Next to the ruby-throated hummingbird, the Eastern bluebird is probably the favorite bird among Georgians. February is bluebird month, when the birds start checking out nesting sites commencing their breeding season. CONTRIBUTED BY KEN TOMAS/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Bluebirds’ sweetness may belie their feistiness

Next to the ruby-throated hummingbird, which is due back from its tropical winter homes late next month, the year-round Eastern bluebird probably is Georgia’s second most beloved bird.

Bluebirds are loved for their brilliant plumage, their tameness and their fondness for nesting boxes. Their hearty appetites for insects also make them highly beneficial — another big reason that so many homeowners strive to attract the birds.

February is bluebird month in Georgia. Male bluebirds already are sporting their vibrant breeding plumage, and bluebird pairs are checking out potential nesting sites. (If you haven’t done so, now is the time to clean out your bluebird box.)

Bluebirds in Georgia have a long breeding season, lasting from February through September and producing as many as three broods. With good weather, some bluebirds may be sitting on eggs by the end of this month. By mid-March, nesting could be in full swing.

The commencement of the breeding season, however, also is the time when a bluebird’s demeanor may change. During winter, many bluebirds join flocks of mixed species that forage peacefully together in woods and thickets.

Come breeding season, though, male and female bluebirds may become very aggressive in their quests for mates and nest sites. Despite their reputation as “sweet” and “models of pacific family life,” bluebirds may even kill other birds over mates and nest sites.

In the wild, bluebirds’ prefer nest sites in open areas with few trees and forest edges. The female builds a nest of grasses or pine needles in a natural cavity 3-40 feet above ground in an oak or pine tree.

However, urban sprawl has greatly diminished the availability of natural cavities, and now bluebirds greatly rely on nest boxes. For information on building, erecting and maintaining bluebird boxes, visit: https://georgiawildlife.com/sites/default/files/wrd/pdf/CreatingPerfectHomeforBluebirds.pdf

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be full on Tuesday — the “Bone Moon“ as the Cherokee peoples called this month’s full moon. Venus rises in the east a few hours before sunrise. Mars is low in the southwest at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are low in the east just before sunrise.

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