“May the Bluebird of happiness always reside within you.”
“The Bluebird carries the sky on his back.”
“The Bluebird for happiness, this merry little feathered friend so cheery, bright, and blue. Because he brings true happiness, I’m sending him to you.”
The Eastern Bluebird is one of the most iconic avian species. Often a symbol of happiness, we refer to bluebird skies and a bluebird mood. This fair-feathered friend is mentioned in stories, songs, and quotes that will inevitably make you smile, but the real pleasure comes when you actually see one. I came across a wild bluebird this past weekend, on a sunny, bluebird day at West Lafayette, Indiana’s Celery Bog.
Known for their bright blue back and fiery red breast, these birds are a sight to see. Though you are more likely to hear them first. Their tuneful spritely melody is hard to miss. I first saw my bluebird on one of the rural bluebird nesting houses, which have lately become essential to their survival. These good-natured, gentle birds, though once as common as robins have seen a steady decline as the populations of invasive house sparrows and starlings have risen. The competition for nesting spaces is fierce and bluebirds often lose to the more aggressive starlings and sparrows. In response, conservationists have been carefully monitoring lines of bluebird boxes as a nesting space for these happy birds.
Members of the thrush family, a flock of bluebirds are referred to as a hermitage, and are a sight to see! We found a flock in Brown County State Park in Indiana. Eastern bluebirds have the largest range of the three bluebird species. Found east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, they prefer open woodlands, clearings, parks, orchards, gardens, and fields. It is not unusual to see one flitting near roadsides or perching on fences.
Bluebirds primarily subsist on insects and berries. Their feeding habits are interesting, preferring to hover slightly over the ground in search of food rather than fully landing. Parents work as a team, the male serving as protector with his loud, shrill call. Eggs are a light, unspeckled blue. When the hatchlings arrive, both parents take turns feeding the brood. Young leave the nest within three weeks, giving the parents time to hatch another brood or two before the season is over.
Conservation efforts to protect bluebird populations are on the rise, and the future holds great potential for the return of these beautiful animals. With the sky on their back and the sun on their breast, maybe the real origin of the “bluebird happiness” is the euphoric feelings you develop when you witness a singing bluebird in the wild.
Book of North American birds. (1990). Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association.
Eastern Bluebird. (2014, November 13). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/eastern-bluebird
iBird West Birding App.
Maier, W. (1956). The wonderful Sibleys. New York: Scribner.Like