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It’s in your nature: Eastern bluebirds

I still get a “rush” when I watch an adult bald eagle fly overhead and then perch in a streamside tree. But running a close second is watching a male bluebird in spring, with a fresh set of breeding plumage doing his best to impress a potential mate at a nest box.

I saw my first bluebirds when my dad and I watched four repeatedly fly from a fence onto a meadow to grab insects. That was in the early to mid ’60s. By the 1970s, with bluebird numbers dropping, a movement sprang up to place bluebird boxes at many suitable locations to help. These bluebird trails worked.

Bluebird trails probably were so successful because most folks could see these beauties in their backyards and they could see that their efforts were helping. Yours truly was one of those.

In 1979 I placed my first boxes, and in a few years, I was monitoring more than 75, mostly in East Penn and Franklin townships.

To help the bluebirds, and to ensure you get that rush, you too may be able to attract a pair or two. Bluebirds prefer rather open areas, not very wooded, with the nest box opening facing to the southeast. Mount the box securely, with no perch, and make sure the entrance hole is 1½ inches in diameter. It should be about 4 to 6 feet from the ground.

I timed this column’s printing to remind you that a bluebird pair began claiming one box in my backyard over two weeks ago with 12 inches of snow cover still on the ground. Lengthening days not only trigger birds’ singing but seeking out nest areas, too. So, if you have the time, location, and want your “rush,” get to it. Enjoy.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: You’re driving through a wooded area near your home in mid-March and some trees are still “loaded” with last fall’s brown leaves. Those trees are ______. A. sassafras, B. American beech, C. white ash, D. quaking aspen.

Last Week’s trivia answer: A truly tireless singer, the red-eyed vireo has indeed been observed singing over 20,000 songs in a day.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Males and females make hundreds of trips a day to bring “grub” to their four or five nestlings. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
ABOVE: I prefer to mount most of the nest boxes on galvanized pipe with a pipe flange on the base. They sway a little and deter predators from reaching the eggs or young.
These three juvenile bluebirds, about 3 months old, show a hint of the adult plumage they will acquire in the next few months.
LEFT: Bluebird nests are neat, grass-lined (or white pine needle lined) cups with “robin” blue eggs. Rarely, like in this nest, bluebirds may lay white eggs.
I photographed this bluebird on a 22-degree February morning using his puffy look to trap more warm air closer to his body.
Sometimes you wonder how nature makes some animals so remarkably colored.
This female just finished using my birdbath on a hot summer day sporting a “thinner” look.
Beltzville State Park hosts many bluebird boxes and this bright male perched on one of the posts supporting the nest box.
If their beauty isn't enough to want them nesting close by, just observe the amount of insects they gather in a day like this female with a grub from my lawn.
This bluebird fledgling fluttered from its nest box about 5 minutes before this photo was taken. They lack most of the blue feathers and sport a very short tail.