Thursday, July 21, 2016

Eastern Bluebird

Our Colourful Thrush 

Eastern Bluebird
The Thrush Family (Turdidae) is well represented in New Brunswick.  We have about 8 members who are summer residents.  One, the American Robin, is our most common and a favourite of everybody.  Its smaller cousin, the Eastern Bluebird, is the topic for this post.

The Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis is a small thrush preferring fields and open areas.  It is seen near orchards, parks, farms, clearcuts, and golf courses.  It prefers to perch low on fence posts or bushes, often in small groups.  It feeds on insects and fruit.  It readily accepts nest boxes.   

Eastern Bluebird

The bluebird population took a sharp decline from the 1950s to the 1970s.  Fortunately they have made a comeback since then although a slow one, especially in the southern part of the province.  The decline was probably related to insecticide spraying and loss of habitat.  The recovery has been helped by milder winters and the establishment of nest box trails and campaigns in the US and Canada.  They are a migratory species arriving in May and leaving in late fall.

The bluebird is 17.5 cm (7 in) long and has an overall stubby appearance due to its stubby bill and stocky build.  It is polytypic (male and female look different).  Both genders have a wonderful bright blue on their wings and tail.  The female is, of course, much subdued.  The male has bright blue on head, back, wings and tail, and an orange throat, chest and sides, and a white belly.  The blue is so deep it sometimes looks iridescent!  The female looks much grayer.  The photos above show the male bluebird in breeding plumage.

The bluebird has an interesting song.  Sibley describes it as a 'mellow series of warbled phrases'.  It is a pleasant sound and one you won't forget when you identify its origin.  If you do hear it, look around and you will probably find a bluebird sitting on a post watching for an insect.  Then, look further.  There are likely one or more bluebirds with it.  

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