Donald Park Blue Bird Trail Watch

 

Photo by Tricia Hagen

Female bluebird on nest in bluebird nesting box.

 

 

Bluebird Trail Watch

and Fun Facts

 

Learn about --

The Eastern Bluebirds nesting in Donald Park

The bluebird's life cycle

Nesting boxes

Follow the success and struggles of eastern bluebirds through a nesting season.

 

Bluebird box

 

Never disrupt a nesting box, it will scare away adults and harm the nestlings.

 

Donald Park Bluebird Trail

 

 

 

 

2012 Nest Activity

 

THERE ARE 26 NESTING BOXES AT DONALD PARK

 

NESTSTING ATTEMPTS - 37
EGGS - 162
BABIES HATCHED - 131
FLEDGED - 121
SUCCESFUL NESTS - 31

 

Most succesful year yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jeri Webster

bluebird

Male bluebird in early spring.

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Photo by Jeri Webster

Bluebird box

 

Never disrupt an active nesting box, it will scare away adults and harm the nestlings.

 

You can watch from a distance with binoculars. If you are quiet and patient you will see the birds flying and feeding.

 

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Photo by Tricia hagen

bluebird eggs

Eastern Bluebird eggs in nest.

 

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Photo by Tricia Hagen

white bluebird eggs

White bluebird eggs!!

 

 

Photo by Jeri Webster

swallow on nest obx

Swallows nesting in bluebird nesting box.

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Photo by Tricia Hagen

baby bluebirds

Baby bluebirds born approx. April 30, 2010.

 

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Photo by Tricia Hagen

baby bluebirds

Approx. 1 week old baby bluebirds with downy feathers.

 

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Photo by Jeri Webster

baby blue bird

Fledgling not quite ready to fly, still has quite a bit of its egg beak - yellow on the sides.

 

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Photo by Jeri Webster

wren nest

Wren nest in bluebird nest box. Made of loose twigs and white silky spider egg sacs. Lined with soft grasses.

 

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Photo by Jeri Webster

baby bluebirds

Newly hatched baby bluebirds in nest.

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Photo by Tricia hagen

female blue bird

Fledgling in nest getting ready to fly.

 

 

Photo by Jeri Webster

baby blue birds

Four fledglings waiting to fly.

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Photo by Jeri Webster

baby blue birds

Blue Bird hatchlings and unhatched egg.

 

 

 

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Photos by Jeri Webster

baby wren

Baby Wrens

 

wren

Wren Fledgling

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Photo by Jeri Webster

male bluebird

Male bluebird perched, hunting bugs to feed his young.

 

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Photo by Jeri Webster

baby bluebirds

Blue Bird hatchlings, from second brood, ready to fly.

 

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Photo by Jeri Webster

Bluebird nesting box fall

Prairie in fall -- bring your binoculars and watch the blue birds soaring around the prairie with their new families.

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A Sample of Activity,

On a Bluebird Trail, During a Summer Nesting Season.

by Jack Saltes, Tricia Hagen and Jeri Webster

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3-15-2010

I saw the first pair (male and female) of returning bluebirds on Monday morning, 3/15/10.

The birds are now looking for food and focusing on staying fed. They will also begin to pair up. As the weather warms more consistently, they will look for nest sites (boxes) and begin to prepare nests for raising their young. Usually, the first nests will be built in early April, depending on the weather.

Jack

 

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4-11-2010

Of the eighteen boxes, ten have different stages of nesting activity occuring (56%). The bluebirds are certainly off to a fast start.

Above average temperatures in late March and early April have contributed to early nesting activity of the park bluebirds.

With the mild, warm temperatures over the last few weeks, bluebird nesting activity has begun, much earlier than past years. In fact, the first bluebird egg of the season was observed in a box during monitoring on April 11. This is the earliest eggs have ever been observed, in any boxes, in the past several years.


