Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird
(Artwork - 169)
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

While the majority of people who live where this species is found never notice it, I think it is safe to say that for those of us who do this is one of their favourite birds. To know bluebirds is to enjoy them as they have a lovely appearance, a very pleasant, if non-intrusive, song, seem comfortable in the presence of humans and as a bonus, eat insects and other invertebrates that include species potentially injurious to crop and garden plants. What’s not to like? There are three species of bluebird, all restricted to the western hemisphere, with the Eastern being the most widely distributed, thus best known. It is found throughout pretty well all of North America east of the Rockies, but is predominately found along rural roads. In the early to mid-20th century it was widely regarded as an endangered species, its extinction feared. Bluebirds nest in cavities, and do the non-native Common Starlings and House Sparrows, both introduced in the 19th century, and since both successfully colonized they were usually blamed for usurping nesting cavities that would otherwise have served the needs of the bluebirds. Other factors, including increase in motor traffic, given that birds are often hit by automobiles, were also blamed for the decline in bluebirds.

But bluebirds can utilize nest boxes whose openings are too small to allow entry by starlings, and there is not too much habitat overlap with House Sparrows. The boxes are easy enough to make to be attractive to community service groups or anyone with a bit of spare time and fairly basic wood-working skills and so year after year we began to see increasing numbers of such boxes being erected across the landscape, some casually or in unlikely places, others as part as dedicated large-scale and highly organized efforts by groups dedicated to the recovery of the species. Various designs and protocols were tried, methods were devised to deter such nest predators as snakes and raccoons, and information on what worked was shared. It was found that while Tree Swallows, another well-liked species, would also use the boxes, they would then protect the territory from other species while tolerating the presence of neighbouring bluebirds. It worked, and while not abundant, Eastern Bluebirds are now reliably seen throughout most of temperate eastern North America, and have expanded their range westward. They are found south through parts of Mexico, as far as Nicaragua. They are migratory, but as a result of climate change we’re seeing more and more wintering in snowy climes, often in flocks that can include as many as several dozen birds.

By spending the winter on breeding grounds or arriving very early in the spring there is more chance of acquiring the premium nest sites, thus enhancing the chance of the young surviving. However, such birds also increase the risk of facing late cold spells and a dearth of food, thus starvation, and enhanced risk of death. It is a delicate balancing act.

There is a very high first year mortality, but often there are two broods per breeding season, each containing three to seven eggs. As I have indicated in my painting, which shows the female gathering nesting materials, she does most of the nest construction, forming a cup of soft grasses and other vegetative material, feathers, tufts of hair and other such material, and she normally does the incubation, but the male remains attentive and assists in feeding the babies, who leave the nest at about two to three weeks of age. While the summer diet and that of the young is almost exclusively small invertebrates, in fall and winter berries and other fruits are consumed.

The painting is in oils on a Premium© Gesso Panel that is 12 X 9 inches.


I’ve also included a couple of older paintings of the same species, both in acrylics. Stay safe, everyone, and practice social distancing as though the life of someone you love depended on it.

Eastern Bluebird
(Artwork - 169-2)

Eastern Bluebird
(Artwork - 169-3)

Posted April 3, 2020: Stay safe, everyone, and practice social distancing as though the life of someone you love depended on it.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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