Eastern Bluebird in Carden

Ron Pittaway

First published in Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter, November 2019, No 291

Male Eastern Bluebird at Box 10 on Wylie Road. Photo by Jean Iron.


The Eastern Bluebird is uncommon to rare in most of Southern Ontario. The Carden Alvar is one of the best places to see and hear bluebirds on the breeding grounds. It is an early spring migrant arriving in Carden by early April and present into November. Watch for bluebirds where there are nest boxes along back roads.


IDENTIFICATION: The male bluebird’s bright blue back and chestnut breast make it unmistakable. The female is paler blue and duller red. The juvenile is speckled below with telltale blue in the wings and tail, and usually a bold white eye ring. Perched bluebirds have a hunched shoulders posture.


VOICE: The male’s song is gurgling warbles. The call is musical and sounds like the word purity. It is given by perched and flying birds. Song and call are distinctive once learned.


HABITS: Nesting bluebirds are tame and easy to observe. They perch on dead branches, mullein stalks, fences and overhead wires, dropping to the ground to catch mainly insects.


HABITAT: Breeding birds require short grass fields with a sparse ground cover and scattered shrubs or trees. Short grass is essential because nesting bluebirds catch their food on the ground. Bluebird habitat on the Carden Alvar is enhanced by cattle grazing which keeps grasses short and sparse.


CONSERVATION: The Eastern Bluebird was listed as of Special Concern in April 1984 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The population recovered to such numbers that it was down listed to Not at Risk in April 1996. The recovery is attributed mostly to the success of the nest box program of bluebird trails.


NEST BOXES: Note the long horizontal nest boxes along Wylie Road. The nest is placed at the back of the box beyond the reach of raccoons. Horizontal boxes produce more fledged young than other box types according to Herb Furniss, who maintains the boxes on Wylie Road.


Horizontal nest box on Wylie Road. Photo by Jean Iron


BEST PLACES: Wylie Road north to the Sedge Wren Marsh is a reliable area for bluebirds. The best spot is bluebird box #10 at the pull-off near the viewing blind. Check other back roads such as Shrike Road where there are nest boxes.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I thank Michel Gosselin for comments and Jean Iron for the photos.