Poplar Bluff Garden Club

Poplar Bluff Garden Club

 
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Northern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

 

Poplar Bluff Garden Club

How To Identify the Bluebird

The eastern bluebird male is 7-inches, has a deep blue back with a rusty red throat and breast. The underneath of his tail is white. The female is duller and juvenile bluebirds have spotted breasts.

The male bluebird sings a melodious chur-a-lee . We will hear this in mid-March, as he arrives before the female in search of a nesting sight. The shorter chur-lee call is voiced by both sexes.

The Bluebird's Natural Food and Habitat

Eastern bluebirds are solitary nesters but maintain close family ties the entire summer and fall. They then gather in flocks to feed and begin their southernly migration during October.

You'll find them in open areas. These could be farmlands, woodlands or swampy areas.

Insects and seeds. Eastern Bluebirds flutter from fence posts and wires to the ground when they spot food.

Unlike other thrushes, bluebirds nest in natural tree cavities, often in woodpecker holes, or in birdhouses. The male begins looking for a nesting place before the female has migrated north. When she arrives, he entices her to choose one of the sites he has found, taking up to six weeks. After a sight is chosen, the nest is built by the female, taking 5 to 6 days. She makes her nest of grass, haphazardly arranged and lays 3 to 5 bluish white eggs, one each day. The female will incubate the eggs for 13 to 15 days and the young will leave the nest in 18 to 20 days. Both parents will feed the young. They usually have 2 broods a year.

Attracting Bluebirds

Though eastern bluebirds will eat cornmeal mixed with suet and peanut butter, a better way to attract them is to put up birdhouses (5 by 5 by 8 inches high with a 1 1.2 inch entrance hole) in an open field.

Installation and Maintenance of Birdhouses

Place the birdhouses 3 to 5 feet off the ground with the opening facing east-southeast, low-cut in grassy areas with a few trees and bushes. Do not place near houses, in the shade or in overgrown hedgerows.

The houses need to be spaced 100 yards apart, because the birds are very territorial. Place the houses so they can be easily inspected.

Check the houses weekly, removing any dead chicks. Do not inspect the house during the time period when the nestlings are after 12 days old. Inspection of the nest at this time could cause the young to leave the nest prematurely.

After whatever has occupied your house has fledged, remove the nests to encourage more nestings. During the winter months, clean out the birdhouses to prepare for the next spring.

Birdhouse Intruders

Other birds will compete for the bluebird houses, ie. tree swallows, house wrens, chickadees, starling and house sparrows. You can only remove the house sparrows and starling nests from the houses as the others are protected by law and it is illegal to remove any occupied nest.

The Blowfly will lay their eggs in the nesting material. (The grass will appeared chew up) The blowfly larvae hide below the nest during the day and emerge at night to suck the blood from the young. This can be prevented by placing a hardware cloth platform at the bottom of the birdhouse, so the nest is elevated. This should prevent the larvae from climbing.

Timetable

March 15: Male arrives looking for nesting sights
May 1: Female builds nest
June: 1st bood hatches
June 15: 1st brood fledges
June 25: Female builds a new nest for her 2nd brood
July 20: 2nd brood hatches
August 5: 2nd brood fledges