What is the State Bird of New York? (And Why?)

New York state is the 27th largest state in the US by area, however, it is still the 4th most populous state. It contains the most populous city in the entire United States, New York City. The state animal for New York is the Beaver, but what is the state bird?

The state of New York became the last state to name an official bird when it chose the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), as the state bird in 1970. The bird whose numbers had dwindled in the 1950s, now makes homes in nesting boxes throughout the state. The tiny songbird is known for its musical quality.

The state bird of New York, the Eastern Bluebird.

The state bird of New York, the Eastern Bluebird.

Why is the Eastern Bluebird the state bird for New York?

New York would have had the bluebird as its state bird much earlier, but someone dropped the ball. It held Bird Day for the first time on April 2, 1915, celebrating the lovely avians of the state. More than a decade of bird appreciation passed though before the day included an informal ballot to determine the favorite bird of the state. So, on Bird Day, April 13, 1928, the bluebird won the informal referendum. Legislation was not forthcoming, and the bluebird became the unofficial state bird – for 42 years!

In the spring of 1969, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Christopher, approached assemblyman George M. Michaels, of Auburn to introduce legislation to make the bluebird's status official. It was too late in the year to introduce the bill, so it had to wait until 1970. Then, of course, the legislature voted yes and today you can hear the bluebird’s "cheer-cheery up" song and know that you’re hearing the official bird of NY.

Eastern Bluebird in flight

Eastern Bluebird in flight

When did the Eastern Bluebird become the state bird for New York?

On May 18, 1970, the New York legislature passed legislation naming the Eastern Bluebird the New York State Bird. The Eastern Bluebird also serves as the official bird of the state of Missouri.

What does the state bird of New York look like?

The Eastern bluebird typically grows to a length of six to seven inches, as measured from head to tail. A light blue, glossy plumage covers its upper body, but its breast downy comes in cinnamon red during spring and summer but turns a rust hue during autumn. In the female, the feathers take on a leaden tint on the upper body, but the neck and sides appear a yellow-brown color. Their coloring in this area is duller than on the males. Their stomachs are pure white. Their feet and bill are black.

The bluebird has a wingspan measuring 10 inches. These birds weigh about the same as other songbirds - from 0.84 to 1.09 ounces.

Female Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird

How do these birds behave?

The migratory eastern bluebird typically resides in New York from early spring until late November. It builds its homes in rural areas, including meadows, open fields, and large yards.

The bird sings a cheerful song regularly. Under normal circumstances, it is non-aggressive. Rather than building a new nest, these resourceful birds often nest in old woodpecker holes. They prefer those found in dead oak or pine or trees. While most birds make a nest on the ground or up to ten feet in the air, the bluebird prefers the penthouse apartment of the forest and makes its home nearly 50 feet in the air.

The Eastern Bluebird becomes aggressive when it enters its nesting season. It will attack other birds if they approach. That includes birds much larger than themselves, such as chickens and roosters. Bluebird couples begin courtship in March. Their March madness includes a tender, affectionate courtship. The male sings to his potential mate and woos her with various manly poses. He will flutter before her with his wings spread and tail feathers spread. They will perch closely and preen each other’s feathers. The male will feed the female.

Once the children are born, both parents forage food for them. They bring food to the chicks. If the parents already had other broods that still live at home, these older children would also help feed the hatchlings. They reach fledgling stage at about 18 to 19 days and venture out of the nest on their own.

Eastern Bluebird perched on a tree branch

Eastern Bluebird perched on a tree branch

Do Eastern Bluebirds form communities?

The monogamous Eastern Bluebird couples, go from social to anti-social when it becomes time to make a family. The Bluebird typically flies with a flock of about 100 other birds, but when it becomes amorous, the couple keep to themselves. If you see these birds in other states, you learn that their breeding occurs at different times of the year, depending on the location. For example, in Florida, they breed in January, in Pennsylvania in mid-April, in Maine in June, etc.

The couple builds a nest with the female taking the lead. They search for a nesting box or a convenient hole. Upon breeding, the female lays between four to six pale blue eggs. These loving birds breed two or three times per year and raise two or three broods that year. The male minds the first nest with its’ newborns while the female incubates the second set of eggs.

Three Eastern Bluebirds gathered around a bird bath

Three Eastern Bluebirds gathered around a bird bath

What do Eastern Bluebirds eat?

Bluebirds forage on the ground, dining on a mix of insects, fruits, and seeds. Some of the bluebirds’ favorite foods include caterpillars, spiders, Coleoptera, and many types of insects. When insect hunting, the bird alights on the bark of trees. Many of the insects they eat provide beneficial to farmers since they would otherwise attack crops.

These birds will dine on large fruit that you generally would not associate with a small bird. Their love of grapes may seem in line with their size, but the bluebird will also munch on the much larger fruits of figs and persimmons. In fall, they make a meaty diet from the numerous grasshoppers in the area.

During winter and spring they may seem to follow a farmer around, but it is really the land the farmer ploughs that interests the bird, not the farmer. The bird lets the farmer do the work for them of turning the earth which reveals all manner of insects. Although the birds do have favorite bugs, they will typically eat any insects unearthed by the plough.

To find out all about the diet of an Eastern Bluebird, check out this article.

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