I was walking a trail through a field in Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a September morning when this young Bluebird landed on a plant and stayed for a few seconds, long enough for me to get a nice photo. Young Bluebirds resemble young Robins, with spotted chests and gray feathers. Then blue feathers begin mixing with the gray, as on this young Bluebird.
The camera was closer to the Bluebird than the bird was to background objects so the background — a forest lit by the morning sun — was reduced to a pleasing blur. This makes the subject of the photo — the bird — stand out.
Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one brood each year — one in spring and a second in late summer. So there's a good chance hikers will encounter young Bluebirds in fields for much of the year.
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.
Bluebirds prefer to nest in open fields, meadows, hedges or gardens. Several metro parks in the Columbus area (like Sharon Woods Metro Park) have numerous nesting boxes in fields. The Bluebirds can often be found perched on the boxes, on plants in the fields or on tree limbs adjacent to the fields.
The male 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.
About the photographer
I’m a photo hobbyist who lives in Hilliard, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. I typically spend several mornings each week in the woods of local parks, photographing birds and other wildlife. I also enjoy shooting sporting events and photographing different cities when I travel around the country.
I began doing photography in the pre-digital, pre-autofocus, pre-Internet 1970s. I had a color darkroom in the basement of our house in our hometown, Ashland, Ky., and on occasion would shoot for the newspaper where I worked first as a sports writer, then as city editor. But I put the camera away in the 1980s after burning out from too many of those "hey can you" photo jobs – “hey can you shoot my son's Little League team," or "hey can you shoot my daughter's wedding." I reached the point where I dreaded picking up the camera.
After taking a vacation from photography for more than 20 years, I was using my daughter’s point-and-shoot digital camera to get some photos of her first college tennis match in fall 2004 (she played four years at the University of Akron) and realized how much I missed photography. After doing the “Nikon or Canon” research, I bought a Canon digital SLR, started adding lenses – that’s my Canon 600 f/4L, the lens I use for wildlife and some sports photography, in the photo above – and have been shooting ever since.