Firecracker babies

As the pressure of population increasingly regiments us and crowds us closer together, an association with the wild, winged freedom of the birds will fill an ever growing need in our lives.
– Edwin Way Teale, introduction to Songbirds in Your Garden, 1953

 

IMG_7418 copyWe took a short trip to Prosper, TX,  for the Fourth of July weekend.  I expected the eggs to hatch around 07 July.  But when I checked the box after arriving home on the Fourth, I found two newly hatched chicks and one  little blue egg.   I checked a few minutes later and the remaining chick had hatched and Mama had eaten the eggshell.  Female bluebirds eat the eggshells to replenish depleted calcium levels in their bodies.

Recently a raccoon has been raiding the yard at night, tearing up bird feeders and opening the birdseed storage barrel.  Not one to underestimate the persistence and ingenuity of a raccoon, I worried that when the eggs hatched the chicks would be a midnight snack for this 27387253134_f238d910cf_omarauder.  A little peanut butter in a live trap and Rocky was soon in raccoon jail.  He was not a happy camper, tried to bite and urinate on his jailer.  Terms of his release were that he move to a neighborhood with no human neighbors.  Up until his release, Rocky claimed he was ‘entrapped’.  Some FeBreze was required post release. The things I do for these bluebirds!

It’s hot now and heat is a killer of bluebird eggs and babies.  I have the box located so that by early afternoon it is in the shade of a live oak tree.  The Sparrow Spooker is attached and we are ready to rear these babies.  Most of the time our babies fledge on the 17th day.  That means these should hop out into the big wide world on 21 July.  Hopefully this will happen with no drama.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 67.

Third Brood 2016

  • First sign of nest building                                                15 June
  • Three eggs                                                                             21 June
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                 04 July
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Incubation begins …

40084684325_4eacb7d4b3_oMama III has completed her nest, laid five perfect little powder blue eggs and begun incubating them.  She’s been busy.  Like most birds, bluebirds don’t begin incubation until all eggs are laid so the chicks will hatch and fledge at the same time.  Most of the time they lay an egg a day until the clutch is complete.

When the first egg is in the nest I attach a Sparrow Spooker to the box to protect the eggs and chicks from marauding House Sparrows.  The female bluebird has enough investment and bonding to her nest and egg that her maternal instincts will overcome her fear of the Spooker.  These can be bought commercially, just google “sparrow spooker”.  Daddy has no fear of it, either.  Often perches on it while Mama is in the box incubating.  He brings her bugs as well when the weather is cool, so she doesn’t have to leave the eggs. Bluebirds are all about their broods.  Their life centers around rearing young.

Eggs typically hatch in 12-14 days, dependent somewhat on ambient temperatures.  I thunderbird 028generally count on 13 days.  Since incubation began on 24 March, that would mean the eggs hatch about 06 April.  They typically fledge here on the 17th day, meaning fledging will occur about April 23.  Mama and Daddy are going to be without their security detail and supplemental food for this brood.  Carolyn and I have cute little yellow beach house rented on Perdido Key, FL.  Leaving in a couple of days and won’t be back until after the chicks have fledged.  The parents shouldn’t have a problem, bluebirds survived for millions of years without human intervention.  Their downward spiral in population began when European Starlings and House Sparrows were introduced to North America.  But thanks to legions of bird lovers putting up millions of bluebird boxes, bluebird populations are once again stable.  Their current conservation statues is ‘Least Concern’.  Quite a comeback story for these beautiful little thrushes.

This will be the final post until we return.  If you want to keep up with us in Florida, follow me on Instagram #lindelledillon  Spring migration for the neotropicals will be in full swing and hopefully we will see and photo some new birds.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 86.