Weather though is always a big factor in early bluebird nesting success. Any cold weather, especially at night, over the next month, will certainly put bluebird eggs, and especially babies, at risk. If the weather remains relatively mild, even seasonal, nesting success of the first broods of the season will be good.

Nest boxes that are not vented or where the open venting is insulated at this time of years helps to retain heat and helps nesting babies.

 

 

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4-18-2010

 

There has been alot of bluebird activity in the past week. Eight boxes now have full complete nests and eggs are already being laid in a few of them. One nest had 5 eggs and another nest had 2 eggs. We are hopeful that all full nests will have eggs by next Sunday. This is the earliest start to nest building and egg-laying in the several years of monitoring bluebirds in the park. Cold temperatures in the early spring, when the babies first hatch and are featherless, is a very vulnerable time for them. We are hopeful for continuing warm spring temperatures. Quite the bluebird start!

 

 

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4-25-2010

There have been many bluebird eggs laid in the past week,15! Most nests have a clutch of five eggs.

 

One nest had four white eggs. Bluebird eggs are light blue and rarely white. White bluebird eggs occasionally do occur, as observed in one box this week. Female bluebirds sit on the eggs incubating them for a period of 13-14 days. The first babies should start to hatch within two weeks. Hopefully, we will see more nests and eggs during this time too.

 

 

 

Two of the nesting boxes are being used by swallows. Sometimes there is competition for the nesting boxes. Occasionally, you will see the birds perched on top of the boxes or near by them, staking out their territory.

 

 

 

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5-2-2010

 

The bluebirds have been busy! More boxes are being used by bluebirds who constructed more nests during this week. The high nesting activity reflects the increased population of bluebirds in the park. Enjoy seeing them on your hikes in open areas of Donald Park.

The first babies hatched in one of the boxes and this is the earliest hatch of bluebirds, in the park, since the trail was started several years ago. Baby bluebirds are fed a high nutritional diet of insect larvae and insects, by both parents, for 16-22 days at which time the babies will grow big enough to fledge (leave the nest boxes). Insects not only have a high nutritional value they also provide water for the babies.

 

 

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5-9-2010

Again this week, more nests have been built and more eggs have been laid. Another nest of eggs hatched as well. We had concerns, about the babies that hatched the week before, might have been lost to the cold nights we've had this past week. Happily the babies have grown and are doing well! A photo of them is included. They have grown and have downy feathers now.

With so many eggs, many more babies will be hatching over the next two weeks. We hope seasonal weather and temperatures return soon for the growth and survival of these first bluebird broods. The bluebirds will be off to a great start if they do.

 

 

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5-23-2010

The first five baby bluebirds of the year fledged this past week. We should see alot more babies over the next few weeks, as many of the twenty-six eggs left finish hatching. There have been some egg losses in a few of the boxes. Despite the nesting failures in these boxes, the bluebirds seem to have moved to nearby boxes to try again.

 

 

 

 

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5-30-10

Seven more babies fledged this week bringing the total to twelve for the season. In just one week, one box had a new nest and three eggs. Wasting no time, the bluebirds built their second nest. Four days later they began laying eggs.

Some of the nests/eggs suffered egg losses due to wrens. Pugnacious wrens can be very territorial and aggressive. After bluebird eggs are laid, a wren may poke holes in the eggs, remove them and begin building their own nest. Having bluebird nesting boxes at least 200 feet away from woodlands, prime wren habitat, would be helpful to discourage wren competition. Wrens are the primary competitors for bluebird nest boxes in the park. Many boxes certainly will be moved further away from woodlands once the upland site is restored to prairie as part of the dredging project.

 

 

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6-6-10

Many of the eggs have hatched in the past week: twenty-four babies! Despite the heat and rains over the past week, all the babies seem to be doing well. If they all fledge, it will be a great start given these are the first broods. Bluebirds usually have two broods during the season. If you are hiking the park, you'll be certain to see many bluebirds in the weeks ahead.

