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The state bird of Missouri is the eastern bluebird. Declared state bird in March of 1927, the bluebird is considered a symbol of happiness. Though it migrates in the winter months, this bird is common in Missouri throughout the rest of the year. The scientific name for the eastern bluebird is Sialia sialis.
The eastern bluebird has short wings and a plump body. Its wings, along with its back, head, and tail, are blue. A white belly and rusty brownish-red chest make this bird easy to identify. The females and males have the same basic color pattern, but the females coloring is considerably muted. Medium-sized songbirds, bluebirds are approximately 6.3–8.3 inches (16–21 cm) long and weigh about 1 ounce (28 g).
Living in areas with little ground cover, the state bird of Missouri is often seen in orchards, meadows, parks, or on large lawns. It generally forages for fruit and hunts insects. Perching on wires, posts, or branches, the bluebird will search the ground for its prey. When it spots an insect, it will dive from its perch and snatch it from the ground.
Although their natural nesting sites are in tree cavities, including those left by woodpeckers, they are increasingly found in nesting boxes. Nests are made from grass and pine needles. Only the female builds the nest, but the male contributes as part of a courtship display by bringing the nesting material to the nesting site. Once complete, the female will line the nest with soft grass and feathers.
The state bird of Missouri normally has two broods in one year. The female lays between two and seven eggs, which are incubated for 11–19 days for each brood. The first brood stays in the nest for only 17–21 days. The second brood stays throughout the winter. Juvenile bluebirds have the same color pattern as adults, but also have spots on their chests and backs.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the population of eastern bluebirds declined. Aggressive species, such as starlings, which were introduced to Missouri in the 1960s, began to push the bluebirds out of their homes, making it difficult for the state bird of Missouri to make nests. Partly thanks to the introduction of nest boxes, however, the populations have stabilized. Nest boxes designed for the bluebirds are too small for use by larger starlings, and thus the bluebirds' homes are again safe.
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