Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird in Snow

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Eastern Bluebird

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Eastern Bluebird

photo of Eastern Bluebird
Sialia sialis
Turdidae (thrushes) in the order Passeriformes

A small thrush with a plump body and short, straight bill. Upperparts are bright blue in the male, gray-blue in the female. Underparts of both sexes are rusty on throat, breast and sides, with white on the belly and under the tail feathers. The female is paler below. They forage by watching on perches for insects and flying down to pick them up or catch them in the air. Song is a blurry whistled series of notes; call is “chuiree,” with a soft descent but rising near the end.

Length: 7 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and conservation: 
In summer, bluebirds are commonly seen in grasslands with scattered trees, farmland and backyards in rural areas. Populations declined in the last century due to habitat loss, pesticides, and competition with non-native exotic species (house sparrows and European starlings). Conservationists rescued the species in large part by a widespread effort to erect and protect special bluebird nest boxes. Competition remains a concern, however.
Wild fruits are a favorite food of eastern bluebirds, including wild grapes, deciduous holly and even poison ivy fruits. When there are nestlings to be fed, the birds forage instead for insects, which provide more protein for the growing young.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Summer resident in the northern half of the state; summer and winter in the southern half.
Common summer resident.
Life cycle: 
Eastern bluebirds begin arriving at their breeding locations in our state in March and April and migrate back southward in October and November. They are cavity nesters, laying eggs in a hollowed-out cavity in a tree created by some other animal, such as a woodpecker. Competition of such sites has led people to construct nest boxes that fit the bluebird’s requirements. There are usually 2-7 eggs in a clutch, and 2 broods per season.
Human connections: 
As our official state bird, the eastern bluebird holds a special pride for Missourians. Its cheerful song and astonishingly bright blue plumage make it a favorite sight of bird watchers as well as any other observer.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bluebirds catch a variety of insects, including many that gardeners and farmers would rather not have on their crops. Numerous species prey on bluebirds; although high cavity nests help provide some protection, eggs and young often become food for snakes and other predator species.
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