 

 

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6-16-10

Many baby bluebirds fledged in the past ten days bringing the total fledged, for this year in the Park, to 28! The five babies left are big and will soon fledge too.

After the baby bluebird fledge, we clean out the flattened nests from the boxes, allowing new nests to be built. This time of year brings us in between broods. Some new nests have already been started.

We thought we'd have more fledglings by this time given the fast start but wren and sparrow competition has been fierce this year. It has been a rough ten days for some of the bluebird pairs. It is a time of the nesting season that wrens and sparrows are very aggressive in trying to claim some of the bluebird nesting boxes. They peck and toss eggs and tiny babies out of the boxes and can harm adult bluebirds as well. Sadly we found one box missing all the eggs and a dead female bluebird; a few boxes with eggs gone or on the ground and another box with the babies on the ground below the box.

Next year, we will certainly be moving bluebird boxes further away from wooded areas and into the open prairie area once the upper site is restored. This should reduce wren/sparrow competition and help in bluebird nesting success. Bluebird nesting success is predicated on good bluebird habitat, which is usually open, non-wooded areas. The restored upland site should provide just that next year.

 

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6-23-10

Bluebirds are now starting a second round of nests and laying eggs. There are usually 3-4 eggs in the second clutch. By mid-July, we will know how many second broods and fledglings we will have. Blue-bird nest building usually ends by the second to third week of July so that babies are hatched in August and thus have plenty of time to grow, fledge and get big enough for fall migration.

Last week ( 6/16) we noticed three newly born babies that were thrown out of the nest box by wrens. They were directly below the box, with upset parents in the nearby trees. Two babies died, but one, while injured, was still moving and we returned it to the nest. We hoped that the parents would help it recover. Recover it did! That one baby bluebird had survived and had grown significantly in the course of the week, with two feeding parents. We were very heartened to have been able to have saved at least one bluebird. It is always inspiring to see parent bluebirds so faithful to their young, whether it is one baby or five.... although one is certainly alot less work.

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7-12-10

 

The wrens have been fierce competitors for nesting boxes this year and definitely have had an effect on bluebird nesting success.
Egg and baby losses have also occurred. By this time of year we would have expected the total feldgings to be closer to 40-50 rather than the current 30. Nevertheless, we are pleased we are having at least an average year and plan to move nest boxes next season to reduce wren competition.

Bluebirds will finish nests/egg laying within the next ten days since any bluebirds hatched will need to feldge by the end of August for them to grow big and strong enough in September for autumn migration.

 

 

 

 

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7-28-10

Bluebird nesting activity has significantly dropped off with only two active nests at this time. More bluebird eggs were lost to wrens over the past two weeks. We'll be checking boxes through mid-August. We sure hope to fledge at least 40+ bluebirds this year, which would be an average year, looking back at past years records.

Both the male and female adults are busy feeding all the fledglings that have left the nests. They are feeding their offspring a highly nutritional diet of insects and insect larvae.

 

 

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8-2010

Bluebirds are done nesting and will now continue to feed the young hatchlings. The first brood (May/June) of early spring babies will leave their parents in the summer. But the babies from the second brood (July) will stay with their parents through the winter.

 

 

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by Jack Saltes, Tricia Hagen and Jeri Webster

 

 

10-2010

Early this morning ( 7:30 am-8:30 am) there were about a dozen bluebirds hanging out on the edge and around the prairie looking for insects and moths which are bountiful with all the goldenrod and asters in bloom right now. It's a great time to see so many of them before they migrate, especially now that many of the trees have lost all their leaves -- you can see many bluebirds in them. The upper site got brush-hogged and the Parks Dept. did a really great job. Really opened things up so you can see all the bird activity flying about. It's always pretty exciting and very heartening to see so many bluebirds all at once.

 

 

 

Photo by Jeri Webster

nest

Old bluebird nest ready to be cleaned out for the next spring nesting season.

