July 13, 2016 at 11:06 am #2619
Good morning: I am a bluebird novice, who is in need of some help. I have one bluebird house. My bluebird pair successfully raised one group of three babies this spring. I cleaned out the house, and to my delight, they returned to build a second nest. Everything was going great. I watched momma and papa work tirelessly to feed the babies all day yesterday. This morning my son found the papa bluebird dead in our front yard. I have no idea what killed him. He looked unharmed–perfect, in fact. I was heartbroken to gather his beautiful lifeless body into a box to be buried. What could have caused him to die so suddenly when there was no sign of predator attack?
I have watched the mother bird work endlessly to feed the babies. Even though I have never seen sparrows anywhere near the birdhouse, there were some hanging around this morning (now that the father is gone). The mother had to chase them away! I don’t think she has the strength to feed the babies and fight off predators. After reading advice of others, I constructed a sparrow spooker and immediately put it on top of the birdhouse. The mother has been back to feed her young, but she is a little intimidated by the spooker. Is there anything else I can do? Is there anything I can feed to the babies since she no longer has the help of her mate.
I am so upset about this situation. Any advice that any experienced “bluebirder” can share is greatly appreciated!!
Thank you in advance!
PennsylvaniaJuly 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm #2621
Susan, this is so sad – was there any pesticide spraying done in your area – if so, this is a possibility for your males’ death, but probably from natural causes, since there was no sign of trauma. You definitely need to have a spooker up – whether you see HOSP or not, because they are usually around somewhere. If your mama has been back to feed the babies (how far are they from fledging), I believe everything is fine. Sometimes for a new mama not used to a spooker, it takes then a little time (a few fly arounds the house) but then they usually will go in. Keep close eye on this – if she still is spooked tie up about half of the streamers and just let 1 or 2 float around, then gradually let them down. I really believe she will continue to feed them, but she will have a hard time after they fledge, but it CAN be done. If you help by offering meal worms, that would be a big help to her. Start out with a small amount from local pet store and train her to come to the feeder bowl. Put it close by the box to start with, but only for a short period of time (so as not to encourage predators) and then gradually move it away. This help may make the difference on those baby birds’ survival, unless they are just about to fledge. But even then she will need help feeding them! Good luck. P.S. Be sure the streamers on the spooker just brush the top of the box, not in front of the hole.July 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm #2623
Hello Carol: Thank you so much for your response and advice. I am pleased to say that mamma has been tending the babies all day long in spite of the spooker. I haven’t seen any other birds near the house. I feel so bad for this mamma. She has to be exhausted. It is close to 90 degrees here today and very humid. However, she has been back and forth feeding her young and removing shells from the house. These babies have a ways to go before being ready to fledge. I am pretty sure that they hatched only three or four days ago. I estimate that we have another two weeks before the babies fly the coop. I have noticed a couple of the baby bluebirds from the first brood close by on the fence. Is it true that they may help the mamma after the new babies fledge? I hope so. Nonetheless, I will certainly get the meal worms and be ready to help whenever she needs it!
Thanks again! If you think of any other pointers, please share. I am open to any and all suggestions to help these little ones and their mamma.
PennsylvaniaJuly 13, 2016 at 2:49 pm #2624
P.S. — I live in an area with farmland on three sides. They do regularly spray pesticides on the crops. I often worry about the birds, and hope that they stick to my yard (about 2 acres) for their food because we are pesticide/herbicide free. I am still so saddened by daddy bird’s death. He has been a morning companion on my deck since late March. Hopefully it was just his time and not a result of the pesticides.
PennsylvaniaJuly 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm #2625
Susan, this is great news that mama is tending the babies and overcome her fear of the spooker. The main help you can give is the mealworms, but you do not want to overfeed them to the birds. Usually 10 worms per day per bird, twice a day, is about right. They need natural food mainly, with only one parent it will be a little harder for her. There are great instructions on the mealworms sites, such as Rainbow, Grubco, Nature’s Way, the Sialis website, etc. But get a small amount (a cup of 100 or 500) locally and once she learns to eat/feed them you can purchase in bulk online, which is MUCH cheaper. Yes, I hope it was just papa Blue’s time and not the result of pesticides. I had 5 babies my very first year of bluebirding succumb to pesticide poisoning I believe, because they all died at the very same time, one day they were alive and the very next day they were dead. These birds are amazing, aren’t they, the bond they have for their young, and even before they hatch, i.e., to the eggs themselves.July 13, 2016 at 5:30 pm #2627
Yes, they are amazing and so beautiful. I hate to sound ignorant, but I am assuming that I cannot feed the babies until after they fledge? Is there anything I can give them now to help the mamma. She seems so exhausted running back and forth in this heat.
