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.