The True Blue Miracle

That bird feathered blue…is waiting for you…right in your own backyard.


It’s been almost ten years since I stenciled these words on  sunroom wall at the beach-house-not-on-the-beach.  The line from the song points out whimsically that although we’ve lived in many places,  we chose to come back to the same area where we started, but mostly it reminds me,  literally, of bluebirds.  My mother had a small collection of bluebirds in various forms–plates, statues, cloisonne,  and I have added to it, displaying all on that stencilled wall.   It lifts my soul to see those birds.

When I was a child, bluebirds were regulars in my grandmother’s backyard.  The bluebird population declined as I grew up and they slipped completely  from my memory.   I never saw one during all our years in the midwest, although they are working to increase the numbers now.   When we moved back to the South, the first  bluebird I saw was so lovely I cried.

We put up bluebird boxes immediately. 

Bluebirds still hold the same magic for me.  My heart beats out a chorus of Zip-A-Dee Doo Dah at the sight of one.  Those gentle birds touch me to the core and remind me of the small miracle  I witnessed and wrote about many years ago:

Each spring the bluebirds come.  They gather around our boxes,  families of them,  to check  our accommodations.  We wait anxiously, exalting  when we see a couple  carrying in the makings of a nest.    Here in the suburbs, what used to be pastureland becomes subdivision after subdivision as bulldozers and chemical lawn trucks patrol relentlessly.  House sparrows and starlings launch territorial offenses, yet the “blue robins” have chosen to raise their family here.

Although we try not to be nosy landlords, I cannot resist peeking in one morning and I see a disturbing sight.  There, next to three delicate blue eggs, is a brown-speckled one, much larger than the others.  Should I remove it?  If I sense it doesn’t belong there, does Mother Bluebird know it, too? 

I leave a message on a friend’s answering machine and  she calls back, saying, “It’s a cowbird egg.  Get it out of there!”  

Too late,  I realize, as I approach the box, for a  downy grey head peeks out of the box, calling rudely.  The baby cowbird has already hatched.  The adult bluebirds fly constantly, bringing back food.  Nothing quells this baby’s appetite. 

One morning “toddler bird” sits quietly atop the box until the “parents” appear, then it launches into a frenzied and fluttery dance.  Its cries are easily translatable:  FEED ME!  More!  NOW!

Cowbirds, I have learned, never build nests of their own.  They slip sneakily into the nest of other birds, leaving an intruder egg for the host birds to raise.  They cleverly foist their offspring off on smaller birds, so if there is not enough food for all, the smaller birds will be the ones to perish. 

I call  Animal Rehabilitation. for advice.  Yes, the cowbird must be removed.  If I can get it, ARC will raise it.  I set upon  my capture mission, but Dumbo cowbird manages to fly to the garage rooftop, foiling my plan.  There it continues  its dance for food, walking back and forth on the peak like a loud, wind-up chicken.  The bluebird parents fly constantly, valiantly, attempting to sate Dumbo’s appetite.   

I watch the bluebird house.  An hour passes.  Four hours without a parental visit means the nest has been abandoned.  I can’t  bear to wait four hours, so I drive to the pet store for mealworms, having no idea of what to do with them.  Savior without a clue.

As I pull  into our driveway, a flash of brilliant blue glides past.   The male adult bluebird perches delicately on the wispy,  topmost branch of our largest cedar.  He flies straight up in the air, stops,  flutters his wings as in hovers in place, then sinks  back onto the branch.  He repeats the ritual several times, rising, halting to flap  in midair, then sinking back onto the tree.   I sit in the car watching in rapt wonder, for bluebirds appear almost instanteously. . . not one or two but dozens! 

Two adult bluebirds patiently work with the baby cowbird, giving it flying lessons so obvious that I think I could follow them.  For the next hour,  a parade of bluebirds flies  a constant food chain  to the bluebird house,  a banquet to the bluebird babies. 

The next morning just before dawn, we peek inside the bluebird house.  Three fat, downy babies sleep  peacefully.  In the nearby trees the adult bluebirds wait, ready to begin their work.  Dumbo, the fat baby cowbird dances  his chicken routine on the peak of the garage roof, already calling for room service.

I remember going inside and listening to to the morning news as I watched those  birds go about their mission.   Political posturing. . . war. . . murders. . . the “us-es” against the “thems.”    Things are much the same today.  The object isn’t to get the job done, it is to make sure it’s done MY way or not at all. 

How did the bluebirds get so wise?   They worked their own quiet miracle. . . together.

This lovely photo is used with the kind permission of Mary's View.
This lovely photo is used with the kind permission of Mary's View.


See more of her beautiful nature  photographs and writing at 

 Thank you, Mary!

2 thoughts on “The True Blue Miracle

  1. You are so welcome.

    Your story is touching. Always good to know people care… When the world is falling down around us, something so seemingly insignificant lights our fire! Bravo to you. I would have been your sidekick.


  2. A very nicely written post MaryLee. I love my backyard bluebirds too.
    Once my bluebirds have chosen a nest box and started laying eggs, I do open the nest box and check on them periodically until they’re ready to fledge. In all the years I’ve had bluebirds, I’ve never found a cowbird egg in the bluebird nest box–I think the cowbirds are too busy laying their eggs in chipping sparrow nests in my backyard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s