Yes, there are no blue birds.
Bluebird feathers are actually gray, says biologist Myrna Pearman, author of a new children’s book created for Mountain Bluebird Trails Inc. of Montana.
“They needed a tool to promote bluebird conservation to children,” says Pearman, site services manager for the Ellis Bird Farm, east of Blackfalds.
Among its amazing facts, the book describes how, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, the bluebird really does carry the sky on its back.
That’s because, just like the sky, the feathers that appear blue are not pigmented at all. The bird’s brilliant colour comes from refracted light, captured in tiny air cells in its feathers, says Pearman.
She and the Montana group that commissioned the Children’s Bluebird Activity Book hope its collection of bluebird facts, photographs and activities will help encourage more children to become involved with efforts to preserve and enhance North America’s bluebird populations.
In what is the sixth book Pearman has either written or co-authored, she describes how bluebirds build their nests and look after their young, including next maintenance and hunting for the grubs and bugs that make up their diet.
Its centrefold tracts the first three weeks in the life of a baby bluebird, from the time it pecks its way out of the egg until it is ready to test its new wings.
Along with facts and photos, the book includes tips on selecting and building bluebird boxes, puzzles, quizzes, colouring pages and word games.
Originally written specifically for Montana, the book’s first release was well received at the North American Bluebird Society conference in Nebraska.
“It seemed logical that we would expand it, revise it, so their official kids’ book would be applicable to all of North America,” says Pearman.
Bluebirders across the continent sent in contributions, including the photographers and nest box plans.
The Montana group had sold 1,600 copies by the time the book was released at its convention held on the June 20th weekend.
The revised version covers all three species, including the mountain bluebird found in Alberta as well as the eastern and western bluebirds.
Pearman and artists Pauline Luusak are now working on a second children’s activity book which will be specific to bluebirds in Alberta.
“It will be out next spring. This is for teenagers that want to start a trail and know where to put the boxes, so it’s more of an intermediate level.”
As with her previous books, Pearman herself does not share in the profits of her newest creation.
All proceeds go to the Montana group that commissioned her work. Previous books have been written on behalf of other groups, including the Ellis Bird Farm and the Red Deer River Naturalists.
Pearman says she is happy to do whatever she can to support the care and conservation of the wildlife whose stories she tells.
Copies of the Children’s Bluebird Activity Book are available at the Ellis Bird Farm, or can be downloaded free of charge from www.mountainbluebirdtrail.com
Please visit www.ellisbirdfarm.ab.ca to learn more about bluebirds in Central Alberta.