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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Where Bluebirds go in the Winter

My husband saw a blue robin-sized bird at the feeder. Do you know what it was? Karen ~ Bath, MI

I believe you saw an Eastern Bluebird. They can stay in mid-Michigan year round. Bluebirds usually gather in the woods after their nesting season is done. There they forage for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.

Flocks can be as large as 100 but typically range from 5 to 20 birds in mid-Michigan. Winter flocks forage for food together and wander about exploring possible roosting sites like bluebird houses or roosting pockets.
Eastern Bluebird on a cold December day.Image via Wikipedia


I didn't know that. Thank you for responding so quickly. My husband is becoming fascinated with the birds that are visiting the feeder.

I'm glad I could help. Feel free to write again any time.
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7 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great year of little news items and interesting facts on subjects that I never would have thought about. You are an interesting lady and I'm so glad I know you.

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  2. I've learned so much from you. You are appreciated. Thanks

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  3. You are one hard working woman! It's a joy to see you every time I go in the store. You always have an answer for all my bird questions. Thank you.

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  4. WE'VE HAD A "PET" BLUEBIRD ALL SUMMER WHO COMES PEEKING IN OUR WINDOWS AND NOW THAT IT IS DECEMBER 9TH, HE'S STILL HERE ALONG WITH TWO OTHER BLUEBIRDS. WE'VE NEVER HAD THEM THIS LATE; I'M WORRIED THEY WON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO EAT ONCE THE GROUND HARDENS. THEY DO HAVE SHELTER IN THEIR HOUSING NESTS THAT THEY'VE OCCUPIED OVER THE YEARS, BUT WE'VE NEVER SEEN THEM HANGING AROUND THIS LATE IN THE YEAR.

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  5. BY THE WAY, WE LIVE IN SOUTHERN MICHIGAN....

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  6. Some Eastern Bluebirds migrate south in the winter and others can remain north. There is no fixed migration route for bluebirds. Like the American Robin they can overwinter anywhere as long as there is food, water, and shelter.

    It’s natural for the bluebirds to disappear after they’ve fledged. Often parents take the young on what I call a family vacation to teach them about the world. It’s usually to a place that they feel is more secluded or safe and has an abundance of food.

    The bluebirds then may return to their nest cavity briefly or remain throughout the winter. There is no way to force migration. Birds either migrate or don’t.

    According to Sandy Seibert’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.”

    If you check eBird you'll find it is not unusual to see Eastern Bluebirds in southern Michigan during the winter. It’s also more common to see bluebirds and robins after a snow. The most difficult time for birds to forage in the winter is during snow and ice storms. Freezing rains or heavy snows can cover their food and make it almost impossible to feed. Survival then may depend on you feeding mealworms, suets, chopped fruit, nuts, or berries.

    If you don’t want to feed them, you don’t have to continue. However, if you can provide natural sources, you may enjoy a variety of exciting birds year round.

    Bluebirds are also attracted to water. Because your area, like mid-Michigan, has freezing temperatures you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds to get drinks or clean their feathers.

    Feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds must keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. The feathers also provide insulation by trapping body heat close to the skin.

    I hope that helps. I'm glad you want to learn more about your birds. There are also a lot of good books about bluebirds. The one we sell the most at our Wild Birds Unlimited stores is The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds by Donald and Lillian Stokes.

    Sarah

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  7. Great article on bluebirds...!!!

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