Raising a clutch of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) is such an special moment, and no easy task.
Cavity nesting birds face many modern challenges such as invasive bird species to compete with (on top of competing with native cavity nesters. Habitat decline and development also pose a big risk to their survival.
I began my nest box journey in 2018 when I erected a nest box in my backyard. Early spring that year, Eastern Bluebirds were fortunately arriving to the nest box, however halfway through the year a stubborn male House Sparrow took over and made a very messy nest, Bird poop was all over the top and inside and bugs lived in it.
Late summer brought a male House Wren to this abandoned nest box as it sung on top. The wren never attracted a mate and gave up before the cold of winter came through.
Fast forward to early spring of 2019, and the process was starting to look the same.
Little did I know that success was beginning to be found..
I began to see the beautiful little azure birds again, a pair started to check out the box and set up shop.
The first clutch is typically Early April to mid-May. The second clutch is typically from mid-June to mid-July, and there may even be a third clutch in late summer during August.
So here is a day-to-day highlight of the best moments during their nest building, egg laying, and young raising all the way to fledgling. Enjoy!
Some of the photos above are of favorite perches they were seen on, including a nearby antenna, a shed, various fences and a bird feeder pole.
Early May: I’ve been seeing Eastern Bluebirds here and there checking out the nest box. Making sure the habitat is suitable. I have this nest box facing away from the sun and wind. The box is looking towards fairly open grasses in a suburban neighborhoods with no fences. I found it hard to believe but they enjoy this space as much as they would an open meadow or cropland. One of their favorite spots to perch and hunt is from an old antenna tower next door.
This is the time when bluebirds lay a second clutch.
Late May: A very clean cup nest is being made, similar in design to a bluebird nest.
June 7th: Two bluebird eggs are in the nest! I see the parents come and go with nesting material and guarding the nest box.
June 11th: Three more eggs were laid, making a total of five. A typical bluebird clutch is about five to seven.
June 22nd: Still the same five eggs, no hatches yet. Both the male and female hang around the nest box for most of the day. A nearby European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) was foraging along the ground underneath the nest box. The male flew from his perch and chased the nonnative bird away to a nearby crabapple tree. The male returned to the nest box top a moment later. Safe to say that most birds become very territorial when someone is near their eggs or young.
June 23rd: Eggs must’ve hatched this morning. The male Bluebird was bringing worms and other larvae to the nest box to feed the mouths as well as his partner. Feeding displays of the male and female are observed on top of the nest box.
Due to the sensitivity of the hatchlings, I avoided opening the nest box as much and stopped using flash to take a picture.
June 27th: Finally got a moment to carefully observe the hatchlings in the nest box. The parents still return frequently.
July 1st: The male bluebird is hunting and foraging basically all day as he returns to the nest box with worms and other larvae for the newborns.
July 3rd: The hatchlings are growing up fast. Should be ready to fledge soon.
July 7th: A single male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) floats/flies towards the nest box hole before winging out of the way. The five hatchlings chirp in unison for at least a minute afterwards.
July 8th: Four of the birds have fledged! Upon checking the nest box, one is left behind.
July 9th: The last bluebird fledges and the nest is now empty. Success!
This is why birds are so wonderful, so see their growth and progress truly embeds us as one and the same with them. Leave a comment down below if you enjoyed the article, and share any success (or failure) stories you’ve had with monitoring nest boxes.
If you are interested in supporting Bluebird conservation and all Ohio cavity nesters. I would recommend a donation or yearly membership to the Ohio Bluebird Society or North American Bluebird Society.
To submit your own sightings and reporting of nesting birds, please consider using Cornell Lab’s NestWatch website to log your data for citizen science.
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