(c) Jack Ballard
In late October I moved out of the condo I’d been renting and into a house. Situated next to a couple of vacant lots with the backyard adjacent to a golf course, I was happy to find a nest box hung on a post near the fairway. Much of the winter was spent in speculation regarding what occupants (if any) might claim the box. Yesterday I found out.
While sitting in a favorite chair writing, I glanced outside to see a flutter of blue. The flutterer hovered over the nest box, then perched on its roof. As blue as the big blue sky overhead, this male mountain bluebird was as pretty and energetic as any I’ve seen previously. He ducked inside the box, then poked his head out the hole, like a prospective home-buyer appraising the front yard from the entryway of a house. He dropped to the ground to snatch a bug, then winged up to perch happily on the top of the post to which the nest box is attached. How wonderful, I thought, to have such a beautiful bird for a neighbor.
It turns out the other birds don’t like him. This bluebird is a bully. After a day of watching him harass pine siskins, chickadees and house finches from my feeders, I moved them to a tree further from the nest box. That’s spared the little guys, but the bully also shoves bigger boys around. A male robin hunting for worms beneath the bluebird’s perch was promptly attacked and driven away. Ravens occasionally visit my neighborhood. Will he take them on as well?
Chances are he will. Bluebirds are highly territorial. Male mountain bluebirds can be exceptionally aggressive. With such a pugnacious personality, I’m wondering how well he’ll attract a mate.
Yesterday, he found his female. But before I describe her, let’s pose a question from human courtship. What kind of girl goes for a bully? Cut through all the politically correct speech and the answer is simple. Only stupid girls stoop to consorting with bullies.
It appears the same principle holds in mountain bluebird circles. The bully has a mate, but she’s a bimbo. A comely little thing with olive overtones to her plumage and striking blue highlights in her tail feathers, she is uncommonly pretty. But oh so stupid. For the past three days she’s spent most of her waking hours attacking her reflection in my picture windows. Thinking myself clever, I decided to save the bimbo from herself. I carefully printed and cut out a sizeable image of a hawk and taped it to the pane, a tactic that has worked to keep birds from bashing into glass in the past.
She now attacks the hawk. I’m not sure what to do. My teenage son has suggested that perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing if she broke her neck and spared her species a dose of defective genes. I’m not sure I’m willing to keep my blinds drawn all summer to protect a brainless bimbo.
But maybe that’s what I get for harboring a bully…