First brood 2018

  • First sign of nest building                                               10 March
  • Nest completed                                                                  16 March
  • First egg laid                                                                       19 March
  • Second egg                                                                          20 March
  • Third egg                                                                             21 March
  • Fourth egg                                                                          22  March
  • Fifth egg                                                                              23  March
  • Incubation begins                                                             24  March
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Spring 2018

“There never was a happier or more devoted husband than the male bluebird. He is the gay champion and escort of the female at all times, and while she is sitting, he feeds her regularly.”   John Burroughs
bluebirds 057Welcome back bluebird lovers after a Winter of inactivity.  The bluebirds were in and out of the yard during Winter, but off somewhere else most of the time.  This past week they are in the yard a great deal of the time and showing interest in their box.  I replaced the weathered old box with a new one from Audubon.  Always important to get an approved bluebird box so that bigger birds like starlings can’t enter and one that has proper ventilation.  I like boxes that are a little thicker wood than the cheap ones, provides more insulation.

There is a Bewick’s wren and a couple of chickadees showing an interest in the box, but the bluebirds appear and promptly send them packing.  I’ve hung a little box in the shade bed outside our bedroom windows and the Bewick’s is showing interest in it.  Maybe I need to get another for the chickadees.

Yesterday Mama III carried around a piece of grass for some time, but didn’t attempt tobluebirds 039.jpg build a nest.  She started building last year on 11 March.  Won’t be long until the new bluebird season begins.  Unfortunately we will be gone for several weeks and I’ll miss reporting a lot on the first brood.  I’ve had a goal for a long time of putting a hundred new bluebirds on the red dirt hill.  We won’t reach it this year, but maybe next.  We are sitting on 86 and ten chicks in a year is about max from our site.

I have started an Instagram account, for nature pics and more follow me #lindelldillon

Our beautiful world, pass it on.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 86.

First brood 2018

  • First sign of nest building                                               10 March
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Third brood fledges

14184262194_18c3f1a320_oHappy to report our third brood of the season has successfully fledged!  The third brood is always the most difficult.  Fatigue on the parent birds and the hottest part of summer always make this one risky.  One little bird stayed in the box longer than the others, but finally jumped out.  Like always the parents take them down to the creek and perch them high up in some mature pecan trees.

The bluebirds won’t need much help until next spring when this millions of years-old bluebird saga repeats itself.  Guess we can take a vacation for the rest of the summer.  I hear the San Juans of southwestern Colorado calling.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 86.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
  • Four eggs hatch                                                                  15 July
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                16 July
  • All chicks fledge                                                                  02 Aug
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Third brood hatches- almost

bluebirds copy   Yesterday afternoon was full of surprises.  First the resident roadrunner on the reddirt hill paid a visit to the back yard.  Came up on to the patio and then jumped up on the blue birdbath for a drink.  This is too near the nestbox for comfort.  This same bird killed my male bluebird about this time last summer.  So I walked outside and encouraged him to move on.  As I stood outside I heard the distant sound of thunder and looked north.  The sky was a dark blue with some ominous clouds that were quickly approaching.  A thunderstorm in parched July is always a pleasant surprise in Oklahoma.
   I decided to check the nestbox before the rain hit and was surprised again by three hatched chicks and one still inside a shell that it had cut in half with its egg tooth.  The rain and wind hit and I decided it would be fun to sit out on the patio and enjoy the sights and smell of a summer thunderstorm.  But sideways rain forced me to retreat to the house.  Mama went inside the box and stayed.  Daddy and a couple of juvies from the last brood huddled in a Chaste tree.  When the rain subsided another egg had hatched.
   This morning one egg remains.  It’s not unusual for eggs to hatch over a day or two.  Any longer than that and I will remove the unhatched egg.  It could break, making a mess that could attract insects like ants or blowflies.  These could injure or kill the helpless young blind chicks.
   Most of the time our bluebirds fledge on the seventeenth day, so these should take flight about August 01.  Looking forward to another successful fledging.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
  • Four eggs hatch                                                                  15 July
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                16 July
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Third brood underway

Mama has built a nest and started laying her third clutch of eggs this season.  The first two successfully fledged.  Just one week after her second brood took flight, Mama III began constructing her third nest.  The juvie fledglings are following Daddy III into the yard for mealworms.   I’m surprised how aggressive they are toward sparrows and starlings.  If one comes into the yard, it gets mobbed by the entire family.  The Sparrow Spooker is back on the box and we are ready for round three!

