About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Migration of Eastern Bluebirds

I was surprised that I’ve been feeding bluebirds all winter. Are the bluebirds that are eating from my feeders now going to be around during the nesting season or are they just here for the winter? Colin in DeWitt, MI

This was a very big winter for bluebird watchers in mid-Michigan. I’ve never ordered so many mealworms from December through February. The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store even had to get a larger fridge to store extra worms.

Usually, the Eastern Bluebirds will gather in large family flocks at the end of nesting season and live more in the woods. They forage on fruit, nuts, and berries. If you have fruiting trees or bluebird feeders and a reliable source of water, you may host the bluebirds year-round.

But are they the same bluebirds you had last spring? The Eastern Bluebirds are considered partial migrants. Scientist believe that a certain percentage of bluebirds aren’t genetically programmed to fly south in the winter.

According to SandyTSeibert’s article titled “Bluebirds Migrate to Find Better Weather and Better Resources”: “Eastern bluebirds do not simply shift southward. In some of the warmer areas of the country, many are year-round residents. Often, the birds from Canada and the northern U.S. will leapfrog over areas with many resident birds in order to avoid competition for food. These birds will travel as far as Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and the southern portions of Alabama, Georgia and Texas.
Not all northern bluebirds exhibit this type of migration. Some will migrate shorter distances and remain with resident birds throughout the winter. They will face more competition for food but, if they survive, they will have the benefit of being the first to return to their breeding area in the spring. This gives them the benefit of being able to claim the most desirable territories.”

So why did we see so many bluebirds this year? One answer could be that the population may have increased. Another answer could be that we had such a mild winter that more bluebirds were noticed or more may have survived.

With the lengthening of daylight the birds are becoming more active. Nesting season is just around the corner. Make sure your houses are ready and feeders and baths are full. We will continue to stock everything you need to keep your bluebirds happy and healthy.