Bringers of happiness in all seasons, eastern bluebirds are small members of the thrush family that inhabit fields and clearings throughout Massachusetts. Bluebirds were once rare in Massachusetts during the winter, but in recent years the number of winter bluebirds has been climbing.
Eastern bluebirds are easy to identify thanks to their bright blue backs and brick-red breasts. Some females may be rather subdued in coloration, to the point where their backs are blue-gray and their breasts only faintly rusty, but the pattern of colors remains the same. Bluebirds are smaller than Blue Jays, and they lack the pointed crests, black collars, and extensive white on the wings and tail that Blue Jays show.
In spring and summer, bluebirds nest in holes, either in trees or in birdhouses put up for their use. They mostly forage for insects on the ground, occasionally catching flying bugs on the wing. As the weather gets colder, many bluebirds flock together for migration. Those that remain in Massachusetts dine primarily on soft fruits, and a pair of bluebirds may remain on or near their breeding territory all through the winter.
Although pesticides and competition from house sparrows in the early and mid-20th century negatively impacted bluebirds, they have recovered well in recent years and are stable or increasing both as breeding birds and wintering birds. Much of this recovery is thanks to concerned citizens who put up bluebird boxes in their fields for these birds to nest in. Learn about bluebird breeding status in the Breeding Bird Atlas 2