A Bluebirds Nesting Timetable
Nest Building - 7 to 10 days grass, rootlets or pine needles or all three items
Egg Laying - One egg a day, mid-morning 5 to 7 days generally 4 to 5 eggs laid.
Incubation - 14 to 17 days depends on weather conditions
Hatch day as follows;
Day 1- Bright coral pink skin, eyes sealed downy feathers on head and body.
Day 2 to 4 - Wings, head, and spine look bluish due to developing feathers emerging under skin.
Day 5 to 7 – Feathers sheaths begin to emerge on wings, eyes still closed.
Day 7 – First feathers burst from tips of sheaths, eyes open as slits, brooding by female stops (cold weather conditions brooding may continue.)
Day 8 to 11 – Eyes fully open, feathers continue to burst out from sheaths.
Day 11 to 12 – Feathers on wings and tail reveal cobalt blue on males, duller gray-blue on females, female eastern bluebirds show white edging on outer tail feathers.
Day 13 – Cut-off date for nest box checks. Fully feathered young become increasingly active and may fledge prematurely if box is opened.
Day 14 to 22 – Fledglings first flight, Empty nest flattened and young remain in cover while parents bring food, being cared for by the parents outside the nest box they are now termed as Fledglings.
Day 28 – Fledglings fly strongly following parents who feed them for 2 to 3 weeks.
Day 30 – Fledglings feed unassisted, now termed as juvenile birds.
After maturing and molting into their true colors they become an adult bird.
Bluebirds can have up to 3 nesting’s a year. Even 4 have been reported.
448 Portman Rd
Butler, Pa. 16002
Personal Website ambassadorforthebluebirds.net
Using mono-filament fishing line to deter house sparrows by Joan Watroba editor of the Trails and Tales Newsletter of the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania. (click on download file below)
What I like about the end of the nesting season is watching the juvenile bluebirds grow. After following mom and dad around for about a month after fledging, they now defend for themselves. Still with that speckled feather look, “known to all thrushes” they really do look cute. As the feathers begin to grow and molting begins to take place, the colors of the bluebird begin to show.
Molting is an interesting process. Bluebird nestlings have a complete molt after nesting, molting into their basic plumage. Molting occurs in response to a mixture of hormonal changes brought about by growth and seasonal changes. The entire process is very complex. A feather is a "dead" structure, somewhat like hair or nails in humans. The hardness of a feather is caused by the formation of the protein called ( Keratin. ) Since feathers cannot heal themselves when damaged, they have to be completely replaced. The replacement of all or part of the feathers is called a molt. Molts produce feathers that match the age and sex of the bird, and sometimes the season. Damaged feathers are replaced during a molt. A feather that has been lost completely is replaced immediately.
Watching junior molt and grow gives me great satisfaction, especially knowing once his kind was at the brink of extinction. The gratification comes from being a landlord and experiencing the nesting process of these beautiful birds. Though the bluebird’s nesting season here in Pennsylvania is coming to a close, we landlords still can enjoy the bluebirds in watching Junior grow.
Sipping on a warm hazelnut coffee and enjoying the cool morning air of September, I noticed bluebirds flying into my backyard. More and more were arriving, soon there was a flock of bluebirds flying from tree to tree and darting to the ground forging for insects. They seem to be fighting over the nest box or maybe checking it over for the next nesting season. They acted as if they made claim on my backyard chasing away other birds that was intruding in their air space. Many small crickets and grasshoppers are on the ground this time of the year and the bluebirds were taking advantage of this easy food source. The bluebirds kept coming closer and closer to the patio where I was sitting and seeing so many bluebirds all at the same time was sheer joy. Early fall is when many birds flock together because there is safety in numbers, and the mature birds know how to locate food during the seasonal changes. By flocking together the juvenile bird’s survival increases and they continue to learn what nature has to offer and hopefully learn what skills are needed to survive.
All three species of bluebirds share some similar migration behaviors. They all migrate during the day and many join up with resident flocks of bluebirds to find food, water and roost sites. Fall migration seems to be determined by the shortening of daylight rather than weather. Food is still plentiful and weather conditions are still pleasant when they begin to depart. Weather can influence migration, however birds may linger for longer periods at foraging sites when the weather is mild. When weather turns inclement, it may cause them to move south at a faster pace. Its important to note that not all bluebirds go south for the winter, as long as there is food to be found some stay all winter long.
