Saturday, July 19, 2014
The Bluebird of Happiness
With the start of 2014, I’ve finished up my second winter season in Missouri after moving here from Michigan two years ago.
Being a Michigan native, I’m no stranger to long, hard winters, but the many false starts into spring this past year are enough to drive any seasoned northerner a little goofy. With the seemingly endless winter and dreary days of white snow and gray slush, I was getting restless and bogged down. However, the flicker of blue I saw dancing through my family’s yard got me really excited one afternoon in late January.
A male and female Eastern Bluebirds (photo: The Wikipedia files)
I was delighted to discover that the Eastern Bluebird, my favorite songbird, was a common inhabitant in Missouri. I only had to step out on my back porch and likely a Bluebird would come weaving and bobbing thru the yard.
On March 30, 1927, the Eastern Bluebird was adopted as the state bird of Missouri due to how common it is and its cheery appeal, earning the species the nickname ‘The Bluebird of Happiness’. A very appropriate name as the appearance of Bluebirds are considered a sign of spring returning and uplifting for most people tired of cabin fever.
Among many Native American tribes, the Bluebird is a symbol of spring. In the Iroquois culture the Bluebird’s cheery song is the driving force to chase away the oppressive and destructive deity, Tawiscaron (representing winter), to allow the transition to spring. For other tribes, such as the Cherokees, the Bluebird is connected to the wind and has the ability to control the weather.
While the Eastern Bluebird is listed as a species of least concern, they have not gotten by without challenges to population sizes. Their population numbers have suffered in the last century mainly due to habitat loss and competition with European Starlings and House Sparrows. The Eastern Bluebird has thrived as well as it has due to the efforts of birders and conservationists to setup man-made nest boxes for Eastern Bluebird needs.
I would encourage everyone to join in providing nest boxes for our state bird. Nest box plans are available on the World Bird Sanctuary website (http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/index.php/freestuff/nestbox) or you can pick up nest boxes already assembled at the World Bird Sanctuary Hospital for a small donation when you visit.
Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Trainer