Today I watched eastern bluebirds feed on the same snow bare hill on which I sat yesterday. It’s darn hard not to smile when you catch these bright, active thrushes in your sights.
Like the bald eagle, these birds are characters in a happy story. The nation was greatly concerned about the population of both eastern and western bluebirds 40 years ago. The problem was not directly related to pesticides; they couldn’t compete with the immigrant starlings and house sparrows that were dominating the nesting cavities otherwise used by bluebirds. In response, 4H groups, concerned citizens, biologists, amateur naturalists and more built and maintained thousands of bluebird boxes while spreading the word about the issue and encouraging others to extend the “Bluebird Trail.”
But, as is the case with all natural things, the story has not ended. While the population has recovered, it still relies heavily on human action. We must either allow dead trees and decayed branches to remain in place or we must provide alternative housing. And if we elect to build bluebird houses, we must commit to keeping them cleaned out and maintained.
Walking home from the creek, crossing the hill, I enjoyed a sunny afternoon watching the birds dive from their perches to collect food from the leaf liter before bouncing back up to another nearby branch. There was no shortage of deadwood nearby, and any starlings I’d ever seen here were just passing through. So these, I imagined, were very happy bluebirds, and that made me happy, too.
For photos and bluebird behavior info: Cornell University’s All About Birds Guide
For news about an independent film called Bluebird Man: www.wildlensinc.org/bluebirdman