Forget about groundhogs. There are bluebirds in the backyard today, visiting their nesting box months ahead of Spring. How they find enough insects to survive in what is still the dead of winter - a seasonal thaw notwithstanding - is beyond me. Robins regularly overwinter in our latitudes, now, but bluebirds?
What is true for the American Robin is also true for another member of the thrush family, the Eastern Bluebird. If the response to the winter sighting of a robin is surprise, the response to a winter sighting of a bluebird is likely to be astonishment. Some of the reason for this reaction to the bluebird in winter is undoubtedly due to its recent rarity. For many years, bluebirds were so uncommon, that any sighting at any time of the year was greeted with joy and astonishment. The population recovery of the bluebird has been a conservation success story.
During breeding season, the bluebird disperses in pairs. The rest of the year, it gathers in small, loose flocks. Like the robin, it is a year-round resident in southern New England. Like the robin, it does not read range maps and may be seen any month of the year in southern Vermont. Like the robin, it migrates in late fall and early spring.
There is no need to be astonished, or surprised, at seeing a bluebird during the winter. On the other hand, elation at a winter bluebird sighting is always in order. Few birds have the ability to catch my breath the way a bluebird does. In the words of naturalist John Burroughs, the Eastern Bluebird is the “bird that carries the sky on its back and the earth on its breast.”
Range map courtesy of Migratory Bird Research - Patuxent Wildlife research Center, USGS