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/www.braw.org/info/sitemap.html

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Photo by Tricia Hagen

white eggs

Unusual white bluebird eggs in nests at S.P.

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Photo by Tricia Hagen

baby bluebirds

Newly hatched babies.

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Photo by Jeri Webster

July fedgling soon to fly.

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Photo by Jeri Webster

bluebirdbluebird

A female and a male bluebird

 

All About Bluebirds

 

 

Nest building

A male Eastern Bluebird will do mating displays at the nest cavity to attract a female. He gathers nesting materials, brings it to the hole, goes in and out, then waves his wings while perched on top of the nesting box. When the female accepts his courting she will build the nest and incubates the eggs. Nests are built of grasses, pineneedles, and occasionally horse hair or turkey feathers. They prefer to nest in open fields, meadows and hedge rows where they can find old woodpecker holes, rail fences, holes in stumps and bird boxes.

Females lay one egg a morning for a total brood size of usually four- five eggs. They typically have two broods a year and stay together as a pair for several seasons.

 

 

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Egg incubation

As soon as the last egg is laid incubation begins and the female will spend most of her time on the nest to keep the eggs at a steady temperature of 98 to 100 degrees. The female has an area on her breast called an incubation or brood patch which is a patch of bare, highly vascular skin used to keep the eggs and nestlings warm. Males do not have this, and although they may occasionally sit on the nest, it is of no real purpose. The female also shifts the eggs and nestlings around in the nest to provide more even heating to all of them. During the incubation period the female sits in shifts of approximately 15 minutes on the eggs and 10 minutes off. During her time off the nest she will stretch and move about and be fed by the male. She typically does not leave the nest during the night as she is not comfortable flying in the dark. Being in the nest all night puts her at higher risk from predators, such as snakes and racoons.

(By Tricia Hagen)

 

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White bluebird eggs -- really?

Approximately 4 to 5 percent of bluebirds lay white eggs. The trait appears to be genetic, in that a female who lays white eggs will always lay white eggs, and her female offspring are more likely to lay white eggs. (Although it could occasionally be caused by a temporary physiological problem.) If a blue egg or eggs are found in the same nest as white eggs, it will have been laid by another female. Tree swallows also lay white eggs, but their eggs are smaller and pointier than bluebird eggs. White eggs with brown or red speckles are also from other species.
(Zimmerman, Elizabeth A. 2009. Sialis.org, Woodstock CT. Retrieved from Sialis online: http://www.sialis.org)

 

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Babies

 

Baby bluebirds are fed a high nutritional diet of insect larvae and insects, by both parents, for 16-22 days at which time the babies will grow big enough to fledge. (leave the nest boxes). Insects not only have a high nutritional value they also provide water for the babies.

 

 

 

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The first brood (May/June) of early spring babies will leave their parents in the summer. But the babies from the second brood (July) will stay with their parents through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Adults

Babies grow into adults. Bluebirds eat insects found at ground level - grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars etc. From a perch they will fly low to the ground, with a fast wingbeating pattern, catch an insect and fly back up to a perch. During the winter they will eat large quantities of fruits and berries - sumac, juniper, currants etc.

Bluebirds are a member of the Thrush family and are closely related to Robins. They are about 7" long, with long legs and slender bills. The male is bright blue on his back with a rusty orange and cream chest. The female is a duller grey mixed with blue.

 

 

Learn More:

www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Bluebird/lifehistory

animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/bluebird/

/www.yardenvy.com/pages/bluebirds.htm

http://www.sialis.org/

 

Photo by Jeri Webster

bluebird nesting box

 

Never disrupt a nesting box, it will scare away adults and harm the nestlings.

You can watch from a distance with binoculars. If you are quiet and patient you will see the birds flying and feeding.

 

 

 

 

Learn More About Bluebird Nesting Boxes

www.braw.org/trail/nestboxes.html

/www.bygpub.com/bluebird/

/www.birdsandblooms.com/Backyard-Projects/Birdhouses/Bluebird-house