Seeing so many bluebirds together is an awesome site to behold. I hope you too will experience this migrating habit of bluebirds flocking together.
click to enlarge
How to monitor your bluebird nest box
Monitoring a bluebird nest box can be a quick process and doesn’t need to take longer than a minute or two. It’s imperative that you check on your nest box as least once a week to monitor the progress of your bluebird nest and address any problems. It’s important to remember that bluebirds are very accepting of human interaction and will never abandon a nest because of monitoring. However, it’s usually best to monitor a nest when the adult male and female are not inside. If you’re not sure if a bluebird is not inside the nest box, you can make a whistle or call to alert them to your presence. There are two primary functions of monitoring: checking for problems and hazards and recording the progress of your bluebird nest. For this reason, you’ll want to have a log forms to record things such as when bluebirds arrive, started building a nest, lay their eggs, how many eggs, hatch, how many fledged, predator problems and etc. You can download the necessary forms from the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania's website. These forms are easy to use and are self explanatory. Your recorded information is very useful to the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania. Visit the link on the right side column of this website.
Monitoring in early spring
In the onset of spring, before bluebirds arrive, you want to check and make sure your bluebird nest box is ready for the upcoming breeding season. Look for holes, cracks or other damage. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the size of the entrance hasn't been altered by other birds. Also make sure that wasps haven’t built a nest on the ceiling of your nest box, as their presence will prevent bluebirds from nesting. Lastly, install a predator guard to prevent climbing predators such as raccoons and snakes.
Bluebird courtship and nest building
Male bluebirds will arrive before females to establish territory. Their arrival dates depends on geography, as bluebirds arrive at warmer destinations earlier, but the general range is between mid-February and March in Pennsylvania. Once the male arrives, he will attempt to attract the female through a courtship songs, flight such as wing waving. This will often occur around the nest box. If the female likes the male and the nest box, she will begin building the nest immediately. Nest construction takes on average 4-5 days.
Monitoring egg laying
Eggs are laid in the morning, between 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 A.M., and you should avoid monitoring around this time. The female will lay an egg a day, sometimes missing a day if it’s cold or rainy. The number of eggs laid varies by bluebird species, but will usually be no more than eight and generally 4-5. The female will spend time away from the nest during the egg laying period, but if you do open the nest box while she is there, simply close the door gently and come back another time. Preferably the afternoon time may be a better time.
The female will not begin incubation until she has laid her last egg, after which the incubation period will last approximately 14 days. During this period, you should allow the female privacy. If it is a rainy season you may want to check the nest to see if it is dry. A wet nest poses danger to the eggs not hatching or the chicks perishing due to hypothermia. Here is when a Monitor comes in handy to replace the grass nest with a dry one. Carefully replace the eggs or nestlings into your dry cup nest and place into the nest box. Congratulations; you just saved bluebirds from perishing.
During the first few days after young birds are hatched, the father brings them food, while the mother continues to remain on top of the nest to keep the nestlings warm; this is called brooding. You may notice the adults departing the nest with a white blob in their bills. These are fecal sacs, which the adults remove from the nest to keep it clean. During the nestling stage, the most important function of monitoring is to ensure that the nestlings aren't attacked by predators. House sparrows, raccoons, cats and even snakes will all prey on newly-born bluebirds.This is why it is so important to make use of predator guards. If you find an injured bluebird, or a bluebird that needs assistance you can take it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation clinic found on this website's right column. ( A bluebird needs help) After approximately 20 days, the nestlings will become fledglings and leave the nest. If you make it to this stage, you will have successfully raised a new brood of bluebirds! Congratulations!! You are now a successful landlord Monitor to these once threaten species.
Dealing with nest parasites;
At least 2500 species of mites from 40 families are closely associated with birds, occupying all conceivable habitats in the nests and on the bodies of their hosts. No avian is free from a mite. Bird mites can be divided into those that dwell primarily in, or near, the nest and those that reside mainly on the body of the host. The best studied nest-dwelling mites are blood feeders from the genera Dermanyssus and Ornithonyssus (shown here is a micrograph of a female Ornithonyssus bursa, a common nest parasite of passerines. These mites have short generation times and can rapidly build-up huge populations. For example, half a million northern fowl mites have been extracted from a single nest. Blood-feeding nest mites can reduce the reproductive success of their hosts by slowing development or even killing chicks.
Blowfly Larva is a problem for all cavity nesting species.
Blow fly biology varies among the 1100 species and with environmental conditions so the following information is general.
