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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Sad News

Hosting bluebirds has its ups and downs.  The past few days have been a low spot.  We spent last week in Taos, NM.  As soon as we returned home I saw a male House Sparrow sitting on the box.  The bluebirds just fledged their second brood, so I knew they wouldn’t be usiyardbirds 020ng the box.  I walked out to remove any nesting material the sparrows might have put into the box, but when I opened it I found Daddy’s corpse.

In almost a decade of hosting this box, this is the first death from a sparrow.  I trap and euthanize dozens annually and hadn’t seen any around when I left town.  I followed protocol by removing the Sparrow Spooker when I cleaned out the box after fledging.  Now I wish I’d left it on.  Mama is used to it and it does keep the sparrows away.

I always caution people who haven’t hosted bluebirds not to lure them into suburban yards unless they can deal with HOSP’s.  Otherwise they are just erecting a death trap.  While we mourn the loss of a beloved little feathered friend, as a conservationist I realize that one has to view species populations as a whole and not get hung up on a single bird or a black swan event.   But, bluebird deaths from HOSP’s are not black swan events.  Still I take solace in the totality of our hosting efforts.  We’ve put 95 new bluebirds on this red dirt hill and only lost one to a HOSP.  That’s a pretty good record.

This morning Carolyn called out there is a male bluebird in the yard. I walked out  and bluebirds 024called Daddy’s name, asked if he wanted worms and he flew to the feeder.  I then was sure this is Daddy.  He flew off and returned a few minutes later with the four fledglings from our last brood. He Picked up worms and fed all the young’uns.

I am rethinking the corpse I found in the box.  I snapped a phone pic and it still looks like a male bluebird, although somewhat decomposed.  Problem– Mama is missing.  I’m thinking she must have been the casualty in the box.  Hopefully Daddy will find a new mate and bring her to our box.  He is very bonded to the site and to me and his mealworm breakfasts.

The cocky little male sparrow that had (past tense) laid claim to the nestbox has been removed.  He is just too much a threat to Daddy and the fledglings to have in the yard.  I trap and euthanize about 60 HOSP’s annually.  An unpleasant, but necessary aspect of hosting bluebirds.

Total bluebirds fledged from this site in 95.

 

 

 

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Brood two

bluebirds 065Summer weather is here and it always seems to take a toll on the adult bluebirds as they work from before sunrise to dark feeding babies and ferrying away poop.  I have the box moved so that it is in the shade of a Live Oak in the afternoon.  Sparrow Spooker installed, of course.  Also two blue ceramic bird baths so they don’t have to go far for a drink or cooling bath.

The current babies hatched on May 27.   We were gone to Texas Memorial Day weekend 41632219605_3d2957e485_owhen they hatched.  When we got home I found four teeny, just-hatched chicks and two unhatched eggs.  The next day, one of the eggs was gone.  I have to assume the bluebirds removed it.  A couple of days later I removed the remaining unhatched egg.

Photo: Most mornings I sit in the corner chair and have breakfast with the bluebirds. 

Like always, the babies are growing like weeds.  At nine-days old they are beginning to get pin feathers and take on a blue hue.  When their eyes were closed, they would rear their heads and beg for food when I opened the box.  Now they regard me as a predator, hunker down, close their eyes and remain motionless.  I’m putting out some supplemental live mealworms for the parents to feed to the babies, but most of their diet is bugs caught by the parent birds.

Our bluebirds normally fledge in seventeen days, so that would have this brood jumping into the big wide world about 13 June.  We always look forward to this event.  Stay tuned.

For nature pics and more, follow me on Instagram @lindelledillon

Total bluebirds fledged from this site is 95.

