They’ve started already, in the Southeast and further North, lots of folks are reporting first nests and first eggs laid in their bluebird houses. It’s one sign of springs’ arrival… bluebirds are house hunting!
Bluebird landlords (or folks who monitor bluebird houses) are eagerly awaiting the first clutches. Weather can be a tricky factor with late winter/early spring broods as natural food is still scarce. Bluebirds’ diets may be supplemented with meal worms, suet, shelled peanuts and sunflower hearts to help brooding birds cope with frigid or extremely wet weather.
Find the most handsome bluebird houses for all tastes, most are approved by the North American Bluebird Society (NABS). A house with side door makes for easy monitoring, as does the famous Gilbertson Nest Box.
High quality and USA made, find durable cedar, recycled plastic (or poly-lumber) and stunning vinyl bluebird houses with copper roofs. Standing the test of time, bluebirds will return to these fine digs year after year should fledges be successful.
No… you won’t disturb them if you tap on the birdhouse first, steer clear of busy feeding times (dawn and dusk) and especially refrain prior to fledge time (about 19 days after hatching). The latter may scare babies into an early fledge for which they are not fully prepared.
Check out the website Silais.org for a wealth of information on bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting birds. Every question will be answered on this addictive site!
If you don’t have a blue bird house up yet… don’t fret. But now’s the time! Blues will brood two, three and sometimes even four clutches per season. Open space is best with tress or fence line nearby for bluebirds to perch, hunt insects and guard their nests. Fresh water in a birdbath always entices feathered friends too!
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your bluebird house on!
By the sound of the title alone, you gotta figure it can’t be good, but if the information educates just one person or raises awareness, then it’s well worth the time to write.
Simply put: pesticides kill. Not only do they kill the targeted species, but affected prey also becomes poison (and fatal) for predator as well.
In a bluebird house along one monitor’s trail in a cemetery (yes, they’re great spots to host blues with open spaces and relatively limited activity) sat five eggs never to be incubated. Mom and dad who were healthy thriving parents were both found dead in the box, yet totally intact. This pair was actually banded and well known by local bluebird enthusiasts.
How does this connect to bluebird houses and meal worms? Pesticides… in the form of worm-shaped pellets! Mole baits resemble mealworms and when used properly should be placed below ground in the mole runs. Due to the inadvertent misuse of this poison by a cemetery employee, a slow and painful death came for both parents.
The incident occurred a few months ago. After the bait was carelessly disbursed, a sudden cold snap had the bluebirds believing these were worms. Paralyzed without a mark on them, both perished one day apart due to paralysis from the poison. Both had gone back to the bluebird house with eggs for their final breaths.
A bit dramatic? Maybe so, But step back and look at the big picture because in nature (and life) everything is connected. We’re killing ourselves, killing pollinators and killing Mother Earth. (this post was scheduled for Earth Day).
Stop using pesticides and chemicals. Manicured lawns and gardens are passe, natural and rustic are in style! If you’re trying to attract hummingbirds, butterflies or bees for instance, do not treat or spray flowers from which they draw nectar. Please be aware and mindful to help nature thrive in your patch of green… it’s for your own good!
Thanks Paula Z. of Ohio (dedicated bluebird monitor) for letting others know about this occurrence and use of the images.
“Sad occurrence in lone box in Powell Cemetery. Both male and female EABL were killed by Talpirid mole bait. We had extended cold snap and snow and desperate to find food, almost certainly found some “worms”. Male found dead in nestbox on 4-13 by me. He was in good physical shape without a mark on him. Female was in tree making some noise when I got there (maybe in pain, who knows?). I removed him and left her 5 eggs there. Following day, my friend checked box and found her dead in there too. I contacted city to find they had put down mole bait worms – almost certainly they found them, ate them or fed them to each other… Sad. I removed box for several days because a new pair was there checking out box same day we removed dead female – hope worms are out of the ecosystem by now. City won’t use poison worms again; will trap if they need to kill moles.
The dead male was banded in the nest on 7-1-13 in park that is maybe quarter mile from cemetery. This male was progeny of “Kamakazi Kent”, very aggressive male that hits me in the head at Village Green Park – no evidence of him nesting this year yet there, but he may no longer be with us as I know he nested there for past six years.”
It may seem like spring’s a ways off, but as far north as New England, bluebirds are on the move to pair off, claim nest boxes & territories and start their broods!
Photos by David Kinneer… with many thanks for sharing these amazing shots! To visit his awesomely inspiring bluebird images and slideshows, head over to SmugMug… it’s most definitely worth your time!
