110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted May 26, 2013 - 11:13:39pm
Male Eastern bluebirds are petite, beautiful thrushes that are royal blue on top, with an orange throat and sides, and a white belly. These 7-inch birds have a 13-inch wingspan and weigh only 1.1 ounce. The females are duller-colored than the males.
Eastern bluebirds' bills are slender and not pointed, thus being adapted for eating soft foods such as insects, worms and berries, but not seeds. They eat the nonprotein diet of berries mainly in the winter when it's not breeding time. They also love raisins!
A new term for my vocabulary was "ground-sallying." This is how Eastern bluebirds catch their insects: They fly from their perch, which is often a fence post or low branch, hover over an insect, settle briefly on the ground after capturing it, and then sally (leap) and return to their perch to eat it. This is unique among birds, according to my research. Most birds just gobble up all the bugs they want, swallow them, and fly on to a new area.
The male Eastern bluebird chooses the nest site in a natural tree cavity, abandoned woodpecker cavity, or man-made nest box. He attracts a female with singing and wing-flapping. If she accepts his offer, she alone builds a cup nest made from grass, plant stems, pine needles, grass and feathers. She sometimes lines it with horsehair or turkey feathers.
From March through June, the female lays three to five eggs and solely incubates them for 11-19 days. She lays one egg a day, and won't incubate them until all the eggs are laid. This way they all hatch at the same time.
Both parents feed their blind, helpless babies after they hatch. It takes a week for the chicks' eyes to open, but by day 12, they are completely feathered and ready to fly. The parents feed them for about 30 days, and then they must try to be independent. Once they leave the nest, they do not return. After all, the nest is merely a chick's crib, not a home. An adult couple typically produce between two and four broods during the spring and summer!
Unfortunately, the majority of the chicks do not survive their first year because of starvation, freezing, or predators like snakes, chipmunks, domestic cats, raccoons, starlings, crows and humans. But the lucky ones live six to 10 years!
Eastern bluebirds live in small flocks in fields or woodlands adjacent to open areas, in the eastern half of the U.S. and south to Central America. Western bluebirds are paler and slightly smaller, and live in the western U.S., but they are considered to be a separate species. The ones that live here in Florida are nonmigratory.
Have you heard about the "bluebird of happiness"? The mythology of this began thousands of years ago in many cultures. The sight and song of this bird symbolize happiness, love, prosperity, good health and renewed hope. Bluebirds certainly deserve their nickname!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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