The Western Bluebird
Driving the island roads at this time of year can be so pleasantly distracting. – delightful, really. Everything is in bloom, lush green everywhere, bright blue skies, abundant sunshine, and often a rainbow in the distance. And, then a bluebird will fly by making its way to the nesting box in the nearby field.
Up until the 1930’s, Western Bluebirds were considered to be common in the islands, however, due to a lack of appropriate nesting sites, the population has dwindled dramatically. Apparently, the bluebirds could not compete with the starlings, swallows, and sparrows for natural nesting locations. They were overwhelmed and simply faded away.
Recently, a partnership consisting of the San Juan Preservation Trust, San Juan Islands Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, Ecostudies Institute, and partially funded by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, has been working diligently and successfully to re-establish a breeding population for this native songbird. This is a good thing!
The Western Bluebird is known for its bright colors and cheerful warbling. Adult males are bright blue on top and on the throat with an orange breast and sides, a brownish patch on the back, and a grey belly. The adult females sport a duller blue body, wings, and tail, a grey throat and belly, and a dull orange breast – a bit more muted, if you will. Immature bluebirds can be identified by the spots on their chest.
Look for these adorable creatures in open fields and at the edge of woodlands. Stocky with thin, straight bills, and fairly short tails, these small thrushes appear dumpy and round-shouldered, but typically perch upright. Highly social, they usually feed in flocks during the non-breeding season. They can be seen hunting for insects by dropping to the ground from a low perch – be it a tree, fence, or utility line. They also feed on tree berries.
With Spring, San Juan Island is once again seeing nesting bluebirds all over the island. Our sincere thanks to those who work to make this possible.