bluebird help needed

This is our first full season with bluebird boxes. You may recall, last year Brad built me a couple nesting boxes for Mothers Day from him & Tank. I tracked activity and checked the boxes often. I was so thrilled to find a bluebird nest in Box One on April 18!! 

five eggs on May 6

first couple hatchlings on May 11

Box Two

On May 11 the nice Chickadee nest in Box Two was replaced with a house wrens nest (started above, if left they fill the box). After emptying it multiple times, we relocated the box. I got repeat nesting action, so Box Two is currently being left open. I may put a wren guard on the box (s).

I kept monitoring Box One, more frequently than I probably should have.

hatchlings on May 12

I couldn't tell if they were dead or alive.

nestlings are alive and hungry on May 13

more hungry nestlings visible on May 14

looking snug on May 16

noticeable change on May 18

hmmm...they sure are quiet on May 20

large goop found inside entrance on May 21

On day 9-10, I removed what looked like bird (?) poop. The yucky goop looked way too large for a blue bird size dropping. I found it odd that the babies were not active. I didn't touch them, although online sources say you can handle baby birds without effecting wellbeing. Google says the goop is likely a Fecal Sac.

We had unseasonable hot and humid weather for several days. Maybe that had something to do with lack of activity?

Incase you are wondering, our boxes face East. There are various opinions on preferred box opening direction and even location.

I found the box opening blocked on May 24

Day 13 since the first two eggs hatched, or day 12 for the others.

the opening was blocked with pine needles and grass, same as the nest

Empty Nest

Instead of bluebird happiness, we now have bluebird sadness. I looked everywhere for little bodies, or a sign of whatever went wrong. I never saw the baby birds open their eyes. Sadly it appears the baby blue birds never fledged. Maybe they died and the parents removed their babies, then blocked the box?

I learned baby birds go through three stages: Hatchlings (usually 0-3 days)  Nestlings (usually 3-13 days) and Fledgling (13-14 days or older). Baby birds fledge 18-21 days. Some resources say you are not suppose to open the box after 12 days. 

I have searched online, and am not finding answers that match. I have several good bluebird ref sites bookmarked. Definitely planning to ask the knowledgeable folks for advice at my fav bird store in the big city, next time I head that direction.

Any thoughts on what happened and/or suggestions on how to prevent whatever happened, from happening again?


Far Side of Fifty said...

Ah that is sad. WE have a friend who is a bluebird expert next time I see him I will ask him. WE have a nesting pair...have not seen the babies yet. We usually just leave the nesting boxes alone...something really packed the grass in there.

Val Ewing said...

That is sad. I don't really know but I found this site and it was pretty interesting.
There is even a blurb about fecal sacs and that if they appear in the nest that is a notice that something is wrong? Anyway, interesting reading with lots of clues.
Nature is so hard.


aurora said...

I would be very interested in knowing what your bluebird expert friend suggests Connie. I only saw a parent once, early on. Sure hope I didn't do anything to stress the birds. We have a lot of wildlife activity that crosses the intersecting paths behind the box. Might not be the best spot.

Thank you for the link Val! I have come across that site but for whatever reason did not have it bookmarked. I do now, it's a very good resource.

Sure hope I can figure this bluebird box thing out. I have wanted to help them ever since I went to a seminar a good 20-25 years ago when bluebirds were more scarce.

Grey Horse Matters said...

That is sad. I’m sorry I don’t really know about birds or nesting. I just feed them bird seed everyday and let nature take its course. Good luck figuring it all out.

Terry said...

This lady is the bluebird expert -

aurora said...

Thanks Terry!!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Here's what happened. You've mounted your boxes improperly--on wooden fenceposts that are simple for raccoons to climb. The coon has pulled the nest and babies out, eaten the chicks, and that's why the hole appears "blocked" with nesting material.
Call 1-800-TRY BIRD and order my booklet, Enjoying Bluebirds More. You'll find plans for proper metal pole mounting of boxes, and for making your own baffles out of stovepipe. All ingredients are readily found at Lowe's.
Any box mounted on a tree or fencepost eventually becomes a coon feeder. If not coons, then ratsnakes. If not snakes, then mice. It doesn't take predators long to discover there's good food in nest boxes. You must mount them properly from the get-go.

Julie Zickefoose

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh. The reason the birds seem "inactive" is because they are afraid of you and squishing down into the nest so you won't see them. The older they are, the more they do this. It is not safe to open the box after Day 13--you can frighten them into fledging (leaving the box) prematurely. Please get my booklet, read it, and learn more!

aurora said...

Thank you Julie for taking the time to read and respond with your sage advice, much appreciated!! Will look into your booklet, relocate and mount our feeders better. The last thing I want to do is foster baby birds as food. Thanks again.

Linda said...

Oh wow. How would you have known that? I fed the birds from my deck one winter, and they littered seed everywhere. We ended up having a HUGE mouse problem that year. Live and learn. Sounds like the metal pole will solve the problem in the future. At least you know your boxes work! And it's a great thing to do! I love bluebirds.

Linda said...

Oh, and I have a nest of robins on my deck! They chose a spot right in the center of our outside living area. They chose it before we started going out there a lot. Now, we share the space with them, and it's a little awkward at times. We feel like it's their deck now, and we're intruding.