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Bluebirds

April 11, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

First, I am not trying to posit myself as any sort of avian authority. I do however have some observations regarding the bluebird I have not read any place else.

It has only been in the past few years I have noticed and paid attention to the bluebird. My loyal readers will recall I've written about wayward bluebirds becoming entombed in my chimney and wood stove. All but one has been extracted alive.

The first time this happened was the first year we were here. I t was just my son and I. It was early spring of 2006. There was a certain chill in the air, and since we had some wood left over from winter, decided to build a small fire to stave off the chill. My son sat on the floor next to me while I stoked the fire. All of a sudden he started yelling, "there's a bird in there dad!" "Get it out, get it out!" he yelled. I told him to go get the flashlight. We shined the flashlight into the back of the wood stove, and sure enough, there was a little bluebird. She was dazed, and desperate.

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I put on the welding glove we keep next to the stove and reached through the fire and grabbed the little bird. She was still alive. I rinsed her off in the sink, to get any ashes off her and out of her eyes. We carried the little bird to the barn and placed her in a wagon I pull behind the tractor to gather wood. We figured the dogs couldn't get to her that way. We went to bed.

The next morning, I went through my routine and went to the barn to check on the little bluebird. I figured if she were dead, I'd bury her before my son got up. She was alive and sitting up in the wagon! She was back in one corner, sitting next to a log. I left her there, and figured I'd check on her again later and see if she was going to make it. I left the large sliding door of the barn slightly ajar; large enough for a bird to escape, but too small for a dog to enter. When I checked later, she had made her escape.

Several other rescues have been effected, including a pair this spring.

I have been paying more attention to the antics of these birds. I can pick out their sweet song from amongst the others. Their "chur-lee, chur-lee" song is quite unique.

Swallows have built nests in the rafters of the garage before. I allow them to nest there and leave them unharmed. I thought a pair of swallows had built a nest in the garage this spring, but recently confirmed it was a pair of bluebirds instead.

Being cavity nesters, they tend to build nests in rotten fence posts or hollow trees, much like a woodpecker. There is a little pocket of space where steel cleats hold vertical and diagonal parts of the rafters. That is where they decided to build. I will be watching and hope they manage to brood some young there.

The bluebird is considered to be an omnivore, meaning they will eat both insects and small fruits. Recent sorties to the timber confirm the wild raspberry crop is going to be outstanding this year.

Many times I see bluebirds sitting in a row atop the highest wire on the barbed wire fence which separates our yard from the pasture. The bluebirds watch the ground, and swoop down to capture bugs, and then return to their perch. They seem to be very social and vocal birds. I have seen them sitting right next to each other engaging in what appears to be grooming, or just checking each other out.

The times I have rescued them from the chimney and released them outside, they invariably fly to that fence wire and reunite with the others who seem to be waiting for them. At least one of the waiting birds will check the rescued bird out with its beak, and all of them chatter like they are welcoming their comrade, and are delighted it has been rescued.

OK, so here is where my observations depart from information I have gleaned from my bird books and the Internet.

You can see a bluebird and not even realize you are seeing one. Their feathers have to catch the light just right in order to see the vibrant blue and rust color of their plumage. You might even mistake the bluebird for a thrush or a large sparrow if the colors are not apparent.

Besides sitting on the top wire of the fence, they will also sit in rows atop the power lines. I believe this is more a social thing than a hunting position. There are at times fifteen or so bluebirds in these gatherings. The telling is in their song.

Many times I have seen lines of birds both on the fence and the wires, and didn't identify them as bluebirds because they looked dark and non-descript. There is a certain characteristic I have come to recognize.

Bluebirds have roundish bodies with no apparent neck. The head and body appear to be part of the same mass. It looks like they are hunching their shoulders while they sit in rows. While they can swivel their heads from side to side, their range of motion is limited and tend to swivel more at the legs than other birds in order to see more of the ground. They will hop in a circle, ninety degrees at a time to catch a view of the surrounding grass. These mannerisms are similar to what a person with a stiff neck might do to see their surroundings.

And that sweet song is unmistakable!

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting tamatoledonews.com and clicking on the "Local Columns" button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2012 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at mike@aweiowa.com via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

 
 

 

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