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.
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.
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.
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.
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.