Backyard Bluebird Observation

Birds are unique, and their courtship it’s fascinating, especially with the bluebirds. To the best of his ability, the male will pick out a nesting site he feels his mate would prefer. If she accepts, she will begin to bring nesting materials. He showed her the owl box; at first, it seemed suitable for her, but she declined. Until he found the bluebird box, just over the fence, and she accepted, but unfortunately, a pair of chickadees had already claimed the box. Well, if the female wanted that box and she got it. See my previous post here: The Bird Box – Florida Nature (wordpress.com)

It was super neat to see all this happening. How he would flutter his wings and sing. I wondered how many other potential nesting sites he showed her before she finally accepted this one, just another curious question to add to my list.

My husband and I would check the birdbox a few times throughout the week to see if she laid eggs. Until one day, there were three blue-colored eggs. Within weeks they began to break out of their shells. The parents are in full feeding mode and I was in bluebird monitoring mode. 


I feel for these parents; it’s not like they can just run to the bird grocery store and pick up some insects. They literally have to go search for food. During this project, I wondered how long it took for the parents to find food and what insects are they bringing back. 

I started this project with two cameras. One camera with a 400mm lens for photos and the other with a 70-200mm lens secured on a tripod set to video about 10 feet from the birdbox. On the days I wasn’t working or had any plans, I was in our backyard. I am grateful the bluebirds didn’t seem to mind me hanging around. 

I had started to time when one of the birds left the box and when it returned with an insect. The longest time was 30 minutes, and the quickest turnaround was less than 5. 

Another part of my bluebird monitoring was documenting what the bluebirds were feeding their chicks.

  • Spiders
  • Grubs (I think)
  • Moths
  • Phyllomydas genus of mydas flies
  • Caterpillars
  • Roaches
  • Possibly Cicadas
  • Unknown- too squashed to determine identification.

Another pondering question, how do they keep the nest clean? Well, with eating, the chicks need to poop. Luckily for the parents, the chicks produce a type of birdie diaper, if you will. Yep, birdie diaper. The poop is encased within this mucous covering- a fecal sac, according to Audubon’s article written by Benji Jones. These fecal sacs help keep the nest clean and smell-free. 

Female Eastern Bluebird removing fecal sac from the nest.

The male is a great caretaker. He will help with gathering nesting materials, feed her during nesting, pass food to her to feed the chicks, feed the chicks, and be on diaper duty. 

I had taken thousands of photos, which I hope inspires you to learn more. As for video…hours and hours! Below are the selected and clipped videos of the Eastern Bluebirds for your enjoyment.



Conclusion

It’s April 25, 2022. It’s 9:30 am. I’m sitting in my chair in the backyard, watching the bluebird parents feeding their chicks. I remembered reading about how territorial the Eastern Bluebirds can be, and they are. A pair of chickadees were interested in another bluebird box I had placed in the backyard about 40 ft away, but the bluebirds were like- Nope, that’s not going to happen. So I did move that birdbox to the front of the house. 

But are bluebirds only territorial to certain species of birds? There is a pair of downy woodpeckers who began excavating their nest in the snag just 25 feet behind the birdbox. It was about the same time the bluebirds were building their nest, and there were no signs of conflict between the two. On another note, the bluebirds would perch on the same limb when the downy woodpeckers were previously excavating their nest and feeding their young. On the top of that limb, the bluebirds used to grossly, or sadly however you want to take it, bash the insects before feeding their chicks.

Eastern Bluebird with chick | Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Today, I see one chick that fledged clinging to the limb, completely frozen still for over 25 minutes. It must be waiting for guidance from its parents. I hear them talking back and forth. While I wait so tensely, I am thinking- actually talking aloud, it’s a birder thing, to this little fluff of feathers telling it- You have so much ahead of you. You will learn how to fly and fly swiftly, catch your own insects, and, when it’s time, begin a family of your own.

Its mother, holding an insect in her mouth, flew down and ensured its safety that everything was going OK. She flew off, and the chick followed. As the last one peeked its head out, chirping to its parents, “OK, I am going to do it, I am.” It finally gathered all of its courage and strength to fly away.

Be strong little ones, and may you fly fast and swift to live a long, happy and healthy life.

I have watched these bluebirds for seven weeks, and yes, I have learned so much about them. April 25 was the best day ever. I was able to see the last two chicks fledge. But it also was an extremely, very sad day. During the video recording, the camera positioning was off, so I didn’t get one chick being led by its parents to fly away and the camera battery died just minutes before the last chick fledged at 12:55 pm.

But that’s OK, honestly; who am I kidding. It’s frustrating, and I am sure all the nature photographers in the world know what I am feeling right now. (Insert dramatic scene here) But now, I know that I will be more prepared for the next nesting season. 

There is so much you can learn just by birding in your backyard. You can observe nesting cavities, birdboxes, and even bird feeders. You can get involved with projects at home like a project feeder watch or the great backyard bird count. These are great ways to learn about birds. 

For this being the first time creating a bluebird monitoring project, I see I have more information I would or should include for my next bluebird monitoring project. I’ll be ready.


Go ahead, take a spa day, you deserve it!

5 replies

  1. You are so wonderful photographer and beautifully written this bird’s story so inspiring 🌷🙏😊
    Last year 2 hamming birds made nest our corridor one palm tree’s branch , we also so happy
    to see , it’s make a lovely hanging nest and female laid 2 eggs and the 2 birds one by one sit
    and the eggs opened came two small birds, they bring food give the two big and flew away ,
    and the nest empty , last year I posted the photos in WordPress to view friends 👍🏻😊🌷
    Very interesting story I read from your post , so my experience with birds written here !!
    Thank you for sharing 🌷🙏♥️🌷

    Like

  2. What an outstanding project!

    Not only did you glean a ton of information, you had the privilege of observing a really beautiful bird go about the vital business of working toward the survival of its species. Incredible stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

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