Learning about our state bird

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The eastern bluebird -- Missouri's state bird -- is a member of the thrush family. Most thrushes are native to the Old World, but bluebird thrushes are native to North America, where three kinds exist. The western bluebird and the mountain bluebird are America's other two bluebirds.

Spaces excavated by woodpeckers in dead tree snags are natural nest sites of bluebirds. But you can attract a pair of bluebirds to your yard by putting up a birdhouse with a 1 1/2-inch entry hole. Attach the nest box about 5 feet high on a post. Good places to put up a bluebird house could be along a church parking lot or at a school playground.

Bluebirds do not typically visit bird feeders filled with seeds. They are insect eaters who hibernate on cold winter days. Yet they may get used to coming to a feeder where mealworms are provided even on warm winter days.

Snakes, house cats and raccoons will sometimes reach into a bluebird's house and eat the eggs or young.

House sparrows may drive bluebirds away from a nest box and claim it as their own. If this happens, cover the hole and do not let the sparrows use the box. After about 10 days uncover the hole and give the bluebirds another chance. You may have to do this several times before the sparrows will give up.

The sweet song of a bluebird is distinctive, its colors are beautiful and its eggs are blue.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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