Welcoming Bluebirds in Winter
There's something about bluebirds that makes otherwise normal people turn goofy and excitedly phone their bird-watching friends at the first sighting in spring, or when a pair sets up housekeeping in the backyard nesting box, or when a bright blue streak against the snow turns out to be a wintering bluebird. Even in cold climates about a third of the bluebirds don't migrate to warmer climes in winter, and you may spy them feasting on the fruits of winterberries, Virginia creeper, sumac, hackberry, and hawthorn. Providing fruiting shrubs is important, but by late winter, natural food sources may be depleted. Bluebird lovers take heart: there's something we can do to help. These birds will visit feeders with the right enticement, and with their habitat disappearing around the world, theyneed all the help we can give.
A Tempting Feeder
A Wintry Home
A study at the University of Illinois demonstrated just how protective a nesting box can be in winter. A zoology professor recorded the temperatures inside and outside a box under the eaves of a building where a house sparrow was taking shelter at night. When the bird was out of the box, the inside and outside temperatures were the same. When the bird was in the box, its body heat and exhaled breath raised the temperature dramatically. On one 18-degree night the temperature inside was a toasty 79°F!
So help your local bluebirds make it through wintery weather. It's the least we can do considering they are sharing their native habitat with us.
Illustration by M.E. DeJohn