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What to see in nature in March: bluebirds

YOU CAN SEE

As spring warms Long Island, you can see the Eastern bluebird. The New York State bird, often referred to as an "open country" species, is found nesting in early spring in openings in old pine or oak trees on the edges of open fields, golf courses or parks. You can see them also in the nesting boxes that have been erected in many places around the Island, including along roadsides.

This is an unimposing bird: 6 to 8 inches long, short-legged, short-billed. It's the bright color that seems to suggest warmer days ahead: The males are brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and red-brown and white on the breast. The females are grayer overall, with brushes of blue on the wings and tail. When not in their nest, bluebirds can be spotted roosting along phone lines; they use the line as a home base as they forage back and forth to the ground. They can spot an insect on the ground from 60 feet up, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Bluebirds eat mostly insects (beetles, grasshoppers, etc.), wild fruit and berries. However, they've also been observed nabbing larger prey such as salamanders, snakes and tree frogs. As nesting season commences, the Cornell Lab passes along a bit of bluebird behavior. The male displays at the nest; that is, he brings nesting material (grasses, feathers, pine needles) to the hole, goes in and out, and flaps his wings while perched about the site. Once a female is signed on, however, that's it for the male. The female handles nest-building all by herself.

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