I often get asked about attracting bluebirds to a yard, especially with mealworms.  Generally this doesn’t work.  Bluebirds pick a habitat that has grassy open areas for bugging and a wooded edge or area nearby.  They seldom eat birdseed, insects make up about 68 percent of their diet.  Once a pair is nesting on your property, mealworms will bond them to the site and to you.  My bluebirds recognize me from other people, wingwave and talk to me in the mornings.

However,  in winter much of their diet is berries and there are some plantings that can encourage bluebirds to stay around in areas like Oklahoma where they don’t migrate.  Your best bets are Flowering dogwood, holly, and American elderberry.  They will eat the berries off pokeweed in warm weather.  Occasionally I will have one come up in a flower bed and I let it grow.  Pokeweed and volunteer Tropical milkweed always get a pass in my beds.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
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Another brood fledges

bluebirds 008It’s always gratifying to launch another brood of bluebirds on to the red dirt hill behind the house.  This second brood of the season brings the number of chicks fledged from our box to 81!  We have a lot of bluebirds in and around our neighborhood and I suspect many are descendants from our original pair.  We are currently on our third male and female.

Our current bluebirds are young and healthy and I suspect they will attempt a third brood.  Heat gets to be a problem for the eggs and chicks this time of year.  It also stresses the adults who have to work hard to feed and protect their chicks.  I’ve taken down the Sparrow Spooker and hosed out the nestbox.  It’s ready if the birds want to nest again.

The adults get really worn looking in summer.  Few people have held birds in their 7441749366_447746016e_chands or spend time really close to them.  Bluebirds don’t look particularly small, but an adult weighs only about 1 ounce.  That’s not much body mass to store fat for energy and surviving the cold in winter, but the bluebirds persist, making the world a more beautiful place.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Visit my new flickr group Wild Oklahoma

https://www.flickr.com/groups/3604976@N23/

 

 

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   14 May
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       15 May
  • Sixth egg laid                                                                      16 May
  • Incubation begins                                                              17 May
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                29 May
  • Fourth egg hatches                                                            30 May
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                31 May
  • Six egg removed                                                                 02 June
  • Five chicks fledge                                                               14 June

 

 

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Second brood hatching early

 Birds are the most vivid expression of life
– epitaph Roger Tory Peterson chose for his tombstone.

bb hatchingI guesstimated that our second brood would hatch 01 June, but they are hatching earlier.  I wasn’t home when Mama completed this clutch, so she may have done something a little different while we were gone.

I walked out on the patio with my coffee this morning and saw Daddy come in to his perch with the tiniest of bugs.  That could only mean one thing.  I opened the box to find two just hatched chicks with one half of an eggshell still in the nest.  Baby bluebirds have an egg tooth on their upper beak that they use to go all the way around the middle of their egg. It always pops open into two exact halves.  Then the female eats them to replenish her calcium depleted body.  By evening a third chick had hatched and three eggs remained.

Every time I open the box to the sight and sounds of a new brood of bluebirds, it’s like bluebirds 006Christmas morning. Bluebirds are truly one of God’s precious gifts to the world.  It’s good to get lost in scenes like this occasionally.  For a moment we realize that there are important things going on outside our pampered human lives. Perhaps far more important.

After nine years of hosting, my days and my neighborhood are filled with bluebirds.  Something that makes both of us better, I think.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 76.

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   14 May
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       15 May
  • Sixth egg laid                                                                      16 May
  • Incubation begins                                                              17 May
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                29 May
  • Fourth egg hatches                                                            30 May
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                31 May
  • Six egg removed                                                                 02 June
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