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, March 18, 2012

Bluebirds: Carrier of the Sky

Mountain Bluebird
Though their name is a bit misleading, bluebirds have fascinated birders for years. Just look at the many ways bluebirds distinguish themselves from other birds.

• There are three species of bluebirds found in North America, including Eastern, Western and Mountain Bluebirds.
• All bluebirds are cavity nesters and will use an artificial nest box. Habitat and nest cavities had been disappearing for many years, but bluebird populations have steadily increased for the past few decades due to thousands of bluebird nest boxes being installed across the country.
Western Bluebird
• Bluebirds may raise two and sometimes three broods per season. Pairs may build their second nests on top of the first nest or they may nest in an entirely new site. The male continues to take care of the recently fledged young while the female begins to re-nest. Young from the first brood will occasionally help raise their siblings in the second brood.
• Males may carry nest material to the nest, but they do not participate in the actual building. They spend much of that time guarding their mates to prevent them from mating with other males.
• Adult bluebirds tend to return to the same breeding territory year after year, but only a small percentage (3-5%) of young birds return to where they hatched.
• A bluebird can spot caterpillars and insects in tall grass at the remarkable distance of over 50 yards.
• Bluebirds have no blue pigments in their feathers. Instead, each feather barb has a thin layer of cells that absorb all wavelengths of color except blue. Only the blue wavelength is reflected and scattered, resulting in their blue appearance to our eyes.
Eastern Bluebird
• Unlike other bluebirds, Mountain bluebirds are able to hover above the ground while searching for insects. This enables them to live in areas with few trees or shrubs.
• Eastern Bluebirds will occasionally breed with Mountain Bluebirds and successfully raise young.
• Bluebirds can fly at speeds up to 45 miles per hour if necessary.
• When choosing natural nesting cavities, studies have shown that Eastern Bluebirds select abandoned woodpecker nests at least 75% of the time.
• The first Bluebird Nesting Box Trail was established in Adams County, Illinois in 1934, by T.E. Musselman.

Source: WBU BOTM 

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