It looks like another Winter of the Bluebird.
In recent years, I have proclaimed our coldest season as the Winter of … whatever bird is being seen in unusually high numbers that winter. I remember the Winter of the Snowy Owl in 2014 and the Winter of the Barred Owl in 2019 (that winter was crazy with all the owls being seen throughout New England.) Juncos and robins have also made the list.
But this year, for the second time in three years, it has to be the Winter of the Bluebird. It is the first repeat selection. I should probably mention here that this is strictly my own proclamation based on my personal experiences and emails received from readers. There is absolutely nothing scientific about this.
I’ve seen bluebirds in a variety of locations this winter. I haven’t been lucky enough to attract them to my house, but I have received several emails from readers who have seen bluebirds in their yards. Many readers have sent along photos, which I appreciate and post to my blog.
My latest bluebird sighting came a few minutes after I saw the ducks that I wrote about in last week’s column. A little farther down from the pond is a small cemetery that I have driven past many times. I’ve always thought it would be a good place to look for bluebirds but until last week had never taken the time to do so. Cemeteries, with their openness and wooded borders, are often good places to find bluebirds in the winter.
This time, it was almost too easy. I saw a male bluebird on a headstone even before I completed the turn into the cemetery. The bird flew from stone to stone for a few minutes before landing on a branch at the far boundary of the cemetery. I parked and looked at the vibrantly colored bird through the binoculars I always have at the ready in the truck.
Male bluebirds, even in the winter, are brighter than female bluebirds. Females, however, are similarly patterned and colored but less vibrant. The females of many bird species that have brightly colored males are much more drably colored. Think of the cardinal, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager and indigo bunting. First-winter bluebirds will already be in their adult plumage.
It is not rare to see bluebirds in the winter as many of them do not migrate. This is similar to their cousins the American robin. Robins are often thought of as a harbinger of spring, but the truth is that many robins spend their winters in New England. The same is true of bluebirds. This is another winter in which bluebirds appear to be especially prolific. Hopefully, this means good things for the eastern bluebird population overall. Due in large part to human intervention, bluebird numbers have increased over the years after they had fallen to dangerously low levels many decades ago.
Otherwise, it’s been a fairly quiet winter from what I can tell. I have not seen nor have I received many reports of other birds that are sometimes numerous in the winter. There have been a few scattered reports of pine siskins, but nothing like some winters. The redpoll sightings I’ve heard about were from a friend in Canada. A few snowy owls were spotted in late fall/early winter, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
So it is another Winter of the Bluebird. I don’t know of anyone who would complain about that.