Prior to meeting and marrying Kathleen, the decade before had been a most challenging period for her. It was one of those tough stretches many of us face over the course of our lives. Kathleen had been suddenly "downsized", went through an unwanted divorce, had cancer surgery, her mother had a heart attack and was raising two young teenagers (and sheep) in a big old house out in the country. The emotional roller coaster of life was pulling her down. One day driving home after a job interview, Kathleen pulled into her driveway and there in the burning bush, was a flock of over two dozen, eastern bluebirds. She stopped the car, stared at the birds, and cried while her spirits regained a place of strength. Bluebirds have, and will always be a 'sign of hope' for Kathleen. This time they told her it to keep going, and just do the next right thing. Good times were ahead.
There are three primary types of bluebirds - the flock that offered hope to Kathleen were eastern bluebirds. Eastern bluebirds are primarily found east of the Rocky Mountains and range from Canada to Mexico and Honduras. The western counterpart is found west of the Rocky Mountains, also ranging from Canada to Mexico. The third type is known as the mountain bluebird. The mountain bluebird inhabits much of western North America and can be found at elevations above seven thousand feet. Fully grown, all types of bluebirds are around five inches long. Both the male and female have a reddish-brown breast with predominately blue plumage. Normally, the female bird is identifiable by her more muted colors. The young when first born, are not a pretty sight. However, within days they start growing feathers and quickly become a cute little fluffy bird.
If bluebirds are nearby, chances are good that you can spot a nest full of pale blue eggs or three to seven hungry, squawking babies. They can nest anywhere from two to fifty feet off the ground. They nest in natural hollows in trees, old woodpecker holes and during recent times, birdhouses. Their favorite habitats include open areas with scattered trees, farms, roadsides, forest clearings, open pine woods and in suburbs where there are lawns and good nesting sites. Mating starts in the mid to late spring through the summer months. Where they live has a lot to do with how many broods are born in a year. Shorter, warm seasons usually see two broods and longer seasons as many as four. An active pair of bluebirds can produce over twenty young a year – a lot of hungry mouths to feed.
Bluebirds forage on a wide variety of insects like crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, earthworms, beetles, snails and even tree frogs or small lizards. They can be seen perching on a branch, watching over the terrain and then quickly swooping to the ground to pounce on their meal. Gardeners love to have bluebirds around. They will do all they can to attract bluebirds and keep them nearby due to their ability to quickly rid a garden of insect pests.
Unfortunately, the bluebird has enemies too. Snakes, cats, raccoons all seek out young bluebirds in their nest. Starlings, crows, and house sparrows often take over their nesting sites, smashing eggs and killing the young. Over the last couple of decades, as an increasing number of protected birdhouses appeared, the bluebird’s numbers have grown. They appear to be winning the odds of survival.
Six years ago, a job promotion required us to relocate to central Massachusetts. At the time, our home was a cute and cozy English cottage style house near Yale University. Kathleen really loved our little homestead, complete with reflecting pond, gazebo, stone walls, and extensive gardens. The day before our move, she was sitting silently on the back-porch steps looking out over the yard with a few tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. The next thing she knew, a pair of eastern bluebirds flew into the hydrangea bush beside her. The birds started chirping and hopping from branch to branch. Again, her sign of hope. Kathleen then knew this move, although not welcomed, would turn out okay. And not only was it okay, but after the first year it presented us with a wonderful opportunity. We purchased the house we were renting, and now live on a beautiful clean lake with a captivating view we never tire of… life is good.