A Well-named Bird

…he wears a coat of the purest, richest, and most gorgeous blue on back, wings, and tail; he carries on his back the blue of heaven and the rich brown of the freshly turned earth on his breast…

~Arthur Cleveland Bent, in Life Histories of Familiar North American Birds, 1949.

male bluebird head

Eastern Bluebird, male (click photos to enlarge)

I finally had a chance to sit out along the power line the other morning to watch and photograph some of the comings and goings of the local birds. It wasn’t long until I heard the familiar “tur-a-wee” call of the Eastern Bluebird. A small flock gathered in a treetop along the edge of the clearing and softly voiced their opinion to whomever would listen. This distinctive call is believed to be a location note between birds – sort of a “here I am, where are you” phrase.

I waited patiently, and they finally dropped down to drink some water in the flower pot base I have on the ground (surrounded by rocks and sticks to make it look a little more natural), and to feed on the suet at the feeding station.

Male bluebird in water garden

Bluebird getting a drink

This time of year, bluebirds gather in small flocks and move through their territory feeding on insects (on warm days) and fruit like Red Cedar and American Holly berries. Males and females call to one another and I often see pairs checking out some of the nest boxes as if they are planning ahead for next season.

female bluebird on branch 1

Eastern Bluebird, female

They normally seem to get along just fine but the other day there was some squabbling going on between two pairs of the birds with one female being particularly aggressive. She would fly at one of the others in the flock and they would tangle mid-air, land a few feet apart, and do it again.

female blubird after a scuffle

Female Eastern Bluebird having a bad hair day

She seemed to be getting the worst of it as some feathers atop her head were misplaced as though she had taken a beak to the skull in one of the scuffles. This went one for about ten minutes until whatever seemed to be bothering them was settled, and they flew off together and starting giving call notes again. I guess we all have our cranky moments.

Female bluebird on branch

Eastern Bluebird female in early morning light

Bluebirds in this area tend to stay around all winter as we usually have enough warm days to cause some insects to stir, and in suitable habitat, there are a lot of shrubs and trees that have berries. I see them moving through the woods more in winter (in warmer months they tend to be just out along the power line corridor), but it may be partly due to the fact that they tend to be in small flocks this time of year and are therefore more visible.

Male bluebird on brsnch

Eastern Bluebird, male

I am just glad they are here, adding a cheery note and a brilliant splash of color to the increasingly gray and brown world of my woods.



3 thoughts on “A Well-named Bird

  1. Good morning Mike. What a beautiful way to start my day! I too have bluebirds in my yard, and houses for them to check out, and raise their broods in summer. Thank you for this very keen insight to their day by day behaviors. The photo of the female with a feather out of place on her head is priceless. You are a joy to know. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!! nita

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