May the bluebird of happiness…
If you take a walk in the Countryside Preserve, pay attention to some bird nesting boxes in the meadows. These are home to several different species of birds: swallows, wrens and bluebirds. All these birds nest in cavities in trees but are unable to excavate their own holes. They need woodpeckers or natural decay to provide something suitable. They also nest in open areas, not forests. Old wooden fenceposts are ideal, but with many being replaced by metal poles, these birds have fewer options.
They face an additional challenge from two bird species that were imported here. House sparrows were brought from England in 1851 and the starling came from Europe in 1890. Both have been very successful in North America. These imports also nest in holes in trees and eat the same type of food as the native birds. It’s created tough competition for decreasing nesting sites. Bluebirds are the most threatened of these native species.
These beautiful thrushes look like small, bright blue robins with rusty throats and breasts, and white bellies. The females are brown with blue in their wings and tails. The young are greyish with a spotted breast but that same bluish hint in the wings and tail.
About two thirds of their diet consists of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, flies, and beetles. The remainder is made up of wild fruits and berries, earthworms, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, sow bugs, and snails. They feed by perching on a branch or fencepost and swooping down to catch insects on or near the ground.
Bluebirds may raise more than one family a year. Construction of the nest is done primarily by the female, and takes about 10 days to complete. She builds in abandoned woodpecker holes, other cavities, or nesting boxes. Nests are cup-like and made from grass, feathers, stems and hairs. Three to seven light-blue eggs are laid, and they take about two weeks to hatch. They’re fed a diet almost entirely of insects by both parents. The young will leave the nest 15 to 20 days after hatching. Some young from the first brood may stay around and help to raise their younger siblings.
The meadows of the Countryside Preserve are home to many different birds, including those that make their homes in these artificial tree cavities. With the fine summer weather, it’s a perfect time to take a walk and enjoy some exercise while respecting social distancing. Take binoculars if you have some for close up views of all the beautiful sights that await you there!
Special thanks to Lloyd W. for reaching out to tell me about the bluebirds that have moved into the nesting box he built recently.
“What amazes me is that it took me nearly 93 years to see my first Eastern Blue Bird. I hope that they keep coming back.”
It’s never too late to see something wonderful outside – I hope you and your neighbours enjoy watching this lovely little bird, Lloyd.
If any Cosmos readers are interested, I can send plans to build your own nesting box. It’s too late for this year, but, next spring, you could be landlords of a family of birds in your own backyard or rural property!
Nancy Melcher is The Nature Nut. Send details of your sightings or questions about the natural world to: firstname.lastname@example.org