Species Stories

Eastern Bluebird

Brilliant blue Eastern Bluebirds flutter from posts and branches, calling out in a short, wavering voice or abruptly dropping to the ground after an insect. This beloved bluebird is often considered a staple of meadows and fields and is the state bird of Missouri and New York. In the mid-1900s, it suffered steep declines, which are widely believed to be the result of reduced nest site availability, at least partly due to the spread of European Starlings. Nationwide nest box programs helped the species to recover, so it seemed to recover and has shown average increases since 1966 <https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/tr2015/trend2015_v3.html>. But new eBird Status and Trends data products show that the familiar Eastern Bluebird may again be declining. eBird’s trend map from  2007 to 2016 Eastern Bluebirds shows a decline during the breeding season across much of the Piedmont and Eastern Tallgrass Prairie regions in the United States. This means that over the last 10 years fewer birds were detected. The reasons why are unclear, but new eBird Status and Trends data-driven products give conservationists a leg up to start investigating why the declines might be happening. For conservation, this is a huge step forward because now we know where to start looking and where to devote precious resources. These new data products are also showing us things we’ve never been able to see before. In the case of the Eastern Bluebird, which during the winter months tends to concentrate in the southeastern U.S., eBird trends tell us that fewer and fewer bluebirds have been detected during the winter in Virginia and surrounding areas.


Photo: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/49075691

Maps: https://ebird.org/science/status-and-trends/easblu/trend-map-breeding


Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet breeds across Canada, Alaska, and higher elevation areas in the West, and winters across much of the southern U.S. Previously their northerly breeding range meant that estimating their abundance was a challenge, but thanks to eBirders that is no longer the case. eBird Status and Trends shows finer-scale patterns of abundance across the breeding range. Greater numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglets are breeding across Quebec and in higher elevation forests in the western U.S. These new data-driven products from eBirders’ observations also indicate that fewer Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been detected over the last 10 years on their wintering grounds, particularly in California, the Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Coast. The reasons why Ruby-crowned Kinglets are declining on their wintering grounds are not known, but these data-driven products tell us where to start investigating.

Photo: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/53418061

Map: https://ebird.org/science/status-and-trends/ruckin/abundance-map-breeding