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Eastern Bluebird

(Sialia sialis)
Banded May 25, 1998 - Hamilton County, Indiana

General Information

The Eastern Bluebird, a member of the Thrush family and one of three species of bluebirds that occur in North America, is a cavity nester that lives in open country. They occur in the eastern half of North America as far west as the Rocky Mountains, and as far south as Nicaragua. Populations have suffered since these birds must compete with House Sparrows, Starlings, woodpeckers and other cavity nesters. Placement of nest boxes for Bluebirds has resulted in population increases in many regions. These birds are an important predator on destructive insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, Katydids, and beetles. Their diet also consists of various berries, spiders, sow bugs, earthworms and snails.


Bluebirds are popular with bird watchers. The male is deep blue above, with a chestnut throat, breast and flanks. Many people place specially designed nest boxes in suitable habitat to provide nesting opportunities for Bluebirds.



Male Eastern Bluebird
Figure 1 - Male Eastern Bluebird

Bluebird Chicks 3 days old
Figure 2 - Bluebird Chicks 3 days old


These chicks are only 3 days old. They will open their eyes 4 to 6 days after hatching.

From about day 7 until day 12, the chicks have fully formed legs and are ready to be banded.

Bluebird Chicks 10 days old
Figure 3 - Bluebird Chicks 10 days old


Art Jeffries Gathers the Chicks
Figure 4 - Art Jeffries Gathers the Chicks

Here, Art Jeffries of the Hamilton County Bluebird Society gathers the chicks to be banded. Contrary to popular belief, this activity does not cause the parents to abandon the nest or chicks. Most nest failures are caused by predators and inclement weather.



Even at this early age, the sex of each chick can be determined. Males have bright blue flight feathers. Female flight feathers are much duller and blackish.

10 Day Old Male Bluebird
Figure 5 - 10 Day Old Male Bluebird


Everyone Can Participate
Figure 6 - Everyone Can Participate


The banding activity is a wonderful opportunity for others to learn about Bluebirds and bird conservation.

A numbered band is carefully placed on the chick's leg and checked to make sure it fits properly.

Applying the Band
Figure 7 - Applying the Band


Measuring the Wing Chord
Figure 8 - Measuring the Wing Chord


The wing chord is measured and recorded for future data analysis.

Each chick is weighed and the data carefully recorded by Elvin Lamb, also of the Hamilton County Bluebird Society.

Weighing the Chick
Figure 9 - Weighing the Chick


Nesting Behavior

A nest of dry grasses and weeds is built mostly by the female in an old woodpecker cavity or a nest box. From 4 to 5 blue eggs hatch in about two weeks. Both parents care for young who leave the nest in 15-18 days.

Banding Recoveries

The Bird Banding Lab web site reports that between 1955 to 1997, a total of 349,578 Eastern Bluebirds were banded. Of these, only 2,195 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 0.627%. Banding studies show that some Eastern Bluebirds are short distance migrants while others are resident year round. They may live up to 6 years in the wild. If you should recover a banded bird, report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.


Bluebirds are economically important as they consume large quantities of destructive insect pests. Until the early 1970's, Bluebird populations suffered from pesticides, loss of trees with cavities and increased competition from other cavity nesters, especially House Sparrows and Starlings. This trend was reversed in 1978 with the founding of the North American Bluebird Society. Since then, many concerned bird watchers all across North America have built and placed specially designed Bluebird boxes in suitable habitats. As a result, Bluebird populations have recovered and are doing well in many regions.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Warning

Those who monitor Bluebird trails occasionally find that mice have taken up residence in a Bluebird house. It is well established that certain species of wild mice such as the white footed mouse, the deer mouse, piņon mouse, brush mouse, and even chipmunks are reservoirs of the dangerous Hantavirus. In some areas, up to 30% or more of the wild population of mice can be infected.

Humans contract the virus when mouse saliva or excreta are inhaled as aerosols or dust containing mouse excreta is inhaled. The virus can also be directly introduced into broken skin, into the eye, by ingestion of contaminated food or water, or by a mouse bite.

This virus has one of the highest fatality rates of this group of viruses, with a case fatality rate approaching 60%.

If you are cleaning out mouse contaminated areas, your risk of becoming infected may be small, but proper precautions should be followed to prevent infection. This is not a virus to take chances with.

Some precautions include

  • wearing a good quality dust mask.
  • wearing good quality disposable latex gloves
  • wet down the mouse nest and contaminated bluebird box with a 5% bleach solution or other household disinfectant to deactivate the virus and prevent dust from becoming air born

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on the Hantavirus
threat, please log on to the CDC web page at:


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