The image above shows the wing wave or wing tip and it’s one of the advanced ways bluebirds communicate with each other. Especially during courtship (happening now) it’s almost an animated signal that says “Come check this nice bluebird house and let’s pair up!” Of course the Mrs. will have to inspect and approve the new digs before the deal is sealed.
Now’s also the time when young blues who fledged last spring start getting kicked around by parents. No more big happy families when it comes to nesting, all bets are off. Parents will chase their own sons and daughters from territories they claim for the season. A little sad to watch but all part of Mother Nature’s pecking order (no pun intended).
David’s galleries include images/slideshows of many bluebird scenarios, from weather to predators, fledging babies and feeding, it’s truly remarkable and so informative through his images only (nothing to read).
With natural nesting places disappearing- real estate is tough out there for bluebirds and other cavity dwelling birds. Offering a safe place to raise young is both helpful and rewarding. By safe we refer to suitable housing (preferably Bluebird Society Approved) and the commitment to be a responsible landlord. If house sparrows are prevalent in the area, it’s best to avoid putting up a bluebird house just to let them nest… they’re a bluebirds’ nightmare.
The website Sialis.org offers a wealth of information that’s easy to understand and follow. In fact, you might get hooked there too! Between David’s bluebird gallery and Sialis… well, there went the night! Happy Birding 🙂
‘Tis the season, bluebirds are busy claiming territory, finding mates and already nesting in many parts of the country. Because they typically have 2-3 broods per season, it’s not too late to entice them to your place with quality bluebird houses.
Open spaces best suit blues, with places to perch and swoop up insects. They’ll perch on lower limbs of nearby trees, on top of birdhouses, and even on feeder poles. Not only to hunt prey, but to keep a watchful eye over their box and nestlings as well. They’re such tentative parents, with mom & dad’s teamwork accounting for successful fledges!
Vinyl bluebird houses rock because they’ll never deteriorate like wood. The light color is better for late summer scorching temperatures too. This copper roof bluebird house is complete with predator guard and removable roof for easy nest clean-out. It mounts on a standard 4×4 post… no tools required!
The Gilbertson nest Box is also mighty popular among blues. Vinyl with a birch appearance, it’s a great design if you’re up for monitoring nests (recommended). Be polite and always knock first (well, tap) before checking nests!
The secret sauce? In an attempt to bring bluebirds to our yards, and after exhausting all other food treats to lure them, many folks finally resort to offering live mealworms. They do the trick! But what soon happens with many bird addicts (like any addiction) is we’re feeding too many worms and the bird’s diet is skewed.
Extremely high in protein, too many worms can cause problems for female blues during nesting season. Something called egg bound, where she becomes unable to pass/lay her egg. It’s fatal most times, and really sad when seasoned bluebird monitors discover this. It can and does happen in the wild without gorging on meal worms too.
So if you’ve got the bluebird itch and find yourself feeding lots of worms during nesting season, this supplement helps lower the chance of females becoming egg-bound. Calcium carbonate powder is widely available online, or maybe at your local health and nutrition store.
Just a little in the container with a few shakes & swirls to lightly dust worms is perfect. Doesn’t that sound yummy? 🙂 It also helps other females during nesting season should they be partaking (or stealing) your mealies!
“Yesterday was very bright sun, but still cool with a heavy frost this morning. By late evening there were bluebird families sitting on high line wires & fence lines and males were singing from tree tops all along the roads where I have up bluebird houses. You see families of bluebirds right now at every people house that has up nesting boxes in their yards!”
See? That’s from a bluebird expert… the scouts will be out and about very soon, busy claiming their territory and the best spring digs in hopes of attracting a mate for the cycle of life that is nesting season! It’s a great time of year for all those “people houses” who host feathered friends too.
If you’ve never experienced a family of blues in your yard… this is the year you must try! For those who’ve hosted, and even monitored nests, the rewards need not be explained. Mom & Dad raise nestlings with some pretty amazing teamwork and TLC. Should bluebirds stick around for a second clutch (very common if the first fledges are successful) you’ll see those juveniles help parents raise the new babies. Totally cool indeed!
Bluebird houses are best placed in an open area, mounted at about 5 feet high. The houses can be higher, but will prove difficult to monitor-which is a bummer. Folks actually help bluebirds thrive by looking out for them and monitoring their houses.
Everyone starts somewhere, so an absolute knowledge of the bird isn’t required – but some basic know-how and what to watch for are best for the birds. The North American Bluebird Society (NABS) actually rates and approves birdhouses suited for blues. Should you plan to monitor this year, look for a NABS Approved Bluebird House.
The website Sialis.org has a wealth of information in an easy to navigate format. Not just for bluebirds, but info about most North American cavity nesters. Your state may even have a bluebird society or association who’d be thrilled to help get you started with hosting bluebirds!
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.