Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birds in Review Part Vl Parenting Blue Birds and Fledglings

Along with Spring's explosion of color, Bluebirds become more excited and busy about their nestbox. After carefully building and forming her nest, the female might lay up to five or six blue eggs. She will incubate the eggs and in about two weeks the tiny babies will break free of their shells. Within the thin walls of this rustic nestbox the miracle of life is unfolding. I never open the house for that would frighten the Bluebirds. I am content with watching them about the garden hunting for food and their comings and goings from this vantage point. I am on constant watch along with the male, for those that might upset this dear little family. House Wrens! Keep OUT!

Both Bluebird parents help with feeding their young, but the female is most particular about how the food is prepared before giving it to her new born babes. 

She seems to be showing the male the proper way to tenderize a worm. As the little ones grow, this fastidiousness is not so important. I enjoy watching the couple care for their young. They are such devoted parents, working very hard for their brood . . .  incubating, then hunting, feeding, guarding and keeping the nest clean. 

Five weeks or so may have passed since the Bluebirds built their nest. Many flower petals have opened and fallen in the gardens during the time the babies have been growing . . . hidden at the bottom of this box. I could hear their dulcet chirps when their parents flew in and out. Sometimes the box would move from their shifting around inside . . . letting me know it would not be long now. They will have never seen outside the small hole that has been their parents entrance and exit into their tiny lives. Curiosity can be a good thing, for it will soon tickle the little ones just enough to make them jump up. They will hold onto the hole that will become a window for them to see what lies outside their home. I have noticed too that there is a bit of balancing on the head of another sibling . . . and they sometimes take turns peering out. Their parents will encourage them to fledge by feeding less and appearing at the hole then quickly leaving. The male Bluebird seems to be calling or signaling to one that has already entered the garden. I notice his animation and get my camera, before taking a look to see what all the excitement is about.

It was thrilling to see this young Bluebird! I had always missed this moment before. Paying careful attention to the behavior of the parents led me to see their baby! Over the last weeks I did speak softly to the babies from outside their walls. Perhaps that is why this one did not jump back to the bottom, when I slowly moved in closer to the nestbox, while asking him or her what she thought of the garden. Imagine seeing the world 'outside the box' for the first time! I had a lengthy one way conversation with this soon to be fledgling. After a few minutes, I did move away so she might take her first flight. (I am always at least five feet from the birds.) The parents were sitting nearby watching us and I did not want to overly concern them either.

Oh, even when I see this photograph now my heart is softened. It was such a sweet moment especially after having found the nest with the dead babies the year before. I did not stay close to this fragile darling creature for very long since that might attract predators. I did fear for her and did not want to prevent the parents from guiding their baby to safety. I spoke softly . . . telling her to be careful and wishing long life and joy in her/his new journey. Precious life! 

As soon as I moved away she did try to fly and moved towards the calls of her parents. This is such a dangerous moment for the fledgling. 
The nestbox was quiet now . . .  with the parents trying to help the fledglings to a secure place . . . it seemed empty to me so I checked and indeed it was. I had witnessed the last fledgling. This part of the garden would be less lively now. I did not expect to see any of these Bluebirds again this year, unless the parents chose another house to raise their second brood. 

I was so surprised and happy the next morning, when seeing this fluffy Bluebird fledgling perched high up in the Black Cherry tree. She was not far from where the Baltimore Orioles were still busy feeding their babies. Can you imagine how soft that downy breast is? She must have been a bit chilly for her feathers are all fluffed out. 

I stood watching her for a bit, while she turned around and seemed to be eyeing something on the ground. This is exactly how she will hunt later on. 

I walked around the garden . . .  then looked up towards the Black Cherry . . .  then out in the direction of the north field. I was overjoyed to see the female Bluebird feeding her fledglings. I guess only two made it in the end. I was . . .  once again . . .  in the right place at the right moment with my camera! They were pretty far away so the quality of these images is poor but still they tell a story.

The classic Bluebird wave! Here I am mom!

Of course it is only an interpretation . . .  it seems one sibling is saying to the other "OK! it is my turn next!" In the photo below he then turns to his overworked mom . . . and continues to decry. I guess these two are rather like teenagers at this point. The weary mom just continues on . . .  trying to do her best. Both fledglings looking equally healthy and strong would indicate that indeed she is doing a great job parenting.

It was a joy to have these birds in my life for the spring and summer of 2009. This past year the House Wren did discourage them, but I hope to have new residents in the nestboxes in March. My next post will offer parenting Tree Swallows and more. 

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