Black bluebird

first_imgBy Mike IsbellUniversity of GeorgiaWe passed the time by listening to Jerry and J.L. tell stories. Both could tell some tales, and I didn’t know which was lying and which wasn’t. Heck, they may have both been lying!But if you’re going to be sitting and waiting, you might as well be entertained.Jerry Payne, a retired entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, had come as part of a team from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to J.L. Anderson’s property to see and photograph a particular bluebird: a black bluebird.Bluebirds are sky blue, not black. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, at Cornell University, a leading authority on birds, has no record of a black bluebird ever being reported — ever!Bluebird countryJ.L.’s property was ideal for bluebirds: open space, with areas of cover. In other words, in the country. You can expect to see them in farming areas, in suburban developments bordered by wild spaces, near golf courses and cemeteries, playgrounds and parks. And along rivers and streams.The only bluebird you can expect to see here in the east is, appropriately, the eastern bluebird.Bluebirds are insect eaters. But when insects become scarce, the birds add berries and small fruit to their diet. They’re also cavity nesters, which means they look for a natural hole in a tree or a birdhouse for raising their families.As soon as we arrived at J.L.’s property and the nesting site, J.L. told us he hadn’t seen the male or the female bluebird that morning. Jerry reached up and put his hand inside the bluebird nest to check for young birds in the nest.Baby birds”There are baby birds in here,” Jerry said, “I can feel the tops of their heads.”So we hid ourselves from the nest and waited — and listened to Jerry and J.L.’s stories.It wasn’t long before someone said, “There’s an incoming bird,” and all eyes searched for the bird. It was the male bluebird, and it was blue. It landed on a dead tree branch near the nest and looked around for danger before entering the nest with an insect in its beak.In just a few seconds, the male shot out of the nest like a bullet and disappeared in search of more insects.”We’ve got an incoming bird,” someone said again. Only this time a black bird landed on the dead tree branch. “That’s it. That’s the female bluebird.” And sure enough, she was black! She had a huge moth or grasshopper with its wings expanded in her beak.Black bluebirdThe black bluebird sat for several minutes on the tree branch. And then she did something I hadn’t expected: she ate the insect herself. The whole thing!Then she flew off without entering the nest.But she returned shortly with another insect. This time she entered the nest to feed the young birds, and like the male bird earlier, flew out and disappeared.Needless to say, several cameras were clicking away. Who knows? It was a National Geographic moment. I just don’t know if we had any National Geographic photographers in the bunch.last_img read more

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