Missouri’s state bird, designated in 1927 among several species, is the Eastern Bluebird. Missouri is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including several species of birds. This beautiful bird is highly valued for its striking appearance and melodious song. In this article, we will delve into the world of the Missouri state bird and explore its physical characteristics, habitat, behavior, and importance in Missouri’s ecosystem.
Missouri’s State Bird Similar Species:
While Missouri’s state bird, Eastern Bluebird, is unique and beautiful, a few other blue-colored birds may be confused with it. Here are some similar species:
Indigo Bunting: Indigo Buntings are also blue but not thrush. They belong to the cardinal family and have conical bills. Male indigo buntings are all blue and do not have any rusty or white markings.
Blue Grosbeak: Blue Grosbeaks are closely related to indigo buntings but are larger and have very large, triangular, silvery bills. Male blue grosbeaks are blue with two rusty wing bars and have blue underparts with no white or rust.
Lazuli Bunting: Lazuli Bunting is very rarely seen in western Missouri. Male lazuli buntings have an orangish breast and white belly, similar to male Eastern Bluebirds. However, they also have two white wing bars and conical bills and are more turquoise-tinted.
While these species may appear similar, their unique characteristics can distinguish them from the Eastern Bluebird.
Missouri’s state bird is a small bird, measuring 6.5 to 8 inches long and weighing around 1 oz. The male Eastern Bluebird has a bright blue back, wings, tail, rusty-red breasts, and a white belly. On the other hand, the female has a duller blue back and wings, with a lighter reddish-brown breast and white belly. Both male and female Eastern Bluebirds have a distinctive white ring around their eyes.
Missouri’s state bird is a cavity-nesting bird, which means it seeks out tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, or nesting boxes for shelter. In Missouri, Eastern Bluebirds can be found in various habitats, including open fields, meadows, orchards, and suburban areas with scattered trees. They prefer areas with short grasses and sparse ground vegetation, which makes it easier for them to hunt insects and other small prey.
Eastern Bluebirds are primarily insectivorous but feed on small fruits, especially during the winter months. They are skilled hunters who use their sharp eyesight to locate prey and swoop down from a perch to catch it in mid-air. They are also known for their ability to hover over grassy areas to catch insects in flight.
Eastern Bluebirds are social birds, and they are often seen in pairs or small groups during the breeding season. They build their nests from grasses, twigs, and feathers, and the female lays 3-7 eggs per clutch. Both male and female Eastern Bluebirds take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 14 days. The chicks are born blind and helpless but grow quickly and leave the nest after about 17 days.
The Eastern Bluebird is a primarily insectivorous bird that feeds on various insects and small invertebrates. They follow farmers during spring and winter to find unearthed insects in newly plowed land, which benefits farmers since the birds’ targets are the insects that attack crops. Additionally, you may spot them pouncing on grasshoppers in old fields during autumn.
Apart from insects, ripe fruits are also a regular part of their diet. Their favorite foods include crickets, worms, caterpillars, blackberries, honeysuckle, and elderberries.
During the 1950s, the Eastern Bluebird population declined in many areas due to the loss of nesting sites and habitats. Fortunately, in recent decades, their population has been increasing thanks to the birdhouses and nesting boxes throughout the state, providing a safe and comfortable habitat for these birds.
Importance in Missouri’s Ecosystem:
Missouri’s state bird plays an important role as a natural pest control agent in Missouri’s ecosystem. Its diet consists mainly of insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles, which are considered pests by farmers and gardeners. By preying on these pests, the Eastern Bluebird helps keep its populations in check, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
In addition to its pest control role, the Eastern Bluebird symbolizes hope and renewal. It is considered a sign of spring and is often associated with the renewal of life and the return of warmth after a long winter. Its melodious song is a welcome sound in Missouri’s countryside and urban areas.
How to Help the Eastern Bluebird:
If you want to help the Eastern Bluebird thrive in Missouri, there are several things you can do. Here are some tips:
Provide nesting boxes: You can install boxes with the appropriate dimensions to attract Eastern Bluebirds to your backyard. Ensure the boxes are placed in open areas with short grasses and away from trees to reduce predation risk.
Plant native vegetation: Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers can provide food and shelter for Eastern Bluebirds and other wildlife. Native plants are also better adapted to Missouri’s climate and require less maintenance than non-native species.
Avoid using pesticides: Chemical pesticides can harm not only the pests but also the beneficial insects, including the ones that the Eastern Bluebird feeds on. Consider using natural pest control methods like companion planting or biological controls.
Participate in citizen science projects: Several citizen science projects in Missouri focus on monitoring Eastern Bluebird populations and habitats. Participating in these projects can contribute to the scientific understanding of this species and its conservation.
Q: What is the scientific name of the Eastern Bluebird?
A: The scientific name of the Eastern Bluebird is Sialia sialis.
Q: What is the lifespan of an Eastern Bluebird?
A: The lifespan of an Eastern Bluebird is typically 6-8 years in the wild.
Q: How can I attract Eastern Bluebirds to my backyard?
A: You can attract Eastern Bluebirds to your backyard by providing nesting boxes with the appropriate dimensions and placing them in open areas with short grasses and sparse ground vegetation.
In conclusion, the Eastern Bluebird is a fascinating and important bird that plays a vital role in Missouri’s ecosystem. Its striking appearance and melodious song make it a beloved symbol of spring and renewal, while its diet of insects helps to control pest populations and reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
By learning more about the Missouri state bird, we can better appreciate this remarkable creature and its significance in our natural world. Let us continue to protect and preserve the Eastern Bluebird’s habitat so that future generations can enjoy the beauty and benefits of this remarkable bird.
Do Birds Have Teeth? Visit Here
Charming World of Small Blue Birds: A Close-up Look, Visit Here
Where Do Birds Go When it Rains? Visit Here