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brilliant blue seven inch male Eastern Bluebird with his rusty
throat, breast and sides and white belly sits high atop a dead tree
or branch, TV antenna, or power line to hunt for the insects that
make up two-thirds of his diet. He and his mate also eat wild
berries, especially in cold weather when insects are not available.
They rarely damage cultivated crops, and are very beneficial to
farmers and gardeners. |
Eastern Bluebird in Winter
Photo by Ed Erkes
The young have spotted breasts until the fall molt when all
bluebirds grow dull feathers for protection from predators. The
males are bright blue again by spring.
early as March or as late as June, the male bluebird locates a
nesting site, establishes a territory around it, and sings to
attract a female and warn other male bluebirds to stay away.
Bluebirds are very territorial during nesting season and typically
will not build within 100 yards of another bluebird
Once a female accepts a site, she will do most of the nest
building. She builds a neat cup nest of dry grasses or pine needles.
Nest building may take five days to three weeks.
The female lays one blue (or rarely white) egg each morning
until three to six eggs are produced. Incubation begins after the
last egg is laid. Thirteen to fourteen days later, after incubation,
all will hatch within hours of each other.
Five blue eggs in grass nest
|Hatchling before the eyes have opened
Photo by Liz Schmid
Both the male and the female adults tend to the nestlings.
They feed the nestlings with soft insects graduating to coarser foods as the nestlings grow. Each nestling is fed about every 20
The adults keep the nest clean by removing the fecal
sacs which enclose the nestlings' waste. The young grow rapidly.
Their eyes open on the eighth day.
nestlings fledge, or leave the box, seventeen to eighteen days after
hatching. Usually the entire brood leaves the box within two hours.
The fledglings can fly fifty to a hundred feet on their first flight
and try to land in a bush, shrub, or low branches of trees to be off
the ground and away from predators. The parents continue to care for
the young and teach them how to catch their own food. The male will
continue this job when the female begins her second or third
spotted juvenile Eastern Bluebird
Photo by Liz
mating season is over, bluebirds give up their territories and flock
together. North Carolina bluebirds do not migrate. They are joined
by migrating northern bluebirds and roam the area looking for
berries. The northern migrants usually move farther south after
October. Bluebirds roost in pine tree stands and nesting cavities
during cold weather.|