• The male Eastern Bluebird displays at his nest cavity to attract a female. He brings nest material to the hole, goes in and out, and waves his wings while perched above it. That is pretty much his contribution to nest building; only the female Eastern Bluebird builds the nest and incubates the eggs.
• Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young produced in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over the winter.
• Eastern Bluebirds occur across eastern North America and south as far as Nicaragua. Birds that live farther north and in the west of the range tend to lay more eggs than eastern and southern birds.
• Eastern Bluebirds eat mostly insects, wild fruit and berries. Occasionally, Eastern Bluebirds have also been observed capturing and eating larger prey items such as shrews, salamanders, snakes, lizards and tree frogs.
• The oldest recorded Eastern Bluebird was 10 years 5 months old.
Clutch Size: 2–7 eggs
Number of Broods: 1-3 broods
Egg Length: 0.7–0.9 in
Egg Width: 0.6–0.7 in
Incubation Period: 11–19 days
Nestling Period: 17–21 days
Egg Description: Pale blue or, rarely, white.
Condition at Hatching: Naked except for sparse tufts of gray down, eyes closed.
Eastern Bluebirds live in open country around trees, but with little understory and sparse ground cover. Original habitats probably included open, frequently burned pine savannas, beaver ponds, mature but open woods, and forest openings. Today, they’re most common along pastures, agricultural fields, suburban parks, backyards, and golf courses.
Insects caught on the ground are a bluebird’s main food for much of the year. Major prey include caterpillars, beetles crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders. In fall and winter, bluebirds eat large amounts of fruit including mistletoe, sumac, blueberries, black cherry, tupelo, currants, wild holly, dogwood berries, hackberries, honeysuckle, bay, pokeweed, and juniper berries. Rarely, Eastern Bluebirds have been recorded eating salamanders, shrews, snakes, lizards, and tree frogs.
After a male Eastern Bluebird has attracted a female to his nest site (by carrying material in and out of the hole, perching, and fluttering his wings), the female does all the nest building. She makes the nest by loosely weaving together grasses and pine needles, then lining it with fine Females often build nests in each available hole, but typically only use one of these. Bluebirds may use the same nest for multiple broods.
Eastern Bluebirds put their nests in natural cavities or in nest boxes or other artificial refuges. Among available natural cavities, bluebirds typically select old woodpecker holes in dead pine or oak trees, up to 50 feet off the ground.
(Left) May 15, 2014 - approx 5-6 days old(Right) May 20, 2014 - approx 10-11 days old.All images courtesy of Kim Orlandella.
The birds forage by fluttering to the ground to grab an insect, or occasionally by catching an insect in midair. Bluebirds can sight their tiny prey items from 60 feet or more away. They fly fairly low to the ground, and with a fast but irregular pattern to their wing beats. Males vying over territories chase each other at high speed, sometimes grappling with their feet, pulling at feathers with their beaks, and hitting with their wings. The boxes and tree cavities where bluebirds nest are a hot commodity among birds that require holes for nesting, and male bluebirds will attack other species they deem a threat.
Resident to medium-distance migrant. Bluebirds leave breeding grounds in the north of their range to winter in the southeastern U.S. or Mexico. Populations in the northern part of their range are entirely migratory, spending winters in the southeastern United States or Mexico. Some fly as far as 2,000 miles between western Manitoba and Texas. Eastern Bluebirds from the southeastern U.S. may move short distances south or simply remain on their breeding territories all year.
Eastern Bluebirds don’t often visit feeders, but they are a great prospect for nest boxes if you have the space to put one up in your yard, and if your yard isn’t too hemmed in by trees or houses. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young.
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