Bluebird Follow-Up (News Both Happy and Sad)

Fledgling bluebirds wait in a maple tree for breakfast.

I wanted to provide a follow-up to the previous post about reinforcing our bluebird boxes against predators. After completing two installations, one at our house and one at Virginia’s, it wasn’t long before we had a growing family in each set-up. Things were going great at both locations until tragedy struck at our place. About a week before the nestlings fledged, a time when they were most voracious, our male bluebird struck a window near his favorite perch on our deck railing, most likely in an attempt to escape an attack from our local sharp-shinned hawk. Joyce found him under a rocking chair in perfect condition but unfortunately expired. On that morning, the mama bird’s workload instantly doubled as she proceeded to take up the slack of her departed companion.

A couple mornings later as I sat with coffee, watching mama taking worms and other morsels to the nestbox nonstop, I noticed a beautiful male following her around, perching nearby while she toiled for her burgeoning brood. Every time the female made a move, the male flapped one of its wings to get her attention to no avail. She was much too busy to give the little fella the time of day.

As another week progressed, I did some research and learned that after the young leave the nest, the male bluebird takes over the duties of caring for them while the female prepares for another brood. It was obvious that the new male was not going to act as a stepfather so I began to worry that the nestlings would be in dire straits after they fledged. I learned that my best chance at success was to remove the box as soon as the young fledged. This would discourage the female from focusing her energy on starting a new brood.

One morning I found the box empty with no signs of depredation so I knew it was go-time; the four nestlings had fledged! As with previous years, there was no sign of the babies but I watched as the female caught bugs and worms and carried them deep into the sycamore tree in our front yard. Meanwhile, the new male sat around looking pretty, mostly on our cistern head, taking a moment to flap his right wing when the female landed nearby to grab a worm. I didn’t waste any time taking the box down before the female got any ideas.

A little more than a week went by with no sign of the young but the mama bird was still catching far more food than she needed to feed herself. Finally, this morning I watched her go up into the maple tree in the middle of our front yard and just as she landed on a branch I saw a telltale wing flicker of a baby begging for food. I grabbed my binoculars and saw all four babies huddled together on a branch. A few minutes later I watched them fly around to various perches waiting for mama to bring them more treats. I finally breathed a sigh of relief, long overdue since the death of papa bluebird almost two weeks earlier.

Meanwhile down at Virginia’s house, her five babies fledged as well and have been well-hidden in her two walnut trees. She reports that the male has been hard at work taking food up into the canopy but she never sees the fledglings. Her mama bird hasn’t started a new nest so she might be finished for the summer. Of course she is helping with the feeding as well.

I don’t know if taking down the box really made a difference in the survival of our bluebirds. Maybe the mama bluebird knew instinctively that she would have to assume the duties of the deceased male. Or maybe she was finished nesting for the summer and her focus would have remained on the current brood, box or no box. Either way, the four fledglings are off to a good start!

Maybe next summer the hard-working mama bluebird will return and meet up again with the randy male who has been calling our place home since the death of the first male. Who knows? I’m just glad our bluebird saga for 2020 had a happy ending. I say ending because I don’t think I’ll put the house back up for the rest of this season. Mama bluebird deserves a rest.

Happy Naturing,

DB

Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery:  Danny’s Website

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.

16 comments on “Bluebird Follow-Up (News Both Happy and Sad)”

  1. That’s beautiful Danny. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing your keen observations.

  3. Love this, Danny! Thanks for being so caring and watching over the bluebirds of Missouri!

  4. Hi Danny, I enjoyed your post and sorry to hear about the male Bluebird! But it seems the Bluebirds were able to presevere!

  5. Love this report on your blue birds. You and Joyce should write a book about this adventure with the blue birds.Sent via the Samsung Galaxy A10e, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

  6. Thank you for the update. I agree mama needs a vacation!

  7. Thank you for the fledgling’s picture, Danny. There are too few pictures of juveniles available.

  8. Thanks for this picture, Danny. I have spent a lot of my COVID time studying the birds around my home, and watching for evidence of nesting and feeding young. I have lots of resource material, but even so it remains difficult to get much info about young birds, and there is especially a lack of photos. I have acquired both volumes of Pyle, and it is helpful of course, but really understanding Pyle is a job in itself.

    We have had a male and a female bluebird visiting our feeders since early this year, so I have hoped to recognize young if/when they appeared at our feeders. Your picture helps. Please post more pictures of juveniles!

    Best wishes, Mary Parks

    >


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