Copyright © 2005 Tammy Clayton
This brightly colored bird has always been a romantic symbol for their unusual coloring as well as their gentle loving nature. In Victorian times, they were a common artful addition to romantic floral artwork on greeting cards and calling cards. Today, it is a rare thing to see a Bluebird flitting about.
The Bluebird is a native American. When European colonists originally settled this land, they had been here for thousands of years. It is believed that when virgin forest on east coast was in first stages of being cleared, Bluebird flourished and became more abundant. Its original adversary Wren also became more plentiful right along with them though. The Wren is far more aggressive that Bluebird and searches for a very similar type of abode. So as both species multiplied, wrens made it hard for Bluebird to make a home unless it faced due east.
Two events in history caused dwindling of our brilliant blue native’s numbers. The ships that carried influx of human immigrants to our shores in 1851 and 1890 also gave passage to two feathered immigrants from Europe; House Sparrow and Starling. Both of these newcomers were adapted to crowded industrial environments of urban and suburban Germany and England. The Sparrow already was known to have spread on that continent. Being resourceful, they quickly adapted to living in rural farmland. Both Sparrows and Starlings like a roof over their head. The new squatters aggressively put pressure on gentle Bluebirds and took over their nests.
With so many people inhabiting United States today, it is little wonder we see very little of country loving Bluebird. There is a growing interest in creation of housing for this beloved species beyond bird-watching enthusiasts. The Bluebird house is becoming a popular addition to backyards, school property lines and farms again.
Bluebird houses were first put up in late 1800’s by bird lovers trying to accommodate their need for housing after Sparrows and Starlings took over easily accessible barn rafters, nooks in houses, hollow trees and fence posts across America. Natural nesting sites have also grown more scarce as farmers now manicure their orchards, and wooden fence posts have fallen out of use in exchange for metal ones. By 1930’s bird watchers were already wondering what happened to all those sweet singing beauties of days not so long gone by.
The first studies of Bluebird nesting habits were conducted in 1919 in Minnesota. Successful nest sites were measured for size of holes, as well as for exact location and role of predators and competitors. The tests were done in open pastures, orchards and suburban back yards. Concluding that only with massive saturations of scientifically designed predator-competitor proof nesting boxes could decline of Bluebird be stopped. So they established and monitored Bluebird trails with tens to hundreds of nesting boxes strung out across land. The monitors set up communication networks in newspapers, magazines and mail. Wherever there were Bluebird trail sponsors, Bluebirds began to reappear for people to enjoy. It is quite a thrill to see one, especially when one understands odds against their gentle souls.
It needn’t be inevitable that Bluebirds, once most common thing in a yard, continue to loose ground against these alien intruders. Their population has dwindled and become so low, they are almost like a myth. Our Eastern Bluebird has suffered most serious in loss. Amateurs and bird lovers alike can accomplish hob in restoring numbers of our native azure friends. The trails already in existence across UDA and Canada form a network of hope across continent. Armies of trail tenders and box erectors will bring more and more of them back to your yards as number of boxes grows greater.
Found only in North America, these sweet noted dwellers of fence posts have a tender voice to go along with their gentle nature. No other species of bird has been used as much as Bluebird in poetry and songs as a symbol of love, hope and happiness. The early settlers looked upon this bird as sign that spring had arrived, and fondly called it Blue Robin.
In Michigan, as all other states east of Rocky Mountains, we have Eastern Bluebird. There are only two others—Western and Mountain. Their diet is mainly insects, most of which are yard and garden pests. In spring they love cutworms that ruin crops and garden plants. Later in summer through fall they dine on huge quantities of grasshoppers and wild berries. It is said that their courtship is beautiful and amazing, but it is a rare sight to behold.