The chattering along with the comical tip of the wing proves dad’s ready to find mom, pick the right blue bird house and get to work!
The previous family unit is severed and all bets are off now as juveniles are no longer welcome at meal worm feeders. Less than one full season old and it’s time to go find your own digs and significant other… they do grow up fast.
It’s difficult to watch sometimes, so you put extra meal worm feeders out and hope everyone gets a fair share. But instead, panic ensues and papa is frantically chasing his own offspring from feeder to feeder to feeder. Good grief!
This is precisely why having more than one bluebird house within view of another doesn’t work. But one in front, one in back does seem to work peacefully. And it’s worth it because watching blues nest and raise their young is fascinating. And it goes on for months if the first clutch fledges successfully.
Two, three sometimes even four nests per season! That’s superb entertainment for up to 6 months if you’re in the southeast anyway.
Always remove nests after babies have fledged. Unlike some cavity nesting birds, bluebirds prefer to build a new clean nest for each brood. Promptly removing old nests opens up the birdhouse for their next clutch. Discard away from the birdhouse (like in the trash) as old nests on the ground or nearby will draw predators.
The Paisley Vinyl Bluebird House is whimsical garden decor with total functionality. Upgraded features make this one very bird friendly. Babies will love their fledgling ladder when it’s time to leave the nest!
If you happen to be ready for the next level and wish to monitor your bluebirds’ progress (recommended) the popular Gilbertson Nest Box recently received a cool upgrade. An optional recycled plastic roof (poly-lumber) in matching brown looks perfect.
The new roof coupled with its vinyl birch-like cavity will be around for many seasons. And tests were performed measuring ambient heat… the plastic roof keeps houses cooler in summer than the the original cedar roof. But for any die-hards out there… the original roof is still available.
C’mon spring and happy birding!
Mama Blue sure was busy the last few days. As of the previous nest check there were 0 eggs, but 4 today, an egg-stravaganza… like a special Easter gift!
The whole episode started with a squabble between blues and chickadees over blue bird houses and who will nest where. Not uncommon at all for birds to remove others’ nesting material and raise a ruckus, but never had we seen activity like this before. Mr. Blue not only removed the moss from the birdhouse he wanted… he placed the material in a nearby house as if to say “okay, chickadee, you nest here!” The chickadee would then retrieve the moss Mr. Blue had placed inside! This activity went on for about 20 minutes until we were the ones who actually gave up!
Their nests are completely different, so the winner of choice number one box was confirmed the next day. Chickadees use moss, hair, feathers, and maybe wood chips, while Eastern bluebirds construct their nests with mostly pine needles, dried grasses or weeds. But no eggs, and a week later… no eggs 🙁 And then today 4 perfectly colored, beautiful bluebird eggs.
Not only in the Southeast, but as far north as IL and NY, bluebirds are starting earlier than usual.
Longer days and warmer temperatures have much to do with it. Availability of insects nudged the earlier than usual nest starts too. So as long as the weather cooperates (no snow/ice storms or drenching rains) bluebirds will be lucky to have a good season, with at least two, possibly three broods. Grow strong and thrive little blues!
Happy Easter to All…
May you find bluebird eggs in your house today!
In no way meant to diminish the extent of damage and loss from recent Texas floods, but being bird nerds, we wanted to convey the devastation at bird level too. Below the video is a devoted landlord’s heart breaking account of several days inside one of her blue bird houses.
The video below gives a good look at the Red River, check the panicked birds at 0.50. Possibly tens of thousands of cliff- and barn swallows were nesting under the three main bridges that succumbed to rising water, they lost homes and babies. Birds really do give us a glimpse of our changing environment.
“Well my first clutch did not work out well. I have a box in my yard, male and female came, made a nest and laid 6 eggs .
Everything was going great. Then the storms hit. The male disappeared and left Mama to tend to 4 that hatched. I provided meal worms in hopes to help her out.
The rains just wouldn’t let up and she was having a very hard time getting any insects except the meal worms I provided. Then house sparrows came, even with a sparrow spooker, the female HOSP kept looking into the box. This prevented the Mom from leaving to hunt. I set a ground trap and did catch the pair. One bluebird nestling was dead in the nest. Then came home a few days later and a Red Tail Hawk was in the yard trying to get the house sparrow – needless to say mama blue was very upset and no telling how long she went without hunting that day.
Two days later another dead nestling. There were no signs of trauma but the nest was wet. I was forced to do a nest change and the remaining two were 16 days old. Two days later, after more torrential rains, another dead nestling. So I changed the nest again and tried to weather proof the house better. The storms were so severe that I figured that is why the last one didn’t fledge.