PennsylvaniaJuly 13, 2016 at 10:49 pm #2628
No, you cannot feed the babies – the mama will feed the worms to the babies after they are about 3-4 days old, at least that has been my experience. The worms are for the benefit of the babies mostly, but the mama will eat some, also. Sorry I did not explain this. You will see her get a mouthful of worms & then kind of beat them, I guess to kill them or something, and then bring them to the box for the babies to eat.July 14, 2016 at 3:07 am #2629Love my blues!Participant
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I saw you post on another site. Such a bummer about the Dad! They are such beauties! I think Carol covered any ideas I may have had. So glad the spooker’s working out & that you’re going to get mealworms to help the Mama. Bless her heart! She’s not the first, unfortunately…
NicoleJuly 14, 2016 at 5:44 am #2631
Thank you very much for the information and advice. I explained my problem on two sites to throw the net wide and get as much advice as possible. I really appreciate everyone’s help. I will give updates on how my Mama blue and babies are making out. Hopefully it will be good news.
PennsylvaniaJuly 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm #2635dogsandbirdsModerator
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Susan, the adult birds bash the mealworms on something hard to kill them before feeding them to very young chicks. Mealworms will bite when a bird is trying to swallow them and the youngest can’t handle that. When they get older there is no need to kill the mealworms. YOU don’t need to kill them. The birds will handle that when necessary.
You have seen fledglings hanging around? That’s good because maybe they will help feed the ones in the nest. Sometimes that happens. How many are in there? I know you said 3 in the first nest but I haven’t been able to find where/if you said how many this time.
I hope she finds the mealworms you offer soon. It can take awhile for some birds to make the discovery no matter what you do. The method Carol described should work. If it does, be ready! That female bird will quickly become hooked.
Atlanta, GAJuly 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm #2636
The mealworms have been set out for Mama Blue for about 3 hours. She has made many trips to the birdhouse, sat on a nearby fence and overlooked the container, but has made no attempt to approach it. It is about 15 ft. from the entrance of the birdhouse. It is so dreadfully hot here today (high 90’s with a heat index over 100) I’m not sure the mealworms will stay alive much longer. I checked on them recently and some were still moving. To be honest, I am not sure how many babies are in the house. I peeked in the hole on the day that I found the Papa dead. I saw two babies at that time, but I did not actually open the side of the house to count. Mama blue is ALWAYS watching. When I approached the house yesterday to install the sparrow spooker, she sat on the spouting of my house and chirped at me. She obviously didn’t like me messing around the house–that is why I have hesitated to open it up. When is the best time of day to do that, maybe dusk?
PennsylvaniaJuly 14, 2016 at 2:42 pm #2637
I peeked in the side of the birdhouse this afternoon. I will have to look again later, but I know there are at least three babies. It might be just three, but one or two could have been curled up in there. Only one raised his head up to eat, so it was hard to tell. I quickly closed it back up. Honestly, I was devastated when I had to bury Papa Blue yesterday, and I am trying to save the babies without getting majorly attached.
PennsylvaniaJuly 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm #2640
Still no luck with the mealworms. It is so painfully hot here that I can’t keep them alive out there for more than an hour at most. I was only able to 150 worms at the Petco (that’s all they had) and Petsmart is sold out. I am trying to ration the worms until she finds them, I hate to put them all out and have them just die out there. I am planning to wait until the sun drops, and then I will put out another batch. Maybe they will stay alive longer when they are not baking in the 95 degree sun!
PennsylvaniaJuly 14, 2016 at 5:26 pm #2641
Susan, those worms will not survive heat or direct sun very long. A lot of people say you can attach a small butter cup of worms directly to the bird house, maybe with a push pin or something, and she could not miss it. Also, just put a very few out at a time, maybe 10 or so, until you see if she will eat them. You must not leave the food directly on the house but for maybe a few hours, just long enough to get her acquainted with them. Like Gin says, once she gets started, they are hooked! Please don’t give up – but do just put out a few at a time so you don’t waste them. You do know that they need to be refrigerated, the ones that aren’t out yet? Good that you got to see the babies – there is always 1 or so that you cannot always see, so you may have more than 3. Yes, we can get attached, but these are wild birds & nature takes its course sometimes. Hang in there!July 14, 2016 at 8:26 pm #2644
Hi Carol: Thank you very much for the tips. I will keep plugging away. This Mama is a real trooper–taking care of her little ones all day in this terrible heat. One of her babies from the first brood has been splashing in the bird bath all day and hanging close to the house. Very cute. I’ll let you know when she finally gets the mealworms!
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