Bzzzz July 11th, 2007

The two bluebird parents have been busy every waking hour feeding their young…

The nestlings are now 16 days old. I have stopped monitoring the box to avoid frightening them into fledging before they are ready. But I was finally able to get some photos of the parents at work.

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Male Bluebird

It takes just a few minutes of observation from a respectful distance on the garden bench to be rewarded by the sight of the bluebirds at work.

Often, they arrive from the hayfield in front of our house. They perch on the top of the house and observe the area before heading to a branch above the nest box.

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Female bluebird entering the house with a bug

Before entering the next box, the birds perch on a branch above the box and monitor the area for threats. Once they are satisfied that it is safe to enter, they move in, quickly feed their young and exit to find more food for their small charges.

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Female bluebird exiting the house–without the bug.

The birds only stay in the house for a matter of a few seconds before exiting.

The four nestlings in this box should be fledging in another two or three days. Wish me luck on getting photos of the new arrivals!

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Bzzzz July 6th, 2007

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After reading about the mite problems with her bluebirds this summer over at Julie Zickefoose’s blog, I made sure that I checked in on our bluebird family in box #4.

The four young are now eleven days old. After examining the box, under the nest and looking at the small birds and under their wings, they appear to be pest-free. I’ll be checking them for another couple of days, after which I will keep my distance so that I don’t frighten the young into fledging before they’re ready.

Many people ask me why I need to take such an active role in managing the bluebirds. I believe that Julie’s post graphically illustrates the importance of taking a role in ensuring that the birds are healthy. Blowfly larvae, mites and other pests can kill a small bird in a matter of days–even hours. Although many people think that handling a bird will mean that the parents will reject it, the fact is that birds have a poor sense of smell and will resume feeding and caring for their young as soon as the coast is clear. As in the case with Julie’s bluebirds, you can even replace an infested nest with one of your own making, if necessary, and the bluebirds will accept it.

We only have four nestlings in this family, but I’m hoping and praying that all four make it and return in future years to start their own families.

In other bird news, the house finch love triangle that I have previously reported is still in progress. The rejected female finch is a real fighter. I do worry that she is losing strength. I never see her eat. Just SQUAK SQUAK SQUAK.

I have been intrigued by this unusual behavior at our bird feeding station and did some research.

House finches are monogamous and breed between March and August. They can have as many as six clutches in a single breeding season. The odds are against them, as with the bluebirds. The experts say that no more than three of the six clutches are likely to result in fledglings.

The female builds the nests from grass, hair and other foraged fibers and usually locate them in brush or cavities in trees or buildings. After the females lay the eggs–usually three to six–she does all the incubation. The male helps feed the nestlings and keep the nest clean by eating the fecal sacs. The nestlings fledge between 12 and 19 days after hatching. After that, the male continues to help feed the young birds, at least until the female starts a new family.

After they become independent, young house finches flocks that congregate at food sources. They don’t breed until the next spring.

It’s a wonder to watch the travails of the wildlife here. I can tell you from observing the bluebirds, that being a bird is awfully difficult work. The male and female bluebirds are tireless in their hunt for bugs and worms to feed their young. They shuttle back and forth all day long from the field to the nesting box with their treats. They have become a familiar sight around the house and will be sorely missed once they pack their bags and head south for the winter.

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