Yesterday I took the last one out and changed the nest again but noticed her wings were not normal. Only flight feathers and none of the smaller blood feathers (?) With help from the folks on Facebook, I found a rehab place. She lives in Ft. Worth and it’s about a 45 minute drive but I was going to take her the baby. She asked where I lived and she was surprised and said she was in Joshua now at the DQ!
I bundled up the nestling “stormy” and took her to the lady. She said it looked to be a nutritional problem and felt she will be able to save her! I took the box down, replaced the roof and new screws in where they were loose. Cleaned out the box real good and put it back. I know the mom is very upset, she is still calling this morning even through the storms 🙁 I feel so bad for her.”
Even those who don’t use blue bird houses are suffering heavy losses with downed trees and limbs and breaking snags.
Keith Kridler of Mt. Pleasant, Texas writes: “The reason Texas is having so much flooding is due to just how flat the Eastern half of the state is. Rivers are normally slow flowing nearly flat river bottoms with on average only one foot of fall or elevation change per one mile of river bed. Link below is to a short video of the Red River that flows between Oklahoma and Texas. Video is from last week and this bridge will go completely under water this weekend and or by Monday now. Notice in the one shot there appear to be hundreds if not thousands of Cliff Swallows flying in the air. These birds nest by the tens of thousands under these major bridges all across Texas. All three of the major bridges crossing the Red River between Texarkana and Paris Texas are thought to be going under water this weekend and or first of the week. Or about 100 miles from first to last bridge along the river. There are many videos of flooded bridges, watch for the numbers of swallows at each bridge.
I have counted as many as 1,000 Cliff Swallow nests under a single short span of highway overpass over a two lane farm to market road locally. Nearly all of the videos coming out of Texas are showing large flocks of Swallows circling these bridges and over passes that went under water. Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows and also Eastern Phoebe’s nest in small road culverts that are normally dry in the summer. This summer most of these have gone under water multiple times. You sometimes find bluebirds, House Sparrows and other small species of cavity nesting birds that will nest in or on the left over swallow nests under these bridges and over passes.
Herds of wild hogs are getting pushed out of these river bottoms, deer now have small fawns and livestock are having to be moved upwards of a mile or further on some of the ranches to get above the flood waters. Any high ground near the river banks are swarming with stranded wildlife from snakes to bobcats. Anything that can climb a tree is hanging out in the tree tops.”
Mother nature can be brutal, but she is resilient. Mama blue and others will go on to nest again and raise their young. We hope for all of those who suffered damage and losses that this is soon and life regains a sense of normalcy.
Not all blue bird houses are created equal!
Depending on how much you’re willing to commit may play a part in choosing a house to host bluebirds. If you’re more of the “set it & forget it” kind (and that’s okay) at least use a quality wood or vinyl birdhouse. These usually have proper drainage, decent ventilation, adequate floor space and proportional entries (1.5 inches for Eastern blues and 1-9/16 inch for mountain and Western species).
Metal decorative houses really aren’t the best choice, especially since bluebirds (and some other species) tend to have 2-3 clutches or broods per season. During hot summer days… metal heats up and babies can fry 🙁
Predator guards are always helpful, both on the entry to keep grabby paws and larger bully birds out, and on the pole itself – in the form of a baffle. If the birdhouse hangs, simply use a hanging squirrel baffle above for further protection from predators.
The National Bluebird Society approves housing that is monitor-friendly, meaning you can easily access inside to see how the nest is progressing and babies are faring. Most bluebird specific houses have side doors for viewing, Gilbertson houses pop on & off of the roof via two pins, and the popular Peterson style has a front door that pulls down for nest checks. Seasoned bluebird monitors all have their favorites for different reasons!
But why would anyone want to see how the nest is progressing? House sparrows… they mustn’t be allowed to nest if you’re trying to attract bluebirds. They’re enemies, brutal enemies of native bluebirds. Until one witnesses the carnage- it’s difficult to grasp, and although native- house wrens should be deterred as well. The other day I was screaming at starlings in the yard when my friend insisted “they’re birds too-they deserve to eat.” Not here, nope, no can do! Also non-native, and invasive, they compete for nesting space with brutal tactics, not to mention the mess on every baffle and feeder around the yard!
If you’re new to hosting bluebirds, nature will show both the pleasures and heartache she can bear. Knowing a few basics will have you on your way in no time! Watch for sparrow nests, usually piled high and messy, with bits of trash woven throughout. They tend to have a tunnel-type entrance as well. House wrens will lay claim by placing sticks inside, criss-crossed, piled up twigs. They’ll do this even when not using the birdhouse to nest… but simply to keep others out of their territory. The website Sialis.org has a wealth of knowledge on identifying nests, eggs, behaviors and everything pertinent to bluebirds and other native cavity dwelling birds. Definitely worth a look!
