Birds of Ann Arbor: Eastern Bluebirds

As a flash of blue catches my eye, I instantly know it’s one of my favorite birds: an eastern bluebird. Through snow, sun and rain, I find eastern bluebirds perched on tall grass, eating berries on a bush or flying around outside my window. Bluebirds are no bigger than my hand, but their bright color makes them stand out against almost anything, allowing me to easily spot them.

When I go outside, I always listen for their three-note calls, which I think suit them perfectly. Each note comes out in a short sweet trill and isn’t as sharp or harsh as other birds. I usually find them in groups of anywhere from two to ten — they create a soft three-note symphony with each other.

As with other blue feathered birds, the eastern blue bird’s color is just an illusion. Their feathers don’t contain blue pigment (less than 1% of all animals actually have blue pigment). Instead, their feathers are made up of microscopic beads of keratin, constructed in a way that only reflects blue light.

Most other birds I encounter fly around chaotically and rarely stay in one spot for too long, but I’ve noticed that after an eastern bluebird lands on a spot, it stays unmoved there longer than any other birds, eventually flying off to do the same thing somewhere else. This gives them a confident and regal aura.

The three distinct colors decorating eastern bluebirds make them unique to any other bird I find in my backyard. I remember the first time one showed up at our bird feeder; I had never seen colors like that before. Snow covered the branches and ground, making the bird glow — giving warmth to its surroundings.

I love to photograph eastern bluebirds as they add variety to my collection of photos. I will always be on the lookout for their stunning blue glow.