Bluebird and Small Cavity Nester Conservation
Sialis - Bluebirds and other small cavity nesters
 
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My Nestcam Blog 2008

Also see Nestcam Setup | 2006 | 2007 | 2009 | 2010


  • Nestcam on completed nest.. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
    White breasted nuthatch. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
    looking out the entrance hole.
    In Labor.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
    In "labor" with egg #4. Notice puffed up neck and breast under beak. See video. See contrast with shot below, while not in "labor"
    Not in labor. Photo by Bet Zimmerman
    five eggs on nestcam.
    newborn EABL nestlings. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
    nestlings
    feeding mealworm
    Looking up.
    Downy roosting in box.
    A downy roosting in the box after the bluebirds moved elsewhere.
    BCCH pecking at bluebird eggs. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
    A BCCH sneaks in and pecks on eggs! No damage.
    On 3/15, we activated the nestcam on a Gilwood box in the backyard on the lawn. A pair of bluebirds has nested there in the past, and seems to have claimed it for this season. A bird was roosting in the box overnight, but I couldn't see the head, so I couldn't tell the species. Gilwoods are not deep enough to get a whole view of the interior when the camera is mounted on the interior roof. However, they are probably a good roosting box as the interior is small and there is no ventilation on the sides.
  • On 3/16, around 6 p.m. I saw a White Breasted Nuthatch inside the box. I didn't know WBNUs roosted in boxes. (Occasionally they will nest in one.) The bluebird pair came over, but the male departed shortly afterwards. The female bluebird remained on the roof for about a half hour, puffed up and chattering nonstop in an agitated fashion, and peering inside. In the meantime, the nuthatch fanned out its tail feathers like a turkey, and swayed from side to side, periodically puffing itself up and spreading its wings (especially in response to her chatter), perhaps to look more fearsome? (Called a wing-threat or wing-spreading display.) I didn't hear the nuthatch making any sound. Then the male bluebird came by (and the female left.) He also perched on the roof, singing softly, almost like he was talking to himself. Eventually the nuthatch fluffed up and hunkered down for the evening and pretty much ignored the male on the top of the box. The bluebirds left around 6:53 p.m. (dusk). Neither bluebird entered the box while I watched. The nuthatch moved around quite a bit all night long (fluffing, preening, etc.) He always faced the entrance hole (probably to enable a quick escape.) Ah, the secret lives of birds inside the box!
  • 3/17: EABL pair are back guarding the box. One (female I think) went inside and removed several ploppers and a feather left by the nuthatch. Hear the male softly singing on top of the box. It appears bestriding is near - I see the female with a few blades of grass, making cup forming movements on the base of the box. Female HOSP quietly checking out box mid-day, put out ground trap nearby with male decoy. Bluebirds have guarded the box all until 6:50 p.m. - no nuthatch incursion tonight. My indoor cat is enjoying watching Bird TV.
  • 3/18: Both male and female go into the box occasionally, checking it out? Even though it's black and white, you can tell the female from the eye ring and vocalizations (she makes a little chirp that sounds almost like a mouse.) I saw them in the box together briefly once. It is interesting that the female makes the nest cupping movement on the bare floor (I saw that on a titmouse video too.) Sometimes she brings in a very small fragment of grass.
  • 3/19: No action today (rainy and cold.)
  • 3/20: Male in box, making some weird noises. Female doing "cupping" behavior on floor and bringing in bits of grass, but not doing any arranging yet. The center is pretty bare still.
  • 3/21: too cold and windy for much action (in the 30's, with winds gusting to 31 mph). At 6:36 p.m., the nuthatch returned to roost. EABLs were unhappy, but he/she wouldn't budge, and they left after about 20 minutes. See video.
  • 3/22: The nuthatch departed the roost around 6:50 a.m. (daylight), leaving three feathers behind (probably from preening.) No nuthatch the following evening. Doug moved the wire, and messed up the sound somehow.
  • 3/24: The male came in and was picking up a few pieces of grass and moving them around. He made a weird sound (like a quiet scream?). The female came in and he left. She has been adding material this afternoon (and removed something that looked like moss.) Sometimes she adds grass, looks around, cups (not always), and then occasionally emits one chirp prior to exiting box. The nest is pretty messy so far. She has started covering the center of the floor. At one point she hunkered down nervously in the box and looked nervously out the entrance hole for a bit - maybe a hawk was around.
