Empty Nesters

Pretty much right on schedule, the bluebirds have left their nest box. No longer babies, they are out and about in the wild and dangerous world. My wife and I were fortunate to see the last one leave, though we didn’t realize it was the last one until a few hours later. About 10 am today I saw one bird half in, half out of the box opening, and ran to get my camera. Just as I got back with it, but before I could remove the lens cover, bluebird #5 took its first hesitant flight.

It managed to stay in the air for a few seconds, enough time to travel to the base of the nearby mulberry tree. I tried to sneak over there with the camera to shoot a few photos, but the watchful parents were right on top of the situation. Even though I wasn’t all that close to the bird (I was using a telephoto lens), they both began swooping at me from every direction. I quickly took advantage of my photo op and then left the scene ASAP.

 

this bluebird had just fledged the nest (click on any image to enlarge)

Young bluebirds of both sexes have a speckled breast, much like an American Robin. That’s not surprising, since bluebirds and robins are both members of the Thrush family. Thrushes generally have large eyes, and eat mostly insects and worms along with berries and fruits.

Since I wasn’t sure if any birds remained in the nest box, I watched to see if the parents were still making feeding trips there. After several hours with no visits, I decided we had seen the last one fledge. Examination of the box revealed an empty nest, flattened and a bit soiled. The parents do a great job of keeping the nest clean in the beginning, but by the end it’s a lost cause. I removed the nest, cleaned out the box, and returned it to the mounting pole.

 

bluebird nest after all have fledged

In a sad note, it appears one of the young bluebirds didn’t survive outside very long. A short time later I found a pile of bluish feathers under the mulberry tree, about 25 feet from the nest box. My heart sank quickly – there was no mistaking it, they were bluebird feathers.

 

bluebird feathers

I am now guessing the birds started fledging sometime late yesterday, or else very early this morning, though they all usually leave the nest within hours of each other. One of them fell to the ground, where a predator was no doubt waiting. Feral cats are hard on songbirds, but they aren’t the only predators. Given that the ground there is littered with mulberries, it could also have been a raccoon or an opossum. We’ll never know for sure.

 

looks like a bluebird feather to me

The parents will be busy now trying to feed the young birds until they are able to hunt on their own. It is still early enough in the year for them to start another nest, but since this is the second nesting effort already it remains to be seen if that will happen.

We surely have enjoyed watching the bluebirds this year, and I hope everyone else has enjoyed reading about them. You can bet I’ll be back with any news on them if it develops.

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7 Responses to Empty Nesters

  1. Mimzy says:

    Congratulations on the babies! I hope I’m around when my second clutch of 5 eggs (I mean 5 baby Bluebirds) fledge. Today the babies from the first clutch were out and about and the parents were busy feeding the 5 babes.

    • Villager says:

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that ours will go for another round of eggs!

      • Mimzy says:

        Last years mine had three on round three. I think we’ll both get a third clutch!! There is lots of time left this summer.
        I also just made some Garlic Scape Pesto, it was nearly dark when I picked them, it’s all finished and in the freezer.

  2. LynnS says:

    This has been interesting to follow along and seeing the fledgling is great. With all the Bluebirds that nest here, I’ve never spotted one and surely never tracked them as you and Lynda have. They’re one of our favorite birds and it sounds like they’re one of your favs, too.

  3. johanna says:

    Thanks for sharing the cycle with us.

  4. GrafixMuse says:

    I had a robin couple make a nest in the window box of my bedroom window. I loved to be able to peer out the window and watch their progress each day. Then one day, only one remained. I was able to watch this last one gain courage and fly out of the nest while his parents urged him on.

    Thank you for sharing this adventure. I am happy that you were able to watch one of your bluebirds take its first flight, but so sorry for the little one who didn’t make it. Nature can be cruel sometimes.

  5. Oh, I’m so happy for you that you caught site of bluebird #5 taking off! It’s been so fun keeping up with them through your posts and pictures.

    Sorry to hear that one didn’t make it. GrafixMuse said it best about nature being cruel. I’m glad there were 4 other babies who seem, we hope, to have made it out into the big world. What happens next? Will they stick around? How long will the parents stay near them? I hope you’ll see them again soon!

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