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Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis

Length: 7 - 8 inches Wingspan: 11.5 - 13 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Bright blue upperparts, rusty brown chinstrap, throat, and breast, white belly

Eastern Bluebird - Sialia sialisA favorite summer visitor for many, the Eastern Bluebird is more common in the eastern part of the state.  They historically have used old woodpecker holes and other cavities in trees for nesting.  However, they will readily nest in man-made bluebird boxes, and have greatly benefited from the increased placement of these boxes, especially as European Starlings have become aggressive competitors for natural tree cavities for nesting.

Habitat:

Eastern Bluebirds can be found in a variety of open and semi-open habitats.  They prefer open country interspersed with trees for nesting. 

Diet:

Mostly insects during the summer months, as well as other small invertebrates such as worms, snails, and spiders. They also eat many berries, particularly during the winter months where berries may be the primary food source. More rarely they will eat small vertebrates such as small frogs, snakes, lizards, or small rodents.

Behavior:

Often feeds by observing from a relatively low perch and flying down to pluck insects from the ground or foliage, often hovering instead of landing while taking the food item.  They will also sometimes fly out and catch insects in mid-air.  Breeding pairs may perch next to and preen each other.

Nesting:

Late April through July. Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters, traditionally using natural cavities (particularly old woodpecker nesting sites), but also now accepting nest boxes specifically built for the species. Male Bluebirds entice the female by selecting a nesting site and moving in and out of the cavity, carrying nesting material and calling to the female. The female herself builds the nest, lining the cavity with grasses and sometimes other vegetative material. The female lays between 3 and 7 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after about 14 days, and fledge from the nest about 2 to 3 weeks after hatching.

Song:

The song of an Eastern Bluebird is a series of warbled phrases. The call is a tur-a-lee. They also have various harsher calls and short chip notes.

1Click here to hear the song of an Eastern Bluebird

2Click here to hear the call of an Eastern Bluebird

3Click here to hear the chattering alarm call of an Eastern Bluebird

Migration:

Winters in the southeastern United States and Mexico, although small numbers may winter in the state in selected spots.  Summers throughout most of the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. Many populations in the southeastern quarter of the United States are permanent residents, as are birds in Mexico and Central America.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive map of Eastern Bluebird sightings

Similar Species:

Similar to other Bluebird species

Bird Feeders:

Will sometimes attend feeders for mealworms (yes, you can buy mealworms to feed to bluebirds!)

Conservation Status:

Eastern Bluebirds experienced sharp declines in the first half of the 20th century due to competition for nesting sites with non-native species (European Starling, House Sparrow).  Eastern Bluebirds have been recovering in recent decades, thanks in large part to the large numbers of nest boxes erected for their benefit.  The IUCN currently lists Eastern Bluebirds as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) TheSpruce - Eastern Bluebird

2) Audubon Guide - Eastern Bluebird

3) WhatBird - Eastern Bluebird

Photo Information:

March 30th, 2012 - Beaver Creek Nature Area near Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Eastern Bluebird photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Jacob Saucier. Recorded in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana on December 21st, 2017. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Richard E. Webster. Recorded in Sonora, Mexico on July 29th, 2019. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

3Richard E. Webster. Recorded in Sonora, Mexico on August 16th, 2013. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Eastern Bluebird - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and summer resident throughout the state.  Very rare winter visitor, primarily in the extreme southeastern corner of the state.

Additional Eastern Bluebird Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Eastern Bluebird 1 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 2 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 3 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 4 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 5 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 6 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 7 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 8 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 9 - Sialia sialisEastern Bluebird 10 - Sialia sialis