  • 3/25: The male came in, picked up a few pieces of grass and moved them, and then briefly did "cupping." Then the female came in (and he left) and did more. He came in later and did more cupping.
  • 4/6: Have been away for a week. Before I left, the female kept coming in and adding bits of grass and cupping. I called my husband every day to look on Bird TV and see if an egg showed up, but nothing, and it's been very cold and rainy. Today I only saw one visit while I was by the camera.
  • 4/7: I came into my office around 7:15 a.m. I saw the female come into box at 7:31 a.m., then 8:45, staying for a few minutes each time. At 8:54 a.m. she entered the box and chirped a few times. She was cupping, turning around, putting her beak down underneath her, puffing up, and breathing rapidly and heavily, as if she were straining. The temperature outside is only 38F. However, this was the first time I've seen her sitting in the cup for any length of time, so I figured an egg was on the way. At 9:18 a.m., after 24 minutes in the box, she got up and I saw the shiny first egg in the nest cup. (Compare this to a cowbird, which can pop out an egg in 20-40 seconds!) Then she stood on the edge of the nest, still breathing a bit hard, for four minutes. I was surprised when she then settled back on the egg at 9:22. By then, her breathing appeared to almost have returned to normal, and she was not puffed up. She sat fairly still on the egg for a minute, then reached down beneath her, then settled on it again, looking around, apparently listening to the birds outside the box. Was she resting? Helping the egg cool down slowly? Waiting for her mate? At 9:30 her mate perched on top of the box. He repeatedly sang a soft, "intimate" sounding warble, three to four seconds apart. At 9:34 a.m., she exited the box (12 minutes after I first saw the egg) and they both left. This is the first egg I know of on my trails. Time to put up a sparrow spooker! 2:58 p.m - I was out for a while, but just came back in the office and saw the female sitting on the egg for a few minutes, and then standing on the nest cup.
  • 4/8: Donna watched egg laying last year on her nestcam. She said the female left after fluffing the nest thoroughly, but really didn't sit on them for any length of time immediately after laying. She also did not roost in the box at night (I think they typically do not - they roost in trees.) My female arrived at 7:34, and departed at 7:36, came back at 8:07, and stayed for 2 minutes (left after a crow crowed.) Back at 8:46. Breathing heavily, puffed up (head, notably neck, body). Cupping, squirming, checking underneath her. Looked like male fed her at 8:47 (she chirped, opened beak and reached out of hole). Appeared to be disturbed by something, left at 8:52. Back at 8:56, heard male calling. Left at 8:57 - seemed disturbed again by something. Returned 9:09, breathing hard, checking underneath. Stood up at 9:21 on top of of cup, then settled back down, still puffed up. 9:39 , left at 9:58. Visited periodically - e.g., 12:08 sat on eggs for about 2 to 10 minutes. Wonder why? Turning eggs? Checking up? Resting? Practicing? It's 51F outside. Back again at 1:21 - 1:34, again at 2:57 p.m. and 3:13-3:22 to sit, 5:11 (and more often, I'm really not ALWAYS glued to my computer!)
  • 4/9: Female showed up at 7:57 a.m. this morning, puffed up, departed 2 minutes later. Egg laying video here.
  • 4/10: Egg #4. Female was on the nest for at least 55 minutes before she stood up and new egg was revealed, around 9:00 a.m. Sometimes when she is just sitting on the nest she appears to be breathing hard also, but the neck is not all puffed up like when she was laying, and her wings are more composed looking. I'm really surprised at how much time she spends sitting on the eggs, even though she is probably not incubating yet. Male came and fed her, and she chirped to him. She got nervous when she heard a crow. I notice when she settles in she almost always checks the eggs or maybe turns them first. Starlings are back in GCFL box on chimney with nestcam #2. Hmmm... she sure is sitting on the nest a lot today, maybe she decided to go with just 4 eggs? (5-7 is typical). Yup, looks like it's she's sleeping in the box at 9:50 p.m.
  • 4/11: I thought she was done but nope! A fifth egg today. I checked all other boxes on my trails, and the first egg she laid was my first egg of the season, which is kind of cool!
  • 4/13: Incubating off and on.
  • 4/16: female very antsy today. Started feeding mealworms.
  • 4/20: Last night I saw that the incubating female was being pestered by flying ants? Put a little diatomaceous earth underneath the nest.
  • 4/21: Not too many flying ants now(or whatever they were.) Female seemed to sleep more peacefully last night, although they do move around a lot at night. It is surprising actually how restless they are (moving at least every few minutes). It is also surprising how often they leave the nest and interrupt incubation.
