Welcome to your seventeenth edition of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. We are glad that you are still here with us and showing your continued support of Blair and his efforts to bring the outdoors to all of us. Please go invite your friends to the Facebook Page, our goal is to get to 200 likes. We’re at 189 at the moment, we’re so close! Just click invite near the top of the page and invite your friends to Mike’s amazing world!
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As we get further into spring we start to see the signs that we usually associate with spring: greener grass, blooms and babies. Last year, Blair investigated a nest box and was able to get some amazing photos and footage of a pair of bluebirds hatch and raise a couple broods of young.
Most of Blair’s photos are of Eastern Bluebirds. There are three types of bluebirds you might see in North America: the Eastern Bluebird, the Mountain Bluebird, and the Western Bluebird. They are very similar but their color varies in tone and area. The Easter Bluebird features a brilliant royal blue from the back of its head down to the tail and a red-brown breast.
Bluebirds are normally insect eaters, munching on grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, beetles and spiders. One insect they won’t eat is the ladybird beetle. These taste bad and are even slightly toxic to the birds. Bluebirds will switch to a berry diet during the winter. This is for two reasons; insects are more difficult to find and they eat the berries for energy. Bluebirds will even make a meal of the berries from a poison ivy plant. Humans tend to avoid this plant because the oil it gives off, Urushiol, will commonly cause an allergic reaction on the skin and create rashes. However, this oil doesn’t affect these birds, making the berries a tasty snack.
An interesting fact that Blair pointed out in one of his writings is that while they will eat berries, bluebirds won’t make stops at birdfeeders. Why is this? He explains that seeds are difficult for these birds to digest so they avoid them. In fact, they will eat berries that have seeds in them but will disgorge the seed part. They will take the berry, digest the skin and pulp and then later cough up and spit out the seed.This picture tastefully depicts a bird spit out a seed. Another interesting fact about this process is the birds digestive acids affect the hard coat around the seed. It starts a long process to help break it down for easier germination in the spring.
Bluebirds will either reside in their nesting area year-round or migrate only a short distance. One exception to this is those that nest farther to the north, such as in Canada. These birds will migrate southwards during colder season. You can commonly find bluebirds in meadows and other openings surrounded by trees. These birds will use nooks in trees, woodpecker holes and other small holes in trees as a nesting area. They will also utilize a nest box. This video is a fun video to watch, featuring a three young bluebirds in a nest box. Mother bird shows up, rejects a ladybird beetle from the nest and brings back a grasshopper as a nice alternative. Check out the Bluebird Feeding In Nest Box Video.
Mating season begins with a male attracting a mate by flying in and out of the nesting area with materials and calling with its short, wavering voice. Once a female bluebird is attracted, she will do most of the nest building. A pair can and will most often have more than one clutch a season, some having three or four. The eggs are the easily recognized pale blue, although rarely they can be an off white. The young bluebirds hatch mostly bare and the parents spend most of their days finding enough food for their young. You can view some amazing flight and insect retrieval in Blair’s video Bluebird Flight in Slow Motion.
As young bluebirds grow, they gain feathers that are grayish. Unlike other birds who, once fledged leave the nest and are on the own, bluebirds will fledge and leave the nest but remain 100% dependent on their parents until they learn to hunt. This picture is of two young bluebirds who have fledged but are awaiting their parents assistance with a meal.
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Be sure to check out the Bluebird Photo Gallery!