by Alex Forsythe
From the “bluebird of happiness”, to Judy Garland’s iconic voice singing “Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly”, the Eastern Bluebird has long served as an inspiration to song writers, poets, artists and philosophers. Their brilliant blue color, gentle disposition, happy song and beneficial nature have secured for them a special place in our hearts.
Henry David Thoreau adored bluebirds: “A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town… The bluebird carries the sky on his back… His soft warble melts the ear, as the snow is melting in the valleys around.” John James Audubon was also a fan: “Full of innocent vivacity, warbling its ever pleasing notes, and familiar as any bird can be in its natural freedom, it is one of the most agreeable of our feathered favorites. The pure azure of its mantel, and the glow of its breast, render it conspicuous, as it flits through the orchards and gardens, crosses the fields or meadows, or hops along by the roadside.”
Unfortunately, bluebirds have suffered from decline, but they have greatly benefitted from human intervention. The installation and monitoring of nest boxes is one easy way to help these birds. A mealworm feeder is also beneficial, especially in winter.
Along with my friends Steve and Connie Doud, I help maintain a bluebird trail. We installed dozens of nest boxes in open, grassy areas in two counties. We have had many successful broods, but to maintain that level of success requires constant monitoring and protection. We cannot allow a House Sparrow to occupy the nest box, even for a matter of days, so we visit the nest boxes at least weekly and evict any unwanted tenants. It may seem like a lot of effort, but it is well worth the time. As Helen Munro said in “The Lesson of the Bluebird”, “Checking on a bluebird trail is like opening one Christmas present after another. Each box has a surprise inside.”
I would encourage you to spend some time watching a bluebird, not just to check it off a list, but to truly study the bird. I think it will change your outlook and cause you to build and monitor a nest box. As Jonathan Ridgeway observed in “Bluebird”: “The bright blue flash of a male bluebird in the sunlight is often the kind of magic that sparks people’s interest so much that it moves them to put up a nest box and monitor the progress all spring and summer. The up close and personal joy of observing bluebirds is so gratifying that it keeps monitors coming back year after year for a lifetime.”
If you would like to help these birds, there are excellent resources available to get your started. The North American Bluebird Society (http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/index.htm
) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and recovery of bluebirds. They offer nest box plans, fact sheets, data, grants, publications, conferences and more to help you assist the bluebirds in their fight for survival.
Yes, it does take time and energy to watch over a bluebird trail, but the results will be worth it and you’ll be a member of a special group. As Keith Kridler, co-founder of the Texas Bluebird Society and author of “The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide to Bluebirds and Other Small Cavity Nesters” observed: “the people who are interested in helping bluebirds even with just one nest box in their yards are really special human beings. People who are willing to spend the money or take the time to build good nest boxes, install mounting poles, guards and then take the time to monitor and learn even more about the lives of these birds are extra special human beings!”