Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall Bluebirds

The Bluebirds Are Still Here 

Eastern Bluebird - Male
Fall might be upon us but the Eastern Bluebirds are still here.  That is good news.  These beautiful small, colourful thrushes are still flitting around orchards and meadows looking for food and training their young, getting ready for migration.  We were lucky to find a small flock of these neat birds near Fredericton yesterday.  It was a warm  sunny day and the bluebirds were making the most of the many insects flying around.  They were moving actively between an orchard and the hydro poles and wires.  They treated us with their presence.

Eastern Bluebirds, like most birds at this time of year, are in their basic (alternate) plumage.  The bright feathers of the breeding plumage are mostly gone.  That makes it difficult to see the brilliant blue of this species.  They are still beautiful, however, with the deep orange breasts and muted gray blue on their heads and backs.

The male and female bluebirds differ slightly.  The female is duller and shows white on the throat and a more pronounced eyering.  Shown above is the male in basic plumage.  Note the solid orange on the throat and the gray-blue on the head.  The brilliant blue head of spring's breeding plumage is now gone.

Eastern Bluebird - Male
Shown above is also a male.  Note the solid orange throat and the bright blue on the wing feathers.  If this were spring, the entire head and back would be brilliant iridescent blue.

Eastern Bluebird - Female
Shown above is the female in basic plumage.  Note the more pronounced eyering and the whitish throat.  The orange breast and gray on the head and back are also duller than in the male.

An interesting fact about Eastern Bluebirds is that if a predator or other danger appears and no male is around, the female will sing a specific song in order to alert the male and have him return to protect her.  

The bluebirds will soon be leaving.  October is the time for them to migrate south.  Our birds will spend the winter in the eastern US south of Vermont or Massachusetts.

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