Readers will recognize this as an Eastern Bluebird, a species whose range includes the eastern two thirds of the U.S. and southern Canada.
A small number of Eastern Bluebirds also nest in eastern Colorado. I was delighted to find these nesting Eastern Bluebirds near where I live in Canon City, Colorado just last week, one of the most western site where this species has been found nesting.
Both the loss of natural nest sites due to habitat loss plus competition from aggressive non-native Starlings and House Sparrows, many bluebirds now nest in artificial nest boxes which are helping to reverse the decline of bluebird species.
You can help by joining thousands of other bluebird enthusiasts by putting up and monitoring a bluebird house. Also important for their conservation is for property owners with bluebird habitat to leave old trees and snags that can be used for natural nest sites as my friends at Lippis Farm in Colorado have done.
Pesticides can not only harm the birds and their babies but kill off the insects that they need for food. These nesting bluebirds may well have chosen to nest on the Lippis Farm as they have been a certified organic farm since 1999. Because of their very selective and careful use of pesticides, this farm has a rich and diverse bird life.
These bluebird parents have been finding some very fat caterpillars to feed their hungry and growing babies as can be seen in the photo of the female on the left. Homeowners can find valuable information on reducing pesticides at the Audubon At Home website.
The nest cavity being used by this pair of Eastern Bluebirds is in the dead tree limb marked by an arrow in the photo on the right. It is on a river bank between a hay field where the I have watched the parent’s hunt for food many times and the river which also provides good insect habitat.
I take my photos from inside my car and my videos using a tripod right next to the car door so I can use my car as a ‘blind’, a technique I use frequently as it disturbs birds less and provides better photos and videos. I stay more than 30 feet away then use a very long telephoto set-up (close to 900 mm equivalent) to get these close-ups.
Jill recently posted an article on ‘Safely Observing Nesting Birds‘ on this blog that was very timely. As she noted it is very important to learn how to observe and photograph nesting birds whether in an artificial box or natural cavity and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s ‘Nest Watch’ manual includes the ‘Nest Monitor’s Code of Conduct’ which explains when and how to, and more importantly not to, approach active bird nests.
This short video I took of this pair of Eastern Bluebirds shows both the male then the female as they bring food to the nest cavity, reach inside to feed the nestlings, then take out ‘fecal sacs’ to keep the nest clean.