My husband and sister have both asked me, “Why do people
get so goopy over bluebirds?” I think there are a number
of reasons why we become fascinated and even addicted to this charming
Bluebirds are beautiful.
Their leisurely and buoyant flight pattern offers a slow-motion view of cerulean
blue feathers, making it seem as though the male “carries
the sky on his back.” (Henry
are considered harbingers of spring.
As WL Dawson penned in 1903, “How the waiting countryside
thrills with joy when Bluebird brings us the first word of
returning spring.” John
Burroughs wrote in 1880, “The bluebird enjoys the preeminence
of being the first bit of color that cheers our northern landscape.” Although
they may overwinter in colder climes, they actively begin house
hunting in February and March, signaling better weather ahead.
Bluebirds are associated
with hope, happiness and things we love. WL
Dawson wrote “Reflecting heaven from his back
and the ground from his breast, he floats between sky and
earth like the winged voice of hope.” They have
probably appeared in more songs, poems and literature than
any other bird. In 1909, Maurice
Maeterlinck published The Blue Bird, a fairy tale
about the bluebird of happiness. In 1934, tenor Jan Peerce
made the Bluebird of Happiness a nationwide hit. It’s
hard not to smile when hearing about “Mr. Bluebird
on My Shoulder” from the Disney film Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.
In 1939, in the movie The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland sang
plaintively that "Somewhere
over the rainbow, bluebirds fly." One of the most famous WWII-era pop
classics was a song by Nat Burton: “There'll be bluebirds
over the white cliffs of Dover, Tomorrow, just you wait and
see, There'll be love and laughter and peace ever after,
Tomorrow when the world is free.”
Bluebirds are unique
to North America.
Despite the reference to England in Nat Burton’s song, bluebirds
are only found on our continent - thus we can call them our own.
Bluebirds remind us of
simpler times. They were not only abundant in the tunes
of our youth, but also in the countryside in
the days before suburban sprawl. Most of us can clearly remember
our first view of that flash of blue. Because they have become
less common, it is even more thrilling to see one now.
are family oriented. The courting male dotes
on the female, waving his wings, enticing her to select
a nest site, and offering her treats. He courageously
guards the box during nest construction. He delivers
food to the incubating female, and participates equally
in feeding nestlings and fledglings. Both parents will
die defending their young from House Sparrows. After
fledging, young birds tend to stay with their parents,
begging for food, and sometimes altruistically helping tend to siblings
in a second brood.
Their song is enchanting.
The velvety undertones are "...so
soft and gentle; they sing to no one save themselves.
Not loud and boastful like the mocker; not full of
chatter like the purple martin. The bluebird song
is a kind and personal "I love you" that one
must be close and quiet to hear." (Kenny Kleinpeter) Clyde
Todd (1940) said their song, “…like
the gentle murmur of a flowing brook in soothing
cadence, awakens a sense of well-being and content in each responsive
are friendly. They seem to almost enjoy
human company. They display no fear of nesting
near human habitation. They tolerate monitoring
of their nests as we peek in to see their fuzzy-headed
hatchlings. They quickly learn an association,
whether it be a whistle or a banging door,
with a mealworm feeder being filled, and instantly
show up to investigate. If we do not fill the feeder
in a timely manner, they may follow us around the
yard, warbling away.
Bluebirds do no harm.
In the days before pesticides, farmers put up nestboxes around
their fields, as they were aware that bluebirds eat many insects,
and the fruit they eat during the winter is not of the cultivated
variety. While bluebirds will compete for nesting
sites and defend their own abode, they do not maliciously attack
other birds, eggs or nests.
is a challenging hobby. Since
the number of natural cavities has dwindled and competition
from exotic species like House Sparrows and starlings is severe,
bluebirds depend on humans to survive and thrive. Because of
this, we feel an almost parental sense of ownership and satisfaction when we
enable successful nesting. Bluebirding taps into problem solving skills and creativity, scientific curiosity, and a love of nature and the outdoors.
Bluebirds remind us of
both the bad and good humans are capable
Almost all impacts to bluebird populations,
both negative and positive, have been directly associated with
human activity. On the negative side, there is the introduction
of House Sparrows and starlings, pesticide use, and loss of
open space. But on the positive side, grass roots conservation
efforts by individuals and groups across the continent are
a shining example of the power we all have to make a difference.
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