A bluebird tragedy

bluebirds 024A tragedy struck out of the blue late yesterday afternoon.  I walked into the kitchen and through the partially closed plantation shutters I saw a roadrunner on the patio aggressively banging a bird on the concrete.  I assumed it was probably a sparrow and ran to grab my camera.  When I returned the roadrunner was running up the hill with the body of Daddy Bluebird.

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes, thinking maybe I didn’t get a good look and it wasn’t really Daddy.  But the blue feathers scattered on the patio left no doubt.  Greater Roadrunners are skilled and aggressive predators, but the thought of one catching one of the bluebirds was not on my radar.  The bluebirds spend no time on the ground except to dive and catch a bug.  I still can’t believe that this happened.  What tragically bad luck for our hapless backyard bluebird.

Evidently Mama witnessed the event because she was very nervous and upset, calling 9007010170_f9c7c8a98a_oincessantly for her mate.  But after a half-hour, her maternal instincts kicked in and she went back to work catching bugs to feed her three chicks in the box.  Life in nature is tough and perseveres through good times and tough.  As a naturalist and a conservationist I realize that one must concentrate on the well being of the species and not get focused on individual birds or black swan events.  But as the host of this beautiful bird for several years, it hurts.  Daddy was much more bonded to me than Mama.  He would  chatter and wingwave to me.  Knew me from other individuals.  That’s a friend, even if he was a bird.

In my last post, I concluded with the statement that I hoped we fledged these chicks with no drama.  Little did I know.  Hosting bluebirds is gratifying and entertaining, but it is often filled with drama because it is a slice of nature.  These are wild birds, although a bit pampered.  Life in nature can be harsh and all species have predators and suffer tragedies and premature death.  Most of the time it just goes unnoticed and unchronicled by a human.

We will regroup this morning and get on with rearing the babies.  I’ll get some mealworms and provide a lot of them so Mama won’t have to hunt so hard to provide bugs for the chicks.   This is her first season here, so she is not as bonded to this site as Daddy was.  Hopefully she enjoys her house with the bright blue bird bath in the shade right next door and will find another mate and stay on.

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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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.
This entry was posted in Birding, Bluebirds, Nature, nature photography, Oklahoma, photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A bluebird tragedy

  1. Isabella Jones says:

    Heartbreaking. Our beautiful bluebirds do bond to us I understand your feeling of loss. Mana lucky to have your support now let’s get those little ones fledged Thsnk yiu for your blog and beautiful images. Isabella

  2. Mary Mason says:

    Lindell, I so much enjoy your posts. This is not only entertaining, it’s educational even when it’s heartbreaking news. These tragedies are very hard to deal with when we all put so much into bluebird success. I’m sorry this happened. I don’t know very much about road runners, I’m from Michigan. He sure must have been quick to get him on the ground like that! We have native predators, like raccoons or hawks that can take one of our beloved blues too and then of course the non-native House Sparrows. They are in a different category in my opinion. In North America there is nothing native or natural about them and they are a real problem around my area in Michigan.
    I’m hopeful for you that Mama blue and her babies will be fine. Bluebirds will just keep being bluebirds and she will appreciate your extra help with mealworms! Your yard is her home. This is what we love about them after all. Keep us posted.

  3. Tim Wilson says:

    I would like to extend my condolences for your loss.

  4. Margaret says:

    Lindell, I’m so very sorry about this dreadful event. My stomach lurched when I read your opening lines. We can all be as academic as we like, but when a well-known and well-loved creature meets such a brutal end, then yes, it’s absolutely normal to grieve. Anything less would be denying our humanness. You’ve lost a beloved part of your life. His mate is now rearing a brood on her own. Life goes on, but it’s okay to mourn his absence.

  5. Pamela Colander says:

    Unbelieveable. Just when I think things are going well with our bird boxes, something will happen. We have fledged two broods here at Bluebird Hollow so far, one brood each from two pairs. Waiting to see if there will be re-nesting from either. What a crazy turn of events for your bluebirds 😦 I wanted to cry and did NOT want to read your post when I saw the title. I am sorry you lost your great avain friend. I can imagine your shock as soon as reality hit. Life will go on at Bluebird Hill.

    • lindell dillon says:

      Thanks, Pam. I feel sorry for Mama III. The pair was inseparable. Always together and communicating back and forth.

  6. Lindell, I loved Margaret’s post of sympathy for your loss. She stated herself so well. I second that post. Sincerely, Sheila Hoover

  7. Elizabeth Allen says:

    Oh nooooooo……. It made me tearful 😥 You’ve brought them to life for all of us! So very sad to hear this – why couldn’t it choose a sparrow??? Oh goodness! Being a landlord to Bluebirds, I’ve discovered, is very stressful! Yes it is nature at work but I have fallen in love with these amazing, gentle birds. Yesterday they started framing the new house next door so I called the company to request that they halt construction till Monday, our babies are about 16 days old today. The company wanted to help, said they couldn’t or the timber could be ruined. These parent birds were agitated but grew bolder and fed the babies. Still feeding this evening. Such dedicated hard working parents! Thanks for helping Mama Bluebird- she’s lucky she has you! I coated some dried mealworms in calcium carbonate powder and fed them late spring but it just brought hordes of Starlings so I stopped. With 2 parents I haven’t provided anything. Keep us posted!

  8. Judy says:

    Just discovered your diary while looking for answers. I have four baby bluebirds almost ready to fledge, but yesterday the mother bird became MIA. Daddy bird is very heroic in carrying on. Late this afternoon it seems he’s around but not feeding quite so much. Should I get some mealworms and try to put them through the door to keep them going? Friday, 7-15, would be day 17. I’m located in (hot) Decatur, GA.

    • Elizabeth Allen says:

      Oh shame Judy, so sorry to hear Mommy Blue is MIA 😦 I’m not experienced enough to give you advice – a good question – and look forward to hearing Lindell’s advice in such a situation.

  9. lindell dillon says:

    Mama remembers the worm feeder. Came to it as soon as I walked away. After some time to reflect, I wonder if Daddy didn’t dive at the roadrunner and maybe was plucked out of the air. He was very protective of the babies.

    • Elizabeth Allen says:

      Dillon, hope you’re feeling a bit better after losing your special Papa Bluebird- my seventeen year old cockatiel died a few weeks ago so I can relate, it’s heartbreaking! Glad she remembers the worm feeder, your intervention to help her will make a world of difference to her. Animals are amazing, they have feelings too. You’re probably right about the incident, the Bluebirds are hardly ever on the ground so it didn’t make sense. I just got home and the noisy construction workers have thankfully gone home so I see the male BB on the fence, don’t know if his 17 day old babies fledged or not. Thanks so much for sharing all this with us Dillon xox

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