Hear a story about the eastern bluebird.
Hear an eastern bluebird.
from The Birds of Texas
by John L. Tveten
The lovely seven-inch eastern bluebird must certainly rank among the most popular of all our common birds, and it has become the state bird of both New York and Missouri. Thoreau describes it as "carrying the sky on its back." The male is an intense, shiny blue above, with a rich chestnut-red throat and breast and a contrasting white belly. Although grayer and paler than her mate, the female is readily recognizable.
The eastern bluebird occurs east of the Rocky Mountains, from southern Canada to the Gulf States and south through Mexico to Honduras. It breeds across the eastern two-thirds of Texas, from the northeastern Panhandle to the lower coast and west to the Edwards Plateau. It is most common as a nesting species, however, in the open woodlands and farmyards of East Texas. Partially migratory, the eastern bluebird withdraws from the northern portions of its range in winter and is then fairly common throughout the state except for the Trans-Pecos, where it is replaced by the western and mountain bluebirds. It depends heavily on berries and other fruits to supplement its insect diet during the colder months.
The eastern bluebird has suffered a drastic population decline during the last few decades, in some areas decreasing by as much as 90 percent. The clearing of dead trees and the heavy use of agricultural pesticides have undoubtedly contributed to the decline, but most authors cite competition with the introduced house sparrow and European starling as the primary cause.
Bluebirds prefer open farmland with scattered trees, established orchards, cutover woodlands, and even suburban yards and parks. They utilize cavities and old woodpecker holes in trees and posts as nesting sites and, although they often defend their chosen locations against house sparrows and tree swallows, they cannot repel the larger and more aggressive starlings. Recent interest in putting up bluebird boxes has helped to turn the tide in many areas across the country, including Texas. Conservation groups, scout troops and interested individuals have even created "bluebird trails" with series of birdhouses to reestablish the birds in their former range.
L - Eastern bluebird nest and eggs.
© Photo by John L. Tveten
The bluebird nest is a loose cup of grasses, plant stems and rootlets in the cavity or nest box. The female incubates her three to six sky-blue eggs, and they hatch in 12 to 14 days. Fed by both parents on a diet of insects, the babies remain in the nest for 15 to 20 days more. Because pairs begin nesting early in the season, they may easily raise two or three broods each year.
It is their early return to the northern portions of their range, even while snow remains on the ground, that has helped make bluebirds so popular across the country. In the Northeast, they are truly harbingers of spring. "In New York and New England the sap starts up the sugar maple the very day the bluebird arrives, and sugar-making begins forthwith," writes famed naturalist John Burroughs.
The call note of the eastern bluebird is a musical chur-lee, or chur-wi, that when repeated serves as the song throughout the seasons, chur chur-lee chur-lee. Romantics assign to it such words as pur-ity and tru-ly and coin phrases like "the bluebird of happiness." "Few sounds in all Nature," writes Robert Lemmon, "are so pleasantly rich and yet so simple." The same might be said for the bluebird's elegant plumage.
Excerpts from The Birds of Texas by John L. Tveten with permission from Shearer Publishing, Inc.
More Bird Facts|
The eastern bluebird is a member of the thrush family. These are medium-sized birds with rather long legs and slender bills.
Three species of bluebird occur in Texas: the eastern bluebird, the western bluebird and the mountain bluebird.
Other common names for the eastern bluebird: Wilson's bluebird, common bluebird, blue robin, blue redbreast, azure bluebird and American bluebird.
Both male and female bluebirds care for their young and are devoted parents.
Bluebirds are closely related to robins and solitaires and lay "robin-egg blue" eggs.
Bluebirds will make a nest in an artificial nest box if the box has the correct size entrance hole and dimensions.
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NOTE: Free nest box materials mentioned in the following programming is no longer available or in print. Visit the website of the North American Bluebird Society for more information. Thanks!
Click here for nest box plans.
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