Fairly late and third nesting reports for Eastern bluebirds were common this year, possibly due in part to the previously treacherous winter and their delayed instincts for claiming territories and nest boxes (nest starts).
Now’s a great time to check bluebird houses for repairs and remove nesting materials from the busy spring season. Although bluebirds don’t usually roost in houses… others will! Offering shelter through tough winter months for resident birds is simple if you have a house or two up already. Just clean them out and check for repairs. And a good cleaning is optimal if you have the time, a diluted bleach solution works great. Use a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water and a good scrub brush. Rinse well, let air dry and replace.
Squirrels can do a number on wood birdhouses, especially enlarging the entries to gain access. If the damage isn’t too bad yet, it’s an easy fix by adding a metal or brass portal over the entrance. It’s a good way to save your birdhouses for the birds and deter squirrels through winter. Well… some squirrels anyway!
For the past few years we’ve had a downy woodpecker who claims a bluebird house for nightly roosting, it’s actually pretty cool! House sparrows on the other hand, should be discouraged from roosting in any houses… they’re a major foe of the bluebird and most native cavity nesting birds.
If and when you do go to clean out houses, you may see droppings which will give you a clue as to who’s roosting in there. If they’re white, you can bet house sparrows are in the area. Black droppings with seeds indicates bluebirds. Let’s hope for the latter 🙂
A typical view inside blue bird houses, dad keeps a watchful eye on nestlings, while taking turns with mom bringing food to the babies.
The digs: A male bird’s skill at nest building is a sign of his suitability as a mate; he invests huge effort in the task. Males will build multiple nests to attract females, they’ll continue to build new nests until a female is happy with the construction and chooses one.
The food: Many male birds help raise their families, bringing food home to the babies. Sometimes they even have to incubate the eggs alone or take turns with the female. Male bald eagles, for example, take turns sitting on the eggs as well as bring food home to the young.
Protection: In species where both parents care for the young, the male often gathers food while the female spends more time brooding, keeping the baby birds warm, sheltered and safe from predators.
– Western Bluebirds usually breed in monogamous pairs. By the end of breeding season, most daughters disperse; most sons and the occasional daughter remain with their family for winter. In spring, the yearlings go off and nest on their own, but sometimes one or more sons stay to help their parents. Sometimes a bluebird with his own mate will help at his parents’ nest, while also feeding his own young next door. Source citation: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Happy Father’s Day to All~We salute your dedication to family!
Their migration is underway! Lucky little fliers spend their winters in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Southern-most parts of Texas and California. They’re heading as far north as Alaska and Canada, seeking mates and natural nest cavities or birdhouses to raise their young. Competition for nest sites is brutal… real estate’s tough out there!
Dwindling and disappearing habitat being a major cause, with fewer snags (dead trees) left intact. Non-native birds are also seeking the same nest spots and put up one fierce fight for the right to claim territory. European starlings and house sparrows wreak havoc on tree swallows, purple martins and bluebirds alike. Just ask any landlord, most will have sad tale or two to tell. Many people who offer martin houses or blue bird houses will discourage these aggressive species in order to protect native songbirds.
A sturdy vinyl nest box with wood roof, it’s easy to monitor and reasonably priced. You can get one for the bluebirds and one for tree swallows! Just don’t place them too close together. For best results, one in the front and one in the back is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Because all blue bird houses are not created equal, we highly encourage anyone serious about helping bluebirds to use houses approved by The North American Bluebird Society. When you see the acronym NABS… you’ll know!
Nab 10% off site-wide on all bird houses, seed feeders, birdbaths and hummingbird feeders too. And don’t forget the nesting material… we’re giving that away free with all orders through May 15th!
Use promo code MC10
Now Come on spring 🙂
Despite adverse conditions of the polar vortex and another extreme winter, bluebirds and others are on the move, searching for suitable digs to raise their young. Even though snow is covering most of the country, Mother Nature’s biological clock tells them it’s time, the calendar and number of daylight hours is what lets them know.
Early migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway like swallows, warblers and flycatchers rely on insects as they island hop through the Caribbean onto Cuba. When making landfall along the gulf states, their usual smorgasbord of insects, flowers, fruits and berries will be be scarce. Many neo-tropicals, including hummingbirds run the risk of depleting fat reserves before they reach spring breeding grounds here in the US. Simply put, if you think the weather has been an inconvenience – it makes life miserable for wildlife as well, and many birds just won’t make it 🙁
Closer to home, over-wintering residents like bluebirds are already checking bluebird houses to claim for nesting and raising their broods. With snow on the ground and high temperatures right at freezing, you can hear birds belting out their breeding songs! If there was a way to say “wait… it’s still too cold!” we most certainly would-but then again, man is no force against nature.
