Being the conscientious Bluebird Trail monitor that I am, I noticed Friday, on my way home from work, as I approached this nest box one of the nestlings was staring back at me out the entrance hole. I knew it had to be close to fledging time because I check the boxes often enough to know when the eggs hatch and therefore when the nestlings should be ready to fledge.
You never want to approach a nest box when it is close to fledging time because you don’t want the nestlings to fledge prematurely. Western Bluebirds usually fledge at around 20 days old.
So I waited until the next morning and went back to the nest box in question. They were still there. I set up at a safe distance hoping to watch the entire fledging process from the beginning.
When I arrived at around 7:30 am, the female adult was in the tree adjacent to the nest with food for the nestlings. In my experience, most birds seem to fledge in the morning which makes sense to me. That way the young birds have most of the day to get used to the real world!
I heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher nearby, another cavity nesting species that uses the bluebird houses. I was rather surprised when I witnessed the Flycatcher chasing the momma Bluebird away from her nest site. It worried me a little bit but then I thought maybe the Ash-throated Flycatcher had chosen a nest site in one of the natural cavities in the nearby oak trees.
Mamma Bluebird snuck back to the nest box and fed the nestlings the tidbit she had in her beak and took off, presumably for more food. At this stage in the nesting process the young are fed about 10 times per hour which, if your math is good, equates to about every six minutes.
But wait. What’s going on with all of these Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) images? Violet-green Swallows seem to appear out of nowhere in my experience and as I am standing there, all of a sudden, there they were! Three or four Violet-green Swallows circling me, the oak trees and the nest box!
Both Ash-throated Flycatchers and Violet-green Swallows are cavity nesting birds that will use bluebird nest boxes. I knew that they were around because I have both species currently occupying some of my other nest boxes. However, I was not aware that they were bold enough to approach and inspect occupied boxes.
At one point a swallow actually perched atop the nest box and looked down as if it was expecting to see a youngster sticking its head out the entrance hole.
In the meantime, the brilliantly colored male Western Bluebird was taking his turn bringing food to the nestlings.
At this point however, the adults were only bringing food to the nest box on some of the visits. Some trips to the nest were taken with empty beaks.
This is the point at which the adult Bluebirds try to coax the nestlings out of the nesting cavity into our world. They perch on nearby branches and call t0 them, urging them to come out of the only home they have ever known.
The young birds stick their little heads out the entrance to the birdhouse over and over again, hearing all the other birds calling around them but pinpointing that special call from their parents. Wondering if mom and dad are going to bring more food and in this case, what all those Violet-green Swallows are doing flying toward the house.
This youngster finally decided it was time and took the plunge into this big wide world. He or she flew about fifteen feet to the branch of an oak tree directly in front of the birdhouse. And, as it is always the case, as soon as the first nestling leaves the nest, another one pops its head up to look out to see where its nest mate has disappeared to.
I filmed this monumental event that goes on daily across the globe, young birds leaving their nests, depending on their parents to teach them the ways of the world. I have condensed the three hours I observed watching the first three of the five nestlings fledge into a six and a half minute video.
You will see the female Western Bluebird make a few trips to the nest with food for the chicks and then again without food. She comes back and lands on the roof of the house a few times, then perches nearby. The male also comes to the nest box without food as the nestling opens its mouth thinking it will be fed. In the meantime the Violet-green Swallow cruises by.
There is video of the first nestling perching for the first time on a tree branch and watching the swallows flying overhead. Listen for several other bird species calling in the background and see if you can identify them.
After all of this, head on over to The Bird D’pot and Wild Bird Wednesday to see all the other bird photos from around the world!