  • 4/22: I notice at night that the camera (maybe the heat or infrared light?) seems to attract some bugs, which the female eats.
  • 4/24: Today is the day the give babies away! As of 8:33 a.m. when I first looked, 3 of 5 eggs had hatched. Saw mom eating a fecal sac. She constantly checks on the eggs/babies, and is "drilling" (to move bugs/debris to bottom of nest?) The fourth egg hatched around 1:30-2:00 p.m. and I got to watch. What a thrill! The mom ate 1/2 of the eggshell. The other half got stuck on top of the remaining egg, so I removed it with a pair of tweezers as it could interfere with hatching. I saw the father feeding - even in black and white I can tell it's the male because he lacks the white eye ring and I can see the different in shades of color on the sides of his neck.
  • 4/26: Feeding a lot of white (Cabbage?) butterflies to young. Egg never hatched. Babies are much more active, and have big fat tummies. I can hear faint peeping now.
  • 4/27: saw the mother eat a fecal sac. I still see the flying ant looking things. Mother is brooding a lot as it was chilly today.
  • 4/28: it is rainy out and the parents are coming into the nest very wet. The babies are clearly hungry, begging a lot. I am glad I'm feeding mealworms - the babies are getting fed them now (and I saw the mother chowing them down.) The mother usually broods after each feeding, to keep the babies from getting too chilled.
  • 4/29: the female pokes around a lot and is drilling (sticks beak into nest, in between nestlings, and shakes the nest) - to knock bugs/debris to bottom of nest? Keith Kridler said this is called "tremble thrusting." I removed unhatched eggs egg.
  • 4/30: Babies eyes are opened a bit in slits. Louder peepage. Babies seem to be shivering today. I was surprised that the babies do NOT defecate very time they eat. The parents usually wait around a 10-20 seconds to see if something comes out, and if it doesn't, they leave (unless the female wants to drill some more or broods.)  
  • 5/1: 3 babies eyes are open. They have little tufted horns. Amazing how wide they can open their mouths! parents were still feeding at 7:25 p.m.
  • 5/2: Babies are NOT at an attractive stage. Some preening going on. [I went away for work travel for one week]
  • 5/11: Four babies in the box in the morning, only 2 left by evening.
  • 5/12: Lots of flapping, preening and chirping from remaining two. One going up to the hole frequently. Parents were not taking out fecal sacs. I expected the last to hatch may take another day to fledge, but they were all gone by 4:25 p.m. I cleaned out the box.
  • 5/27: One day there was a lot of activity by both blues in the box (bringing in some nesting material) but then nothing. I took an usused bluebird nest (post-HOWR attack) and put it in the box to see if that would spur egg laying. The male checks it out periodically, but not much else happening. The last week a Downy Woodpecker (see photo) has been roosting in the box - it positions itself very close to the hole so only the tail or some fluff is visible. Today I heard a male HOSP checking out the box, but he didn't go inside. A starling also attempted to enter the Gilwood box but was unable to get in. The male bluebird was back by the box within seconds, singing. I don't think I've seen the female in a while. Robin periodically perches on the box roof.
  • 5/28: FINALLY, the female showed up, did not go inside though.
  • 5/30: AHAH, she has moved to the NABS box next door. The nest is under construction - I watched her spend about five minutes picking up and dropping and yanking out small bits of fine grass. The male is singing up a storm.
  • 6/1: Saw a BCCH checking out the bluebird nest.
  • 6/2: First egg. Saw her come into the nest and check on it, and sit on it a few times. Put up a wren guard (did not see her inside after that until next day.)
  • 6/3: 8:53, she got off second egg. She seems to be finding the Wren guard a big awkward, but this box is too close to the woods and wrens have been in it before so I'm not taking chances. HERE is something I didn't expect to see! Around 4 p.m., a pair of chickadees came by, and one tapped or pecked on the eggs several times. (Checked, no damage done). I added a sparrow spooker, and will put up another NABS style box nearby, as I'm guessing the BCCHs had a failed nesting elsewhere. I had a pair BCCH's last year nest in a box nearby that I used a wren guard on. (There is a Gilberston about 30 feet away already.)
  • 6/4: 8:44, third egg. The female seems to still be struggling a bit with the wren guard - takes her a while to enter and exit the box. The term clambering comes to mind.
  • 6/5: 8:36, fourth egg seen. Female spent a lot of time on eggs.
  • 6/6: five eggs, female not around.
  • 6/7: goats must have chewed thru nestcam line, Doug fixed.

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All bluebirders must feel like "one of the chosen ones" when we are fortunate enough to have nesting bluebirds on our own property....
- Lillian Lund, Sialia, 1984


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