Photo by Sandy Morrissey
A Bronx River-Sounds Shore Audubon expert reveals where to spot the beautiful bluebird and how to preserve its presence.
By the time the eastern bluebird was declared New York’s state bird in 1970, the species was in serious trouble. Interspecies aggression and habitat loss had cut populations by nearly 90%. Fifty years later, the rebirth of Sialia sialis can be considered a conservation success story.
Grassroots dedication has been a prime mover in the renaissance of this lovely thrush, a brilliant ball of blue and rusty orange that favors edgy and open spaces. Just ask Sandy Morrissey of Bronx River-Sound Shore Audubon, who’s banded and monitored thousands of the birds since 1998. “I spend a lot of time in graveyards,” Morrissey jokes.
A life Girl Scout, Morrissey created a Bluebird Patch program and says that of the 300 nest boxes in and around Westchester, about 90% have been pounded together by Girl Scouts. Where might you spy a bluebird locally? Ossining High School students and the Bronx River-Sound Shore Audubon Society installed nest boxes at Croton Point Park this spring; Mariandale Center has nesting pairs bordering its labyrinth. The overlook at Rockefeller Park Preserve is also usually a good bet.
Want to help preserve our state bird? Plant native species that attract the insects bluebirds eat (including grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, beetles, spiders, sow bugs, and snails); avoid insecticides; and blaze your own bluebird trail with nest boxes 100 yards apart, in open space, but not on home properties or small lots. “The eastern bluebird adds a beautiful splash of color and song wherever it is found,” chirps Anne Swaim, executive director of Saw Mill River Audubon.