlesex County, MA