Please drive carefully: Bluebirds crossing our roads

By Cheryl Neal, M.D.

Bluebirds know Paradise when they find it and with the help of Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project, the Western Bluebird has found us. Western Bluebirds are delightful little birds that, like their cousin the Robin, sport a red breast. Somewhat smaller than a Robin, the Western Bluebird’s back, head, and throat flash iridescent blue in the sun. Most people have not seen a true Bluebird, confusing them with the cheeky Blue Jay.

Now listed as a “sensitive” species, the Bluebird used to be the second commonest songbird in the Willamette Valley until loss of habitat signaled their decline. They are “secondary cavity dwellers” meaning that they nest in old cavities made by woodpeckers or that occur naturally in older trees. Unlike swallows, which hunt “on-the-wing”, the bluebirds hunts for insects by spying a likely morsel from on-high and then swooping down to pluck it from the ground.

Three area monitors have peppered the Skyline/ Cornelius Pass area with nest boxes and as a result the Western Bluebird has moved in to stay. Since the birds are territorial, with young nesting close to where they are hatched, we have had a steady increase in the number of Western Bluebirds for the last nine years. Kessinger Farms, for instance, affords prime Western Bluebird habitat. This year the number of nesting pairs has increased 50%, up from 2 to 3 boxes, about the maximum number of nesting pairs that the farm’s insect supply will support (or that the birds “assume” it will support.).

Because the birds are here in the Willamette Valley year round, that is they do not migrate south for the winter, they often “have the leisure” to brood 2, 3, or occasionally even 4 clutches of eggs throughout the summer. Because of the long, cold spring this year, the birds have started a bit later than usual and many of the first clutches of chicks did not survive our cold, wet May and June.

Now that the later clutches are well started, expect to see more of these delightful little neighbors as you are out and about. Many of the nest boxes are mounted on power poles next to the roads to assure easy access to monitoring their progress. Please be especially careful as you drive to avoid injuring these companionable little neighbors.