Best we can do is help feathered friends along the way by offering fresh water, food, and birdhouses that are ready for nesting. If you haven’t done so already, please check your bluebird houses and remove old nests. Be sure they are secure, sturdy and ready for vacancy. If you can stomach it, live mealworms are their favorite, but suet, peanuts and sunflower hearts also offer much needed fat and proteins.
An Eastern Phoebe perches atop this bluebird house while the male checks out its interior. Phoebes won’t use these houses, but may take up residence in barn swallow nest cups if you offer them in sheltered areas around your home.
During this treacherous weather… please help birds and wildlife with supplemental feeding and a heated water source… thanks on behalf of the birds 🙂
It’s been a strange season for birds in general due to the lengthy winter weather. Because some parts of the country were still seeing snow in late April and early May, mortality rates among nestlings were higher than usual. Colder than normal temps along with scarcity of natural food sources may have also accounted for some unsuccessful migrations of favorite feathered friends like hummingbirds. Many folks have reported seeing fewer of these sprites around feeders early in the season this year.
On the flip side, resident birds whose nesting season is about over, are attempting later than usual broods. Many blue bird houses which have already fledged two or three sets of nestlings are seeing their third and even fourth clutch of the season! This is all wonderful news for bluebirds… except for the searing temperatures July and August can bring.
If it’s hot outside, guaranteed it’s hotter inside a birdhouse. Babies can not regulate their body temperatures until they reach a certain age, but there are a few things you can do to help bluebirds (and others) beat the heat. First and foremost is to keep blue bird houses out of the sun, especially that baking afternoon sun. Moving a box a few feet where it’s shaded in the afternoon makes a difference in the ambient temperature inside the box. To featherless nestlings, just a few degrees can mean the difference between life or death. Birdbaths and Leaf Misters also help birds cool down during extreme heat. Parents will even shake themselves over babies dripping a bit of water to cool them.
Crazy as it sounds, there are other ways to cool down blue bird houses. Setting an ice pack or two on top of the house, attached with a large rubber band or bungee will help to cool temps inside. Recent discussions revealed a few folks putting up umbrellas to shade their nest boxes, again attached with bungee cords. Last summer we even wrapped our Gilbertson nest box with a heat shield – the kind used for car windshields! Easy to measure, and simple to cut, duct tape and rubber bands held the soft shield securely in place. The blues didn’t mind it all, and it helped their digs and babies stay cooler. Four fledged in mid-August of 2012. Stats like these mean it’s not too late to offer bluebirds housing. At the very least, you may be providing a nightly winter roost for other resident birds.
The image isn’t so great, but you can see the foil-like cover on the round blue bird house to the right. It literally took five minutes to complete this easy project, and may have helped save four babies from succumbing to horrid heat.
This letter to the editor appeared in The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN., a few days ago. We thought it might be of interest to those who are newer to backyard birding and so fascinated with all their feathered visitors. Because all songs are not always good ones, we believed this post was in order, especially when adding bluebird houses around your yard.
“Attracting the right birds takes research, effort
Eight years ago, when my husband and I moved to the Spencerville-Leo country area, I decided to put out a birdhouse. Soon our birdhouse was occupied by a pair of bluebirds and five blue eggs. I thought how easy and why was attracting bluebirds thought to be such a hard task? Unfortunately, I discovered the answer. The main problems for bluebirds are house sparrows.
House sparrows are extremely destructive to American species of birds. House sparrows make a point of taking over nesting sites. Sparrows often and viciously take over nesting boxes inhabited by our American species. They trap adult birds in their nesting boxes and kill adult birds by pecking the skulls. Sadly, sparrows most notoriously attack the baby birds also. Sadly, in one summer I have lost as many as 11 bluebirds, mostly attributable to the sparrow and another non-native American bird, the starling.
If you are thinking about feeding birds or housing birds in your backyard, please be aware of what types of birds you bring into your area. Monitor your nesting boxes often to make sure you are attracting the birds you desire.
Now I feel like I’m starting over attracting bluebirds, but they are well worth the effort. As for my personal opinion toward house sparrows, they are nothing but trouble.
LAURA McCANN Spencerville”
Not all sparrows are bad, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with their identification by their song and plumage. Simply do a search for the ill-willed, non-native bird, and images with tons of resources will appear. Note the differences in male, female and juvenile birds as well. If you are serious about attracting bluebirds to your place, this information will serve you and the birds very well!