Each female blow fly deposits thousands of eggs over her 2- to 8-week life span. Egg masses may consist of 1500 to 2,000 eggs, but the larger masses are usually the result of several females depositing eggs at the same location. Hatching usually occurs in less than 24 hours when conditions are warm and humid.The larvae feed by night and move downward into the nesting material during the day. This fascinating adaptation has, no doubt, evolved over many centuries of a close association of blowflies with cavity nesting birds. The larva avoids being eaten by the adult bird during the day, and feeds only after dark, when the helpless nestlings are easy prey. Blood is usually drawn from the feet or legs, often from between the toes. Depending on the temperature maggots usually complete development in 4 days. At the end of this period, larvae typically burrow in the nesting material and pupate for 5 to 7 days which the adult flies emerge. About a week later, females begin to deposit eggs and the life cycle is repeated. Blow flies usually develop from egg to adult in only 10 to 25 days and complete 4 to 8 generations each year.
Read more about the Blowfly at http://www.no-pest.com/Blowfly.htm
Small infestation will weaken the immune system of the nestlings. Large infestation will result in death of the nestlings shown above. This is another reason landlords should closely monitor their nest boxes. Do not be afraid to handle the nestlings and inspect them weekly especially during hot humid weather. If infested gently remove the larva from the nestlings, if necessary remove the nest and make another nest for the nestlings. Birds will not harm or leave their baby nestlings because you handle them. All song birds have a very poor sense of smell anyways.
There's a product I use to kill parasitic and blowfly larva that is not harmful to you or the nestlings. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth - Organic Crawling Insect Killer. With all the concerns about pesticides today - you can rest assured that Diatomaceous Earth is safe & effective. Made from the finely ground fossils of prehistoric fresh water diatoms. Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) kills common household and garden pests like roaches, ants, fleas, beetles and many others. It is a long lasting control — sprinkles easily into cracks and crevices where bugs hide and wipes them out!
When soft-bodied insects come in contact, D.E. causes massive loss of body fluids and death. When the dust is eaten by insects, the D.E. inhibits breathing, digestion and reproduction. Because it kills by mechanical action rather than poison, insects have not developed immunity. Apply the dust lightly in infested areas. You can find this product in most lawn and garden areas in your local stores.
Tip; Use a plastic mustard (pull up cap) bottle and squeeze a small amount of the power (D.E.) into the middle of the nest. It’s an easy way to control parasites and blowfly larva in the nest box. You can purchase this product most anywhere. For as little as $7.00 a 1.5lb box will last you a long time. I like it because its environmentally safe.
I have received many calls concerning the female bluebird found dead while incubating her eggs as a result of toxic wood preservative placed on the outside of nest boxes. When outside temperature increases harmful vapors built up inside the nest box and it will become lethal. You will never get those toxic vapors out of the wood. Song birds have underdevelopment olfactory glands which causes them to have a poor sense of smell, so therefore be careful what you place on your nestboxes. I recommend (Raw) linseed oil on nest boxes(which containing no additives) Find it at your nearest True Value Hardware Store. The raw linseed oil will be a little thick, so try to apply thin coats rubbing it into the wood with a rag on the outside only. Raw Linseed Oil cures very slowly (even weeks) but the end result is your using a non toxic wood preservative. Repeat the treatment periodically until the wood is well saturated. Pine wooden nest boxes treated in this way will last many years. Raw linseed oil reacts slowly with the oxygen in the air to form a tough hard material that does not vaporize and harm birds. The Fall season is a good time to apply this product because the nesting season is over.
Caution - Boiled Linseed - commonly used because it dries faster, but is not a good pollution prevention alternative due to the potential toxicity of the solvents, metals and fungicides that are usually added to make it dry faster. As a result, Bluebirders should be advised to use RAW linseed oil on nest boxes and to avoid Boiled or Thermalized forms. Be very careful when using JUST ANY wood sealers because they can be highly toxic to birds. A box treated with toxic preservatives in the fall will be lethal box in the summer. Raw linseed oil has no additives, and is safe to use. It is a clear to yellowish oil derived from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant. Just remember not to apply it on real thick, give each coat time to cure then rub it into the wood again during the fall season.
Caution; Linseed Oil on rags, cloth, and paper saturated with drying oils may combust spontaneously due to heat given off during the curing process. This is especially the case where oil-soaked materials are folded, bunched, compressed, or piled together, which allows the heat to accumulate and even accelerate the reaction. Precautions include: wetting the rags with water and spreading them to dry in a safe place away from direct sunlight.
551 S PIKE RD 239 GROVE CITY RD.
Sarver, Pa. 16055 Slippery Rock Pa. 16057
Remember to use RAW Linseed Oil on Nestboxes
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