The backyards and byways of our beautiful barrier island are often home to the “blues.” Of course, we don’t mean the feelings of the blues. We mean the feathered, flashy, colorful “blues” which can sing and fly!
Right now, anywhere you glance in your neighborhood’s blooming azaleas, or along Egan’s Creek Greenway, or even in the landscape of your favorite golf course, you may see birds that are vibrant blue in color. All birds are treasures, and these blue birds are like precious little sapphires, which dazzle our eyes.
One of the most popular and widespread blue birds in our area is the Eastern Bluebird. They can be found here all year long. The males are a brilliant regal blue, red, and white. Females share these colors, but their colors are more subdued, and they are a grayish color from above. Watch for them as they go about their day eating primarily insects in summer (thank you!), then fruit and berries later in the year.
Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters. At this time of year, they are scouting for nest locations and gathering nesting materials. Their courtship includes the male offering gifts of food to his female. Besides nesting in natural tree cavities, they might make a nest in a hole previously used by a woodpecker family or use a nest box. A pair will lay between 2 and 7 eggs in one “clutch” (a group of eggs laid at a single time). They will usually raise three clutches in a season. The eggs will be incubated for approximately sixteen days before hatching.
Remember, birds use nests to raise their young. They do not stay at the nest after their young have fledged for the season. It is not used like a bedroom, where they return to sleep at night. When the young fledge, some birds may not have all their feathers or be able to fly, but all fledged birds (even Bald Eagles) are adult size when they fledge.
If you are lucky, adult Eastern Bluebirds may bring their youngsters to your feeders. A good way to attract them is to offer mealworms. Juveniles are not as blue as adults, and they have spots on their back and chest.
Another beautiful species of bird that is blue is the Indigo Bunting, which is returning to our area now. Some think that the male looks like “a scrap of sky with wings,” and they are nicknamed “blue canaries.” The adult males are a brilliant bright blue, but the females are brownish in color and have a white throat. White millet may bring them to your feeders.
White millet is also great for attracting Painted Buntings. Indigo Buntings like to eat berries and many insects (free pest control!), so mealworms are helpful for attracting these birds to your feeders, especially live mealworms. Planting strawberries, blackberries, and other berry plants may also draw them in to your yard.
Indigo Buntings nest in shrubs or low-growing trees and will generally raise two clutches each summer. Each clutch will have 3 or 4 eggs to hatch. According to allaboutbirds.org, “Indigo Buntings migrate at night, using the stars for guidance. Researchers demonstrated this process in the late 1960s by studying captive Indigo Buntings in a planetarium and then under the natural night sky. The birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continually adjust their angle of orientation to a star; even as that star moves through the night sky.”
If birds didn’t already impress you, I challenge you not to be impressed after you read that!