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Something Wild: Azure Crescendo

Generations ago, when people lived closer to the natural world, more outdoors than in, mild October days were called "bluebird weather."

The eastern bluebirds' gentle, quizzical notes were familiar and their distinctive habits recognized. A bluebird family remains together this time of year when most other bird species disperse. They favor field or open habitat, and typically perch on branches at field edge when they feed.

Family members take turns dropping down to the ground then return to perch, one after another, most likely in pursuit of grasshopper or cricket. From a distance they resemble falling leaves that rise again.

The family's attention sometimes turns to a nest box or tree cavity. In and out they go, removing old nesting debris – and raising the hopes of any human onlooker that they'll return come spring to claim that nesting site. The placement of nest boxes help the species recover from a steep decline caused by the introduction of European starlings and house sparrows. Bluebirds lose out to both in the competition for nesting cavities. They also lost favored habitat when family farms and fields declined.

When word spread that this beloved songbird would accept manmade nest boxes, scout groups, school groups and garden clubs were among the many volunteers building and placing bluebird houses. It was human action that led to their decline - by introducing starlings and house sparrows - so there's special satisfaction in knowing that human action has also helped their recovery.

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