Help NH Audubon Monitor Bluebirds
It’s March — that means the beloved bluebirds are back in the state. Here's how you can help NH Audubon monitor their nests.
Nobody knows why, but the bluebird has long been a symbol of happiness. Apparently it goes way back — back thousands of years, according to Wikipedia. Over the millennia, many different cultures have embraced the bluebird as a harbinger of good things and it’s still true today.
You can see it in our popular culture — the 1930s song “Bluebird of Happiness” and the “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” (“Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder”) song from a Disney movie in the 1940s — both big hits and still sung today.
Whether they actually bring happiness, we can hope, but for sure they bring great pleasure to birdwatchers when they see them. And that’s not as easy as you think.
“They’re usually not hanging out at the window asking where the bird seed is,” says Angie Krysiak, program director for the Massabesic Audubon Center. Bluebirds eat insects so, instead of frequenting the bird feeder, they’re hanging out in fields where the insects are.
When they nest, they choose a cavity of some sort, usually in a tree. But, as Krysiak says, there’s a lot of competition for nesting sites, especially from an invasive, non-native bird: “The house sparrow will aggressively kick the bluebirds out of their nest, and kill the adults and toss the eggs.”
That, plus the disappearance of grasslands, has stressed the bluebird population to the point that it was in decline for a time. But there’s been a turnaround — the population is increasing. One of the reasons is likely conservation efforts like the nesting box program at the Massbesic Audubon Center in Auburn.
It allows bluebirds and others (tree swallows, chickadees and house wrens, to name a few) to reproduce in relative safety. “We have close to 100 nesting boxes in our fields,” says Krysiak. The boxes are monitored by volunteers once a week from April through the end of August. Data that’s collected is added to Cornell’s NestWatch database. If you’d like to volunteer for the nesting box monitoring, visit nhaudubon.org/locations/centers/massabesic.
- Nesting occurs from March through August. The female will incubate four to six eggs.
- Bluebirds may raise two and sometimes three broods per season. Pairs may build their second nest on top of the first or they may nest in an entirely new site. The male continues to take care of the recently fledged young while the female begins to re-nest.
- Males may carry nest material to the nest, but they do not participate in the actual building. They spend much time guarding their mates to prevent them from mating with other males.
- Bluebirds have no blue pigments in their feathers. Instead, each feather barb has a thin layer of cells that absorb all wavelengths of color except blue. Only the blue wavelength is reflected, resulting in their blue appearance to our eye.
- Unpaired male bluebirds may sing up to 1,000 songs per hour; they average 400-500.
- Bluebirds can fly at 45 miles per hour if necessary.
- They consume about 12 percent of their body weight per day. This is equivalent to a 200-pound human eating 24 pounds of food each day.
- A bluebird can spot caterpillars and insects in tall grass at a distance of more than 50 yards.
Source: Wild Birds Unlimited online at wbu.com.