The bluebirds are a group of medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the genus Sialia of the thrush family (Turdidae). Bluebirds are one of the few thrush genera in the Americas. They have blue, or blue and rose beige, plumage. Female birds are less brightly colored than males, although color patterns are similar and there is no noticeable difference in size between the two sexes.
- Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis
- Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
- Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides
Bluebirds are territorial and prefer open grassland with scattered trees. This is similar to the behaviour of many species of woodpecker. Bluebirds can typically produce between two and four broods during the spring and summer (March through August in the Northeastern United States). Males identify potential nest sites and try to attract prospective female mates to those nesting sites with special behaviors that include singing and flapping wings, and then placing some material in a nesting box or cavity. If the female accepts the male and the nesting site, she alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs.
Predators of young bluebirds in the nests can include snakes, cats and raccoons. Non-native and native bird species competing with bluebirds for nesting locations include the Common Starling, American Crow, and House Sparrow, which take over the nesting sites of bluebirds, killing young and smashing eggs and probably killing adult bluebirds.
Bluebirds are attracted to platform bird feeders, filled with grubs of the darkling beetle, sold by many online bird product wholesalers as mealworms. Bluebirds will also eat raisins soaked in water. In addition, in winter bluebirds use backyard heated birdbaths.
By the 1970s, bluebird numbers had declined by estimates ranging to 70% due to unsuccessful competition with house sparrows and starlings, both introduced species, for nesting cavities, coupled with a decline in habitat. However, in late 2005 Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology reported bluebird sightings across the southern U.S. as part of its yearly Backyard Bird Count, a strong indication of the bluebird's return to the region. This upsurge can largely be attributed to a movement of volunteers establishing and maintaining bluebird trails.
In the garden
Of all the birds a gardener could choose to attract, the bluebird is the quintessential helpful garden bird. Gardeners go to extreme lengths to attract and keep them in the garden for their advantageous properties. Bluebirds are voracious insect consumers, quickly ridding a garden of insect pests.
As a symbol in songs
Songwriters have adopted the bluebird as a symbol of happiness and cheer. Examples are Jan Peerce's signature song, "Bluebird of Happiness", "Over the Rainbow" ("Somewhere over the Rainbow/Bluebirds fly"), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" ("I'm Always Chasing Rainbows/Waiting to find a little bluebird in vain"), and "The White Cliffs of Dover" ("There'll be bluebirds over/The White Cliffs of Dover"). The last song, written in 1941, alludes to the hoped for end of World War II. It employs poetic license: there are no bluebirds in Europe.
- Gowaty, Patricia Adair (1984). "House Sparrows Kill Eastern Bluebirds". Journal of Field Ornithology 55 (3): 378–380. JSTOR 4512922.
- "The Self-Sufficient Gardener Episode 109 Bluebirds". Theselfsufficientgardener.com. 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
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- Eastern Bluebird Cornell descriptions, including range, calls and physical description
- Videos from inside a bluebird nest Video clips showing development from eggs to fledglings (Faunascope)
- Thrush videos on the Internet Bird Collection
- Bluebird Information and Awareness Dedicated to educating the public about the needs of the bluebird and providing the information needed to help them.
- North American Bluebird Society Dedicated to promoting the preservation of bluebirds.
- Sialis Information on bluebirds and their conservation and restoration.