For the Birds: Bluebird finale

Annette Connor of New Hampshire got this shot of an eastern bluebird this winter.

The reports keep coming in so I’m going to ride the Eastern bluebird train for one more week.

In what is shaping up to be the unofficial Winter of the Bluebird, many sightings continue to come in from throughout New England, and beyond. Bluebirds, as I’ve written before, are not uncommon in New England in the winter, but the sheer number of reports this year is unique.

In case you missed the column from a few weeks ago, each winter seems to have a bird that shows up more frequently and noticeably than in typical winters. In recent years we’ve had the winter of the snowy owl, barred owl, American robin and dark-eyed junco. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this is highly unscientific and based on my own observations and the anecdotal observations of others.

I’ll run down the most recent sightings sent in and then close with a few fun facts about bluebirds.

Dick and Pat from Westmoreland wrote to say they had four bluebirds on their roof one recent morning, presumably drinking melted snow as it rolled down the shingles.

What’s better than having three bluebirds show up in your yard on a consistent basis in the winter? Having four show up, of course. That’s what Kathy from Swanzey is experiencing this year. She was pleasantly surprised to host three bluebirds last winter; this winter she added one to the count.

“We see them almost every day. It’s wonderful to hear their chirping on a cold winter day,” she wrote.

They also have two bluebird and two swallow families in their boxes each summer.

Margaret in Meredith was sad when their summer bluebirds disappeared. Her husband discovered them back in the yard a few weeks ago and since then the couple has seen them numerous times each day. They have had as many as six at one time and, like many other people, have had luck attracting bluebirds with dried mealworms. “Bluebirds of happiness. Yes, they are!” she exclaimed.

Anne from Sandwich also has mealworm-eating bluebirds this winter. “I have lived in Sandwich for 50 years and have had bluebirds every summer in my three boxes but never (before) in the winter,” she wrote.

Bill and Annette of Somersworth had four bluebirds at their feeders this winter. Guess what the birds were doing? If you guessed eating mealworms you are right. The couple sent photographic proof of their visitors too. They also have at least 50 juncos visiting daily eating sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

I even heard from southwestern Pennsylvania where Julie wrote to say a small flock of bluebirds is hanging out in her yard.

Now for those fun facts I promised you:

Homemade birdhouses have led to a remarkable population comeback for bluebirds.

Bluebirds often have two (or even three) broods in one year and the young birds from the first brood sometimes help raise the babies of the later broods.

Adult bluebirds typically return to the same nesting area each year.

Bluebirds are only found in North America.

The song of the bluebird, according to is “a fairly low-pitched, warbling song made up of several phrases, each consisting of 1-3 short notes. Harsher chattering notes may be interspersed with the whistles.”

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