Bluebirds every day

Eastern Bluebird father and child

Photo of an Eastern Bluebird dad feeding his fledgling kid.

I spotted this scene as I was walking past the sliding glass door this morning. Fortunately my camera was near at hand.

One reason I started this blog is because I know most people don’t get to see things like this every day. I share photos on Facebook and get many likes, comments and questions.

Eastern Bluebird fledgeling wants food

Another reason I started this blog is because my friends say: “You get so many birds in your yard, you’re so lucky!”

Let us go back in time, once upon a time, long ago in cold dark winter, before we had these bluebirds living in our backyard where we can see them every day. Maybe I can help change your luck…

In January I was snowshoeing in the marsh behind our house and I saw a flock of bluebirds feeding on the red berries of winterberry holly. I thought: so, they are around in winter! Why don’t they visit our feeders?

Feeder for bluebirds

A short Google search later, I had learned that Eastern Bluebirds do not eat the sunflower seeds we were putting out in tube feeders all winter and they cannot cling well to a suet feeder. Yes, Backyard Bird Feeding 101.

So I ordered a feeder that bluebirds can use. This is it. It works! It attracted not only bluebirds but other new birds as well.

(Click the pic and you can buy it on Amazon. If you do, I get 4% commission to keep me in bird feed. I will NEVER recommend or link to a product I have not already tried and liked.)

I served up some whole peanuts and dried mealworms from Agway and some peanut butter suet dough I ordered from Audubon Workshop. (Recipe to make your own dough is here on Sialis.org.) Four or five bluebirds – and other birds too! – began visiting right away.

Important note: We check and fill our feeders EVERY day, sometimes two or three times a day. They are in a convenient location and easy to see and be reminded. The birds can rely on the food source and they become accustomed to the people who feed them.

Gilbertson bluebird house

“Hello, honey, over here!” Mr. Bluebird picks out a home.

By early March, a pair of bluebirds had staked out their territory, helped along by our purchase and installation of a Gilbertson PVC Bluebird House from Amazon.

I had researched nest boxes starting at Sialis.org and settled on the Gilbertson type, which was recommended on a number of bird-friendly sites.

My husband bought the pole, a 5-foot, 1/2-inch piece of galvanized steel electrical conduit, at Home Depot. He pounded a 2-foot piece of rebar through two feet of snow and into the frozen ground then slipped the conduit over it, with a clamp on it so it wouldn’t spin around. The nest box slips right down on the pole.

(We also bought a heated birdbath. More on that later. But adding water to your backyard is a huge factor in attracting birds, and our bluebirds seem especially thirsty.)

Bluebird eggs

On Easter, April 20, we checked the nest box and found a clutch of five little eggs. Nice color!

It is easy to remove the bottom PVC portion from the wooden lid, with just a careful pinching together of the lightweight plastic sides to unhook them from the screws, to look inside. The bluebirds don’t seem to mind this, but we didn’t overdo it.

Bluebird

Food delivery for the hatchlings! Photo taken on May 7.

Lots of back and forth for a few weeks. They caught many fresh insects and worms, but definitely seemed to appreciate the ease of stopping at the feeder now and then.

baby bluebirds

May 7: Five bluebird babies in a cozy nest of pine needles (with a couple of chicken feathers underneath, we discovered later).

So unbelievably tiny.

bluebird butt

The parents were good about feeding the babies… up until the couple of days they fledged and left the nest, May 18 and 19.

Four of the five nestlings were ready to be fledglings. But there was a runt left in the nest, not developed enough to have grown all its flight feathers. After a day the parents stopped feeding it, while continuing to fly around feeding the others up in the trees.

I wasn’t sure whether I should intervene and when I finally did it was too late. So one baby bluebird was “buried” under a little moss blanket out in the woods.

fledgeling bluebird

Today was the first day I got a good look at the next generation, when this one followed its father to the feeders.

No wonder I have had trouble spotting them in the trees – they are not very blue yet. They are wearing their woodland camouflage.

female Eastern Bluebird

The female Eastern Bluebird perched on a feeder pole, near sunset.

Our backyard pair have tidied up their nest and are visiting the box again. I think they are getting ready to raise a second brood this season.

Have you had success with bluebirds? What worked for you?

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