Feeding / DietPicture of the week - Diet (bluebird with earthworm)

Picture of the week – Diet (bluebird with earthworm)

Parents with food for nestlings. Photo by Paula Apro
Eastern Bluebird parents with moth and earthworm, eagerly awaiting by a nestlng.
Photo by Paula Apro of Eastford CT. Download full resolution version.


Backyard bluebirder Paula Apro snapped this shot with both parents bringing food to their young in July 2009. Notice that the female (on the right) has an earthworm in her beak. Earthworms are sometimes used as a source of food by bluebird parents during bad weather, when little else is available. It was extremely rainy in the summer of 2009 – only 27% of the days in the month of June were sunny.

The baby birds’ undeveloped stomachs apparently can’t handle earthworms because of the dirt castings in the worms’ gut. Eating earthworms can cause severe diarrhea, which can result in dehydration and starvation. It can also result in a build up of what some bluebird landlords refer to as “fecal glue” in the nest – see photo. Nestlings can become trapped in this morass and die, as they are unable to fledge.

Bluebirds rarely, if ever eat, bird seed – ~68% of their diet is made up of insects: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, and caterpillars.  They also like fruit from plants like flowering dogwood, holly, mulberry, wild grape, Virginia creeper, pokeweed, and viburnum.

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You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy


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