Second brood 2018

  • First sign of nest building                                               03 May
  • Nest completed                                                                  07 May
  • First egg                                                                               08 May
  • Second egg                                                                           09 May
  • Third egg                                                                             10 May
  • Fourth egg                                                                           11 May
  • Fifth egg                                                                               12 May
  • Sixth egg                                                                               13 May
  • Incubation begins                                                               13 May
  • Four eggs hatch                                                                    27 May
  • Fifth unhatched egg removed by parents                      28 May
  • Sixth unhatched egg removed                                          29 May
  • Four babies fledge                                                               13 June
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Brood two incubation

40281998760_ce1a1ce6e4_oMama completed her second clutch of six little blue eggs on 13 May and began incubating the same day.  Six is a big brood.  We’ve only had that many eggs one time before.  Four eggs is more common.  A brood this big crowds the chicks in the box and is a strain on the adult birds to care for so many.  I’ll feed supplemental live mealworms, but the parents still have to catch more bugs and carry more poop away.

Our bluebird eggs usually hatch in thirteen days, and that should be about 26 May.  Incubation length can vary a little depending on temperatures.  Like always we are looking forward to a new bunch of babies.

Two of the last brood are coming to the yard with Daddy on a daily basis now.  I’m41307993035_b1277826e0_o putting out dried mealworms as a treat and they have learned what time breakfast is served.  Not a lot going on during incubation, but as soon as those little blue eggs hatch Mama and Daddy will be busy, busy bluebirds!

Bluebirds have been featured frequently in folklore, songs and literature.  Almost everyone is familiar with the phrase “bluebird of happiness.”  Carolyn and I met a man down on Perdido Key Florida while observing the Spring Migration of Neotropicals.  We hit it off and met him several times for birding and lunch.  After reading about our bluebirds he sent me a message that when his mother passed, the song “Bluebird” by Leon Russell helped him through his grief.  Said he listened to it several times a day.  There is no end to the happiness and solace bluebirds bring us.  Second verse:

I’m out in the rain
The moon has gone behind the cloud again
And I can’t stand to live another day
‘Cause my bluebird went away

For nature pics and more, follow me on Instagram @lindelledillon

Total bluebirds fledged from this site is 91.

Second brood 2018

  • First sign of nest building                                               03 May
  • Nest completed                                                                  07 May
  • First egg                                                                               08 May
  • Second egg                                                                           09 May
  • Third egg                                                                             10 May
  • Fourth egg                                                                           11 May
  • Fifth egg                                                                               12 May
  • Sixth egg                                                                               13 May
  • Incubation begins                                                               13 May
  • Five eggs hatch                                                                    27 May
  • Sixth unhatched egg removed                                          29 May

 

 

 

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2018 Brood Two

bluebirds 064These bluebirds are all about raising babies!  No sooner is one brood fledged until Mama begins building another nest.  I always remove used nests and hose out the box between broods.  No need to risk mites or other parasites.  I think this is one of the reasons the bluebirds return brood after brood and season after season.  In the wild, they often change nest sites after one brood.

Photo: One of the last brood in the back yard. 

When we returned from a five-week trip, evidence indicated all five eggs of the last bluebirds 008brood hatched and fledged.  I’ve seen three of the young in the back yard following Daddy around while Mama  is starting another nest and laying eggs.  By the time a bluebird is a month old, it’s fairly self-sufficient.  Photo: Mama wing-waving to Daddy.

Bluebirds wing-wave as a form of communication.  I don’t fully understand it, even though Daddy wing-waves and chatters to me.  I’ve read that it is used in courtship, but is much more than this.  The bluebirds seem to do it constantly to communicate with one another.

Hopefully all of the young are still alive.  But when a species like our beloved bluebirds needs to produce multiple broodings for the species to persist, we know they have a high mortality rate.  In the wild about 55-84% of Eastern bluebird nesting attempts fail (Radunzel et al 1997.)

Mama has already build a nest and deposited four little blue eggs.  Today she added a fifth egg.  Only one time have we had six.  Our beautiful world, pass it on.

Total bluebirds fledged from this site is 91.

Second brood 2018

  • First sign of nest building                                               03 May
  • Nest completed                                                                  07 May
  • First egg                                                                               08 May
  • Second egg                                                                           09 May
  • Third egg                                                                             10 May
  • Fourth egg                                                                           11 May
  • Fifth egg                                                                               12 May
  • Sixth egg                                                                               13 May
  • Incubation begins                                                               13 May

 

 

 

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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 91.

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
  • All five babies fledge approx.                                         23  April
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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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