Bluebirds, members of the Thrush Family, have always held a special place in our hearts and, over the years, have had several qualities attributed to them, such as:
- Symbols of happiness and harmony
- Symbols of joy, good health, and hope
- Angels in disguise
- messengers of nature’s bounty
This is a lofty reputation for such a small bird, but the Eastern Bluebird is more than capable of living up to such high expectations.Whether you see them perched on a telephone wire, fence post, nesting box or fluttering to the ground to forage for insects, they’re bound to brighten up your day.
Whenever I think of iconic rural Ontario, one of the images that springs to mind is that of an Eastern Bluebird on a split rail fence. I was raised on a small farm in Eastern Ontario and back in the 1950s bluebirds were a fairly common sight, and like most people, I was struck by their brilliant colours. Although the colours on the male are more vibrant, the appearance of the female is no less stunning.
By the 1960s and 70s, there was a steep decline in their population owing to the loss of natural nesting cavities and competition with aggressive cavity nesters like European Starlings and House Sparrows that were introduced from Europe.
Today, the populations of Eastern Bluebirds have rebounded thanks to conservation groups that build nesting boxes in their preferred habitat. As a volunteer with the Bruce Trail Conservancy, I help manage about four dozen bird boxes on Bruce Trail managed properties. These boxes are not only inhabited by bluebirds, but also Tree Swallows, Chickadees and House Wrens, but it’s always extra special to see Eastern Bluebirds. I’ve been fortunate to have photographed Eastern Bluebirds in several phases of their nesting cycle.
It all begins in early spring, when the male will fetch nesting material to the nesting box to attract a mate and to show her that he is a good provider.
Once the nest is constructed, the female will lay anywhere between 2 to 7 eggs and after they hatch, the real action begins. Both parents are kept busy foraging for insects and caterpillars to feed their hungry brood.
About two and a half weeks after hatching, the young are ready to fledge.
And then it starts all over again as the adults will raise another batch of young, not necessarily in the same nesting box. In the fall, our volunteers clean out all nesting boxes to get them ready for the next nesting season in the spring and the cycle begins all over again.
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