The Bluebird also heralds spring

Our most familiar harbinger of spring is most likely the robin. But its close relative, the Bluebird, is another.
In Northern Ontario, there are only two other birds which are blue. But the bluebird can be easily identified by its red-brown breast, its deep blue head, back wings, and tail, and its robin-like behaviour.
Like young robins, young bluebirds have spots on their breasts. This is the only time in their lives when they indicate any thrush-like plumage but it does show the bluebird–like the robin–is a member of the thrush family.
At one time, bluebirds were very common from here to the Atlantic. In New England, they were more common than robins around people’s homes. But in the past 50 years, their numbers have decreased alarmingly.
There doesn’t seem to be any one particular reason for this but the use of pesticides, reduction in orchards, disappearance of wooden fences, and the “cleaning up” of most farm woodlots have all played a part.
Bluebirds are birds of open, lightly-wooded areas. Orchards seem to be their ideal habitat. In the old days, when farm fences were mostly wooden, there usually were nesting places near the orchard, and bluebird numbers always increased with farm settlement.
One thing they are very particular about is their nesting site. They insist on nesting in enclosed cavities. In the wild, they choose old woodpecker holes, hollow posts, cavities in dead trees, and so on.
Happily, they will readily accept properly-designed nestboxes. The entrance hole should be six inches from the floor, and exactly 1.5 inches in diameter.
If the hole is smaller, the bluebirds can’t get in, and if it is bigger, the starlings can.
The floor area must be at least four inches square.
I have seen bluebirds nesting in Fort Frances, and also out in the country, so it shouldn’t be too hard to increase the population. Put up a box–you may help to restore a vanishing species.
The Eastern Bluebird, Salia sialis, variously described as sweet, winsome, gentle, and as the “bird of happiness” by Maeterlinck, needs some help to survive.
If you can get them to nest in your yard, they will amply repay you by singing beautifully, being fascinating to watch, and by eating enormous quantities of grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and other insects.

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