The Joy of Bluebirds

As you may know from previous blogs, one of my hobbies is nature study, especially bird study. And the Eastern bluebird is of special interest to me because of the beauty of the creature and the situation with their nesting behavior.

This photo of a male Eastern bluebird is from Cornell Lab of  Ornithology – Cornell University. The female is less brightly colored than the male.

While bluebirds are fairly common in PA, and indeed in all of eastern USA, they are  quiet and somewhat unobtrusive, so many people have never seen one. Most people are more familiar with the blue jay, which is larger, noisy and very aggressive at bird feeders.

Back to the subject of bluebirds’ nesting behavior, they are cavity nesters but cannot hollow out cavities themselves because their beaks not designed for hammering or drilling like woodpeckers. The natural nesting sites for bluebirds have diminished in the 20th century because of changing farming techniques. So humans have discovered that bluebirds are quite willing to nest in man-made boxes. Therefore, thousands of birders, including me, set out nesting boxes, hoping to provide a safe home for these birds.

Here is the box across the street from our home here in the suburbs of Harrisburg, PA.

I paint the roof of the box to preserve it longer. The light blue color is incidental. Any color would do.

This year, 2012, is probably my best year for successful fledging (flying out of the box) of bluebird young. I had 21 boxes out:  6 in this area, 4 at Grantham on and near the campus of Messiah College, and 11 at Roxbury Holiness Camp which is located at the village of Roxbury, not far from Shippensburg.

In these boxes the female bluebirds laid a total of 74 eggs.

Number of eggs that hatched – 57.

Number of young that fledged – all 57.

I also had 9 tree swallow chicks that fledged, 6 house wrens (all in one box), and one chickadee.

I know these numbers because I am a bluebird fanatic, keeping record on index cards of every box and the activity in it.

I also set out on our deck dried mealworms and suet and raisins for the bluebirds, and occasionally, but not every day, they come for a snack.

What do you do for fun? If you enjoy your hobby as much as I do mine, I am happy for you.

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