Welcome Any Time: Bluebirds

In many cultures, the bluebird is a symbol of happiness and prosperity. In my experience they have been welcome and frequent visitors in my life. When I moved to rural Western Kentucky in 1985, the bluebirds were already there on the farmstead waiting for me. Initially I grew birdhouse gourds and made gourd houses for them, which they readily accepted. But the gourds were hard to monitor and clean out, and didn’t last long out in the elements.

Then I started making houses for them from cedar lumber, following North American Bluebird Society recommendations. I gave the houses to neighbors and friends far and wide. When I sold the farm in 2007, I left the new owners a book on bluebirds as well as several mounted houses. Then I moved across the river to Indiana to reclaim my Hoosier citizenship, and for the first time in 22 years I was without bluebirds. But not for long.

I’ve posted a bit in the past about bluebirds we’ve seen here at Happy Acres. They’ve visited here several times, checking out the accommodations, but never decided to settle in and raise a family. Until now, that is.

house wren nest in 2010 (click on any photo to enlarge)

Last year in May when I opened the wooden nest box I saw a house wren nest with eggs. The wrens raised one brood of young, and I cleaned the box out for the next occupants. Earlier this week I opened the box to check on it, and was surprised to find a fully formed bluebird nest with 6 blue eggs in it! While I was checking out the box, the male and female bluebird were checking me out.

Bluebird nest of grasses and moss

Normally an Eastern Bluebird nest is made of 100% fine grasses, or a mix of grasses and pine needles. This one is a mix of grasses and some green mossy material. That’s an interesting choice, since pine needles were available around our blueberries and azaleas. This pair obviously had other ideas on how to build a nest!

 

Bluebird nest with six blue eggs

I can’t believe I didn’t see the bluebirds before now. They had to build the nest, making a lot of trips in and out of the box, then it took probably 5 or 6 days for the female to lay the eggs. Normally the female doesn’t start incubating the eggs until the last one is laid, so that they all hatch at more or less the same time. The incubation period is usually 12 to 14 days.

I’ll try and check the box a few times each week to see when the babies hatch. I’ll wait for a warm day, because the female will be sitting on the nest a lot when it’s cold outside.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to have bluebirds back in my life again. I look forward to posting more about their progress. So far they’ve been camera shy, but hopefully they won’t mind the paparazzi trying to get some photos of them and the family!

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3 Responses to Welcome Any Time: Bluebirds

  1. Robin says:

    How exciting! You probablu didin’t notice them because you have been a little busy with the garden 🙂

  2. Daphne Gould says:

    I’ve never seen a bluebird in any of my yards ever. But a wren might be nice. I hear they are insect eaters and chase other birds away from the area. My greens would be safe in the spring. This year I’m a bit worried about the birds. They are vicious. The birds at my old house pretty much left my garden alone. Yes a cosmos or two would get uprooted every spring, but not much more. Here my neighbor throws out bread for them every day. We have a flock of European sparrows that are like locusts. Last year I had to protect my lettuce. So far this year I’ve seen only a few (eating my kale), but the flock builds over the year.

    • Villager says:

      I usually have to cover seedlings in fall so the birds can’t get to them, but in spring they seem to leave them alone. The bluebirds are insect eaters too, but not aggressive enough to chase other birds away. That’s one reason for their decline, because imported sparrows and starlings are much more aggressive and compete for nesting sites. This is ideal bluebird habitat, with plenty of open spaces.

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