The 5 p.m. Bluebird Bath

The 5 p.m. Bluebird Bath   —by Jinny Batterson

If I were a more gifted, more patient photographer, I might have a better picture to illustrate this short post. As it is, you will need to use your imagination a little to fill in the birds. 

Our back deck birdbath

Early October here in central North Carolina was unseasonably warm. As longtime backyard bird watchers, we’ve gradually added hanging feeders of various types to the edges of our back deck. We keep most of the feeders filled year-round. We are lucky to have a wooded area just behind our lot, providing some protection from the hawks, owls, and cats that regularly patrol our area. A few years ago, I found a good quality plastic birdbath that I could attach to our back deck railing, about twenty feet above the ground. As the thermometer climbed into the high 90’s for several days in a row, I made sure to keep the bath filled with cool water, checking it several times a day. During the middle of the day, various birds and squirrels traipsed across the railing to get a drink, but the crowds diminished as the day waned. 

Perhaps my daylong vigilance was noticed, though. At any rate, several times during our “Hottober” week, about the same time in late afternoon, a trio of bluebirds paid us a visit. I got a thrill watching them take turns bathing and drinking in the coolish water. While one fluffed his/her feathers and splashed in the center of the bath, another sipped at its edge, while a third waited for a dip or a drink. The male bird had plumage that looked almost iridescent against the green plastic of the bath’s base.  

Now it’s finally turned cooler. Though the bluebirds still visit our suet feeders, I haven’t seen their bathing beauty behavior in a while. I’m not sure if they will winter here—I have a low-tech heating element (a clay bread warmer) to keep the birdbath relatively ice-free. We’re also conscientious about keeping our feeders filled when cold weather makes other food scarcer. I have little idea where the bluebirds nest, or what other neighborhood smorgasbords they frequent.  

Per basic internet information about Eastern bluebirds (, the species who visits us is widespread and not currently endangered, in contrast with many other songbirds whose numbers are declining. Whether or not bluebirds migrate further south for the winter depends mostly on the availability of food sources. It’s more than worth the cost of some suet to me to be able to glimpse the beauty of these colorful if common birds.   

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