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Texas Rains and Blue Bird Houses Gone Wrong

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.

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