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(Not So) Common Sense | A bird’s tale

I do believe spring is here, and I, for one, am thrilled. Seems like winter just didn’t want to let go this year, didn’t it? Here in the South, the arrival of spring inspires us to open up the house, spruce up the yard, and enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds us all. 

Carole Townsend

I used to laugh, teasing my dad about being a good ol’ boy from Tennessee. Even though we lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, and even though he traveled extensively, he never lost touch with his inner country boy. He loved gardening, and he paid attention while he did it. He knew that a fat robin would appear out of the blue when he started plowing, hopping along behind him to gobble up squirming, freshly-turned earthworms. He cultivated a mulch pile that stunk to high heavens, but he also grew the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Sure, he’d put on a suit every Monday morning, but on weekends he wore his “coveralls” and work boots. It’s something I’ve never forgotten about him, and I guess I never will. 

Now, my husband and I are about the same age as Dad was when he was in his gardening heyday. We love working the earth, coaxing beautiful flowers and plump vegetables out of it every year. And in the last couple of years, we’ve added something else to our list of simple joys: bird watching. I never thought I’d say that because I never thought we’d have time for something so low-key and relaxing. I also thought it was a hobby for old folks. But a few years back, we hung a bird feeder out back, and the fascination began. 

We’ve watched woodpeckers, wrens, bluejays, sparrows and thrashers jockey for position at the buffet. We’re thrilled at the sight of gorgeous ruby-throated hummingbirds drinking nectar from their feeders. I knew we were hooked when we broke down and bought a book about birds, one that helps us identify the many species that dine in our backyard. 

One little guy that’s eluded us is the bluebird, a tiny, chubby songbird whose nesting habits are amazing to watch, on YouTube that is. We just couldn’t seem to attract them, no matter how many feeders or what kind of seed we put in them. But as with any challenge, I figured the best way to tackle it was to read everything I could find on the subject. Long story short, there’s a sweet family of bluebirds nesting in the box we provided. We watch the parents come and go, feeding the babies and carrying off any signs of them so as not to attract predators. It really is fascinating. 

I will say, the more I read about bluebirds, the more I wondered how on earth they survive in the wild. They require a nesting box (or a hole in a tree trunk) with a 1.5-inch opening. The box (or the hole) has to be at least 6 – 10 ft. off the ground, and they want it to be facing east. They love eating mealworms – live ones, if possible (that’s where I draw the line). They east the mealworms out of a feeder with two 1.5-inch holes in it, so they don’t feel trapped. And on. And on. 

The more I read, the more I worried about bluebirds as a species. How do they survive? What if they find a great place to nest, but it has a 2-inch entrance, not 1.5 inches? What if it’s 5 ft. off the ground, not 6? What if mealworms aren’t available? What is a mealworm, anyway? How do they find the feeder? And why do they cost so much? And what if Home Depot runs out of them? 

As silly as it sounds, these thoughts did flit in and out of my mind as I read (I’m an over-thinker). But then I reminded myself, bluebirds have been around a lot longer than I have, and they’ll be nesting and eating mealworms long after I’m gone. And then I was reminded of one of my favorite scriptures, and I had to smile. 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them…”  Matthew 6: 26 
I haven’t read one more thing about “how to attract bluebirds” since I was reminded of those wise words. Instead, we’ve just sat, waited and watched. And you know the rest of the story. 

The bluebirds figured it out.

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on, Barnes &, and at When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.