Thorny perch


I have dozens of photos of Eastern Bluebirds perched in fields near my Central Ohio home.

And there’s one thing I’ve learned from those photos: Eastern Bluebirds seem to prefer being perched at or near the top of plants.

Other birds I see in the fields — a variety of sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals — tend to spend as much time deep in the underbrush as they do at the top of the plants. But bluebirds move from plant top to plant top.

I found this male Eastern Bluebird, the subject of my photo of the week, perched between large thorns on a plant in a park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a late fall morning. As usual, it was near the top of the plant.

I was closer to the bluebird than the bird was to the fall tree line in the background, so the colorful leaves that remained on the trees were reduced to a defocused blur.

The male Eastern Bluebird is more colorful than the female, with deeper blue feathers on its head/back and a bright chestnut chest above a white belly. The female is more muted, with the blue feathers taking on more of a gray cast and the chestnut chest more subdued. 

Eastern Bluebirds have become a somewhat common sight in the Eastern U.S. and here in Central Ohio. But that wasn’t the case 25 years ago, when harsh winters, the destruction of natural habitat, the harmful effect of pesticides and competition with other cavity nesters combined to make the Eastern Bluebird a rare sight.

The number of Eastern Bluebirds had declined almost 90 percent from populations recorded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The significant decline led to the Eastern Bluebird being declared a rare species in the late 1970s.

The rebound of the Eastern Bluebird population can be credited to the efforts of wildlife enthusiasts who worked to create habitats attractive to the remaining birds. In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society was formed to encourage the installation of nest boxes. This extensive effort provided sufficient nesting locations for bluebirds as the species competes with other cavity nesters (swallows, chickadees, wrens, house sparrows, starlings) for nesting sites.

The efforts were so successful that the Eastern Bluebird was removed from the rare species list in 1996.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: Nov. 26, 2011, 8:55 a.m.
Location: 40°6'49.739" N, 82°57'30.499” W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter: 1/400th second
ISO: 800