Bluebirds: A Conservation Success?
This pretty, bright blue bird with its cheerful song and insatiable appetite for insects has been a longtime favorite of birders, urbanites, and farmers. Despite its favored status, however, its existence was once threatened.
Eastern bluebird populations declined rapidly in the last century, probably due to forestry practices that cut down snags and hollow trees that bluebirds used for nesting. But an aggressive campaign of providing nest boxes, eviction of house sparrows from nest boxes, and research have permitted bluebird populations to rebound.
Their return is a conservation success story, but it is a story whose conclusion is not yet finished. Bluebirds are still threatened by aggressive, invasive species, such as house sparrows, that successfully compete with bluebirds for nesting cavities.
Check out the North American Bluebird Society website to find out how you can become involved in helping bluebirds. Building a bluebird trail, a series of nest boxes in suitable habitat, is a great project for youth groups.
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialia)
Key ID Features: Sparrow-sized. Male is bright blue above with red breast; female only somewhat duller.
Present in Park: March through November.
Habitat: Edges of fields bordered by forest. Nests in natural tree cavities or in bluebird houses.
Did You Know?
At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 1,475 feet above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.