Bluebird Update May 3, 2012

It seems that my concerns about the bluebirds in the nest box near the Train Tunnel were well founded. As I neared the nest box Tuesday (5/1) for the weekly inspection I could see flies buzzing around the entrance hole, not a good sign. As I got closer, I caught the unmistakable scent of death. As I slowly opened the side panel of the box a nestling shot out past me, “Good, at least one survived.”

One of the unfortunate nestlings in a drenched nest (5/1/12).

The nest, and in fact most of the interior of the box, was wet. There doesn’t seem to be a clear reason for the nest to still be wet, it hasn’t rained for several days. A mystery.

Elsewhere, the nest box at the Bung (Take Off) now has House Wrens attending to it. I suspected that wrens would build here although I didn’t think it would take them so long to realize it. The nest is not complete but is a work in progress. I saw, and was scolded by, one of the wrens while inspecting the box.

The incomplete wren nest (5/3/12).

The Sailboat Pond nest, after housing chickadees, now has ants. There were ants in the nest the whole time that the chickadees occupied it, but now they have it all to themselves. A cleaning will be performed.

The ants have taken over (5/3/12).

The ants immediately began to move out their belongings as I opened the box, so it wouldn’t be too cruel of me to help them move, would it?

The Amphimeadow nest seems to be doing well. In fact, it looks as if half the birds have already fledged. I count three birds in residence. The remaining three may have already fledged as I write.

Waiting for the big moment, these three nestlings should be gone within a day or two at most (Amphimeadow – 5/3/12).

And now to the nest box near the Picnic Dome. The nest looks very crowded, which means that they are all healthy and just about ready to fledge.

I can’t tell whether there are four or five nestlings in this box (Picnic Dome – 5/3/12). What’s that on the left side of the nest?
A Ground Skink in the nest.

When I first opened the nest box at the Picnic Dome I didn’t notice the object on the left side of the photo. A closer look revealed that it was a skink, a Ground Skink. The skink was apparently brought into the nest by a parent but doesn’t seem to be a desirable food item for the nestlings.

I did a quick search of the internet and found that in a study in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma a skink tail was found in a bluebird nest, “In this study, we had one instance of a ground skink (Scincella lateralis) tail delivered to nestlings; however, it was not swallowed.” There are other similar reports of whole skinks being delivered to and refused by bluebird nestlings. Skinks must be the peas of the bluebird world, the parents keep trying to feed them to the kids but the kids won’t eat them.

As of Tuesday (5/1/12) there were 10 nestling bluebirds in our six nest boxes. Four birds had perished apparently due to hypothermia or pneumonia, one box is being used by House Wrens (still building the nest – no eggs), and two boxes are empty, awaiting occupants. Besides the four birds that fledged last week from the Butterfly House nest box, It appears that three have fledged from the nest box in the Amphimeadow with 3 remaining in the box (at time of inspection).

Update on the Train Tunnel nest: I went back up to the nest box located near the Train Tunnel to see if I could get any insight into why this nest was so wet. It was suggested that there may be irrigation at the site and automatic sprinklers may have doused the nest. There are no sprinklers at the site. My inspection found no evidence or reason for the excessive dampness inside the nest box. Any ideas?

4 responses to Bluebird Update May 3, 2012

  1. Avatar
    leslie says:

    Could it just have stayed wet from a rain due to improper exposure to sun?

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      That particular box sits on the NW side of the little pasture up at the tunnel where it gets the most sun available for that site, it should be dry. None of the other boxes had any moisture except of course for the excrement that had accumulated in the box. In fact, one of the boxes faces north, is in shade for most of the day and still was perfectly dry.
      It’s still a mystery but I’ll monitor it more closely in the future and may even move it to a new location.
      Thanks,

  2. Avatar
    dj says:

    Maybe the parents were immature and didn’t sit on the nest as much as was needed? Glad there was one nestling who survived plus all the other ones in the Museum blue bird boxes!!!
    Seeing bluebirds in our neighborhood makes me happy!!!!!

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      I agree, bluebirds are a pleasant sight!
      Thanks,

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