Catastrophe strikes…

Hosting bluebirds is a tremendously rewarding experience.  It’s just plain fun and you feel like you’ve made a contribution to bluebird populations.  You get to know your birds and they even know you.  Bluebirds are just congenial little birds and become a part of your family.  Just like in the human world, sometimes tragedies happen in the bluebird world as well.

I reported on the intense heat this week in yesterday’s post.  It was 104 degrees yesterday and all the birds in the yard were showing signs of heat stress.  When I put out mealworms this morning, Mama T. and Daddy showed up together and shared a breakfast.  I thought it odd that they didn’t take any to the babies.  I went out to check on them for the last time before they fledged and discovered the heat had taken its toll.  Both of the babies were dead, I guess from heat stroke.  I feel terrible about it.  What if I had rigged up a shade or sprayed their box with water to cool it?  Could I have prevented this tragedy?  You always second guess yourself when you lose someone to an accidental death.

In three years of raising babies these are our first casualties and it stings.  I had planned to move the box  to a shady area for the second brood, and normally that would have been in May before it gets oppressively hot.  But, with the death of Mama and this first brood strung out so long, it was running a month behind normal.

It was so sad to watch the birds check the empty box over and over.  They hung around the patio all morning. It was obvious they were disturbed and confused.  At least they have shade and water.  I set up a mister over the birdbath this week because of the heat.

In nature the cycle always continues and I suspect the bluebirds will soon start a second brood.  I’ll clean out their box and move it so it will be in the shade of a little Live Oak in the back yard.  And so we start over on our mission to put more new bluebirds on this red dirt hill.

Brood Summary

  • Nest completed by previous female
  • First egg laid                                           28 May
  • Second egg                                               29 May
  • Third egg                                                  31  May
  • First chick hatches                                 13 June
  • Second chick hatches                            14 June
  • Unhatched egg removed                       18 June
  • Babies succumb to heat                         27 June

About lindell dillon

Lindell Dillon is retired and lives in Norman, OK. He grew up in Duncan, attended Cameron College and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. His interests include photography, nature, birding, and investing. Oklahoma Master Naturalist, alumnus Norman Police Department Citizens Academy.
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5 Responses to Catastrophe strikes…

  1. Jo Ann Abell says:

    We have bluebirds nesting on our porch. This is the second attempt. The eggs in the first nest were tossed out and broken (we don’t know the culprit, but I suspect it was a Carolina wren that was hanging around.) I can hear the “peeps” of the second brood when momma brings food so I know they will fledge in a few days. I’m sure your pair will re-nest as well.

  2. Carl Johnson says:

    Mr. Dillon , I live in Myrtle Beach, SC and was wondering if a small vent mounted on the side of the boxes would help with ventilation. I think I will try it and see what happens I have seen very small round ones and will check locally for one. I have the same box you have and I noticed that with even 5 chicks in the nest box it seemed very crowded and now very hot.
    So far this yr we have had 2 broods each with 4 fledgings and the first brood with a removed egg . I found an egg on the side of my house one morning and keep thinking that she may have taken it out of the nest box. The last fledging was on 6/23/2012 so I’m waiting for the chicks to show up at the feeder . I can see where the parents are taking the Mealy Worms So I know some have made it.
    I also made a bigger box and will see if they use that one or the old one where the fledgings were successful.
    Hope they renest but wait till it cools some, same here.

    Thanks for all the info.

  3. lindell dillon says:

    I see these manufactured bluebird boxes sitting in the open sun all over the bluebird range and I’ve got to believe that this same thing happens frequently. If they were nesting in a natural tree cavity, it would be partially shaded and much better insulated. Maybe someone like the NBA should come up with a better design.

  4. Wazeau says:

    Oh dear 😦 Well here’s hoping the next nestfull ends up differently.

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