Eastern Bluebirds hatched!

We are a bit behind, but here are the updates of the Eastern Bluebird chicks, hatched and being cared for by their mother!



Bluebird Nestbox Invaded

Well, this is a hard story to tell, folks. Our reader friend, Nancy, wrote that the Eastern Bluebirds in her yard had laid a second set of eggs.

Eastern Bluebird female

Eastern Bluebird hatchlings 1-2 days old

They hatched, but twelve days later the parent birds were forced to abandon the nestlings.

Note: Nancy began documenting this local bluebird nesting and shared it with The Squirrel Nutwork in April. Search ‘bluebird’ if you wish to see the older posts!

First, we are pleased to say the fledglings from the first nesting  had continued to stay with the parent bluebirds, and were helping to feed the second set of hatchlings.

Eastern Bluebird with juvenile

Eastern Bluebird juveniles

Nancy reported it was wonderful to see all three return.

Eastern Bluebirds juveniles

Then one evening a raccoon tried to get into the nest box…

Raccoon stalking bluebird nest box

…including climbing the nearby fence. Lucky for the bluebirds, he got stuck and gave up.

Raccoon on a fence

But the next day, a House Sparrow was spotted entering the nest box. You readers may remember that the House Sparrow entered the nest box after the first set of fledglings left.

House Sparrow invading bluebird nest

These aggressive–and non-native!–birds must have been harassing the bluebirds all along. Despite the help from another male bluebird and the three juveniles, the female was looking thin and worn out the day the raccoon appeared.

Eastern Bluebird female thin and worn

All of the bluebirds disappeared, leaving the 12 day old nestlings.

Eastern Bluebird hatchlings 12 days old_1

Nancy and her family tried to feed them.

Feeding bluebird hatchlings

Mealworms, egg whites and soaked dog food were recommended by the Wildlife Rescue League–but with work, these humans couldn’t feed the same amount of food that six birds could, and the nestlings didn’t make it. Nancy and her family were quite upset when they wrote us.

As soon as the nest box was empty, a House Wren tried to use it, and in fact, was rather insistent!

Carolina Wren trying to use bluebird nest box_1

The solution has been to leave it open to discourage the other birds.

Bluebird nest box open

Unfortunately, this nature story isn’t unusual. Even with this much help from humans, wildlife have a tough time of it. The competition for food and nesting sites is fierce. The more docile songbirds like the Eastern Bluebirds can’t compete with critters who are more aggressive.

Nancy wrote us that even with the loss of the second hatchlings, the positive part of having the nest box in their yard was the success of the parent birds raising the first three chicks through to being able to fend for themselves. They will go on to raise families of their own next year.

Young Bluebirds

The Eastern Bluebird fledglings have continued to return to our reader friend Nancy’s yard. But then, why wouldn’t they–she’s feeding them dried mealworms!

Eastern Bluebird fledgling

Eastern Bluebird fledgling &

Eastern Bluebird fledgling

Eastern Bluebird fledgling

Amazing to see them growing up! The bluebird pair are incubating their second set of eggs.

Eastern Bluebird eggs

That’s one cushy looking nest. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!

Eastern Bluebird fledgling

The fledgling Eastern Bluebirds returned with their parents to our reader friend’s yard. Here are the photos she’s sent of them feeding!

Eastern Bluebird and flegdling

Eastern Bluebird gathering mealworms

The human reader have put out mealworms for the bluebirds. The parents have been regularly collecting them.

Eastern Bluebird feeding fledgling

Eastern Bluebird fledgling

Those little spotted birds are something to see, aren’t they?

They left the box!

That was our note from our reader friend Nancy who has been keeping The Squirrel Nutwork up-to-date on the Eastern Bluebird family in her yard. One day the fledglings were there and the next they weren’t.

vacated bluebird nest

You may have noticed in our last bluebird update that the fledglings had feathers and spots–it sure doesn’t take long to test those wings!

The bluebirds will not return to the nest once they have left, so Nancy removed the old nest material. Like many songbirds, the parents will nest again soon and raise a second brood before summer’s end.

Eastern Bluebird nest

They will collect grass again and rebuild–it seems the act of nest building is part of their whole courtship process, something squirrels don’t understand. Build a nest once and keep it repaired! That’s enough.

They would have built again right over the old nest, but that can put the eggs and nestlings too close to the hole–and the hands of hungry raccoons. If you’re keeping a box, please clean it out! Also, you might discourage House Sparrows from nesting  in it.

This aggressive, non-native bird loves a good nest box. And they don’t need them, their numbers are high enough already!

nest box with House Sparrow on top of it Nest box with House Sparrow in it

Thank you to all you human readers monitoring Bluebird Boxes! It’s more than putting them up!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

As we said earlier this week, the bird feeders are seeing some action.

Mystery #152

Recognize this fellow? Give us a guess who he is in the comments.

I–your mystery host, Hickory–will check back later!


We had a correct guess today! The Indigo Buntings have made their annual migration north to our area–in fact, to all of eastern North America–for the summer. They do eat mainly insects in the summer, but with a big bill like that you know they also eat seeds, so can be found hanging out at your feeder–especially if you put out thistle seeds!

Here in eastern North America, we have a few birds that are blue: Indigo Bunting and Eastern Bluebird are about the same size–the size of a House Sparrow. Two larger birds are the Blue Grosbeak–also almost all blue–and the Blue Jay, which is a lighter gray and blue.

Some of you humans might have guessed Eastern Bluebird, so here’s a male Eastern Bluebird for comparison:

Eastern Bluebird male

I usually post another photo of the mystery, so please don’t get confused. This is not the Indigo Bunting! To tell it’s a bluebird, look for the red belly. He also has a thinner bill.

Like the male bluebird, the male Indigo Bunting is bright blue–but on both the back and the belly. The female Indigo Bunting is much harder to spot because she is brown and similar to a House Sparrow. This helps her hide on a nest. We’ll let you humans check The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Indigo Bunting page for more photos to help tell these birds apart.

It’s fun to spot a different bird, but unlike flowers, they don’t stay still. Your eye has to go to the body parts to help identify them before they fly off!

A Bluebird Update

Our reader friend Nancy has sent us an update on the Eastern Bluebirds making their home in her suburban Virginia yard.

Eastern Bluebirds

The parent birds have been dutifully hunting insects. But while they were away one afternoon, a Gray Catbird took to hanging out on the nest box…

Gray Catbird

…prompting our concerned human friend to have a look inside.

hatchling Eastern Bluebirds in nest box

The hatchlings were all accounted for. Thank you, Nancy, for the pictorial update!