Behavior & MigrationHunting behavior of EABL

Hunting behavior of EABL

Female Eastern Bluebird feeding nestling. Photo by David Kinneer
Female Eastern Bluebird feeding nestling. Photo by David Kinneer

A 1973 study of Eastern Bluebird hunting behavior in Ohio had some interesting observations.

  • Bluebirds like to hunt in areas with mowed grass.
  • They typically perch on low tree limbs and scan the ground for prey, and then fly down about 87% of the time. The rest of the time, they catch insects in the air, or occasionally pick prey off of tree leaves.
  • They chose perch heights that ranged from 0.5 feet to 27 feet high, but on average, used perches about 6 to 7.5 feet off the ground. Perches enable them to scan the ground.
  • They may beat large prey against a hard substrate.
  • Adults are better hunters than fledglings, as you might expect.
  • Probably because it’s more economical, they prefer larger prey (compared to Tree Swallows that will take mosquitoes and roll them up into a “bolus” to feed young.)
  • Most prey items observed in this study were as long, or longer than the bluebird’s bill.
  • Adults were more likely to bring bigger items to their nestlings, and eat the smaller ones themselves. Fewer trips to the nest site might make it less likely that predators would discover it.
  • During active nesting, the parents hunted, on average about a football field (82 to 92 m) away from their nest site.

Note that Mountain Bluebirds are more likely to hover in the air while hunting.

Source: Peter Goldman, NE Missouri State University, General Notes, Auk, Vol.92, page 798 to 801.


When you see a bluebird, it just takes your breath away.
– Barbara Clark, Bickleton, WA


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