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Species Description

Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Turdidae

Description

Striking blue plumage on the head, back, wings, and tail. The throat, chest, and sides are rust-colored. The belly and feathers under the tail are white. Females are paler than males overall, and their light blue feathers above may sometimes appear gray. These are small thrushes, 18 cm (7 in) from bill tip to tail tip.

Life Cycle

Bluebirds have a long breeding season, lasting from February through September. During the breeding season, both males and females may become very aggressive and may even fight members of the same sex to the death over mates and nest sites. Preferred nesting habitat includes open areas with few trees and forest edges. The female builds a nest of grasses or pine needles in a cavity 1-13 m (3-40 ft) above ground. In addition to nesting in natural cavities in oaks and pines, bluebirds readily use nest boxes. The female lays 4-5 light blue eggs and incubates them for 14 days. Both males and females feed the altricial young, which fledge after about 18 days. Fledglings associate with parents in family groups for up to 3 weeks after fledging.

Natural History

Eastern Bluebirds are commonly found in open habitats such as fields and orchards, with little shrubby cover and a small number of perches such as trees and fences. These birds primarily forage on ground insects, insect larvae, earthworms, and occasionally small vertebrates and fruit. During the winter they shift their diet to mostly berries and other fruit. Bluebirds commonly forage by perching, scanning for prey, and then flying down and capturing it from the ground. Predators include snakes, hawks, cats, and Raccoon.

Range

Eastern Bluebird Region Map The Eastern Bluebird occurs year-round throughout Georgia where suitable habitat is present. The species ranges throughout the eastern United States.

Conservation Status

Eastern Bluebird numbers have been declining over the past 30 years, apparently due to cold winters and competition with Starlings and House Sparrows for nest cavities. Bluebird numbers are now increasing, most likely as a result of nest box campaigns and warmer winters.

Similar Species

The Eastern Bluebird is superficially similar to, but unlikely to be confused with, the Blue Grosbeak and the Indigo Bunting, both of which breed in Georgia during the spring and summer. Male Blue Grosbecks have blue breasts, and male Indigo Buntings are completely blue. In both of these other species, the females are brown with no blue.