May 10, 2022 at 3:01 pm #24326
I’m hoping someone on this forum can help me figure out what went wrong with my bluebird house this morning. :(
This is my first year to get a bluebird couple, and I’ve been monitoring the house faithfully since the mother laid her first egg a week ago. Last night when I peeked inside with my penlight, I saw 4 eggs. All was well. The bluebird couple have been very vigilant in protecting the house; they’re always around.
This morning, I noticed a lot of new nesting material haphazardly sticking out of the birdhouse. When the bluebird couple came around, they seemed very confused by this, too. The mother just fluttered around the entrance because the hole was stuffed with new material. I got suspicious something was wrong, and, when I went up to the birdhouse, I saw a small fragment of an eggshell on the ground, along with some of the nesting material. When I opened up the house, I saw some new material in there, and things didn’t look as neat as before. All the eggs were gone, except another small fragment of an eggshell.
It’s hard for me to tell what happened, but I’d like to learn from this experience to become a better landlord. I’d ordered a predator guard after I saw the first egg, but it didn’t arrive in time, so I wondered if this could be a sparrow attack. (I’d seen a sparrow couple slinking across the fence last week with their eyes on the birdhouse, but the bluebird couple immediately swooped in to scare them off.) It also seemed like a wren might have been making a dummy nest and got the eggs ? Can an experienced bluebirder help me with where I went wrong? I’d be so grateful!
May 10, 2022 at 7:58 pm #24333
- This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Meredith.
Sorry to hear this Meredith. I does sound like the evil House Sparrows but the house Wren’s could also be the culprit.. They invade established bluebird nests and reek havoc with nests, eggs, hatchlings and even the adults. Your description of the messy nest construction applies to both of these birds A predator guard can help bur will not stop a determined sparrow or wren.
There are instructions in the permanent posts above that describe a wren guard. It is pretty effective against wrens. You might also consider using a “Sparrow Spooker” on the nestbox to deter the sparrows. but nothing beats trapping and eliminating the little beasts.
There are more ideas out there and I am sure that you will receive lots of help to this post. Good luck in your next endeavor.
Stafford, VAMay 10, 2022 at 9:32 pm #24335Carol – Mid-Mo.Participant
Sorry, Meredith, for your loss in the nestbox. Like David says, it could be either one of these, wren or HOSP (house sparrow). While I was new to bluebirding (around 14 years ago) I had to learn the hard way – found eggs on the ground and/or eggs in the nest which had been destroyed. I quickly learned about the sparrow spooker and wren guard – they are really a necessity. However, it does not JUST HAPPEN – sometimes your bluebirds will balk at something new, but after those precious eggs are laid, they are truly committed to the nest and will usually come around – but sometimes not.
Hang in there and good luck.May 10, 2022 at 10:23 pm #24337
Thanks so much, both, for your kind replies and ideas. Upon closer inspection, I realized that no new nesting material had actually been added. What I saw sticking out of the hole haphazardly was actually the bluebirds’ nesting material (and some was pulled down the to the ground as well). Could this be some type of small mammal that got in there and pulled the eggs/nesting material out with their small claws? I’m hoping to learn from this failure, and I wonder if folks on this forum have found baffles to also be a necessity? Thanks again!
May 10, 2022 at 10:50 pm #24339
- This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Meredith.
Baffles do help. Your nest box should be mounted on slick surface pole, metal, PCV, etc. It should never be mounted on a wood post, fence. or in a tree. Critters can climb these pols and destroy your nests. I use a stove-pipe baffle on my 5′ 1 1/2″ pcv pipe. I also have sharp edged 1/4 ” hardware cloth disks and wadded chicken wire inside the baffle to deter snakes. The nest box should be placed away from high shrubs, overhanging branches, and anything that give a critter access to the nestbox.
Here is a photo of my nest box and baffle.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by David in Stafford,VA.
Stafford, VAMay 10, 2022 at 10:52 pm #24340SkyonitsbackParticipant
Ugh, Meredith, you must be so sad. It is just the worst feeling when you see the bluebirds struggling so hard and you want to help them and worry you failed.
You should have the spook mount installed on your box so that *as soon as one egg is laid*, you pop in the spook apparatus and protect your eggs: http://www.sialis.org/sparrowspooker.htm
A baffle is also important and I use both. But it won’t help with sparrows.
If a sparrow “attaches” to your box (starts singing on top, starts building a nest) it is just about impossible to get rid of them without trapping, as others have suggested. Whoever attacked the eggs may now try and get back in there and start a nest.
With all this said, with the right equipment ready and with vigilance and love and dedication (which you clearly show in your post) you can be successful and it is SO AMAZING when your bluebirds make it out alive.May 11, 2022 at 11:00 am #24347
This is so true. If you have house sparrows around you really do need to trap them to get rid of them. Or, if you feed other birds with seed from stores, do not use the cheaper seed that contain millet, rape, corn seeds. Sparrows love them. I had House sparrows for a while and used them for target practice until I read about the cheap seed that attract them. I have been using seed from Wild Birds Unlimited and the “Premium” seed from Walmart that contains fruit, nuts, sunflower and safflower seed (none of the cheap grains) for several years now and have not had house sparrows at my feeders or bothering my BB for quite a while. This is not a proven solution but it seems to be working for now. BTW This is not a promotion for either of these stores. They are just convenient.
Stafford, VAMay 14, 2022 at 9:04 am #24385
Thanks so much everyone for the helpful ideas! I’ve got the baffle up and a good location, and I’m ready to go with the sparrow spooker and wren guard, if the bluebirds do try to use the house again and lay their first egg. I also have a membership to WBU so I’m using high-quality seed, and I only have finch feeders, along with the bluebird mealworm feeder in the backyard.
With my new setup, of course, I see wrens already trying to move into the house. I keep a pretty close eye on things in the backyard, and I’m wondering what to do now. Do I wait for the wrens to start building their nest and keep taking the incomplete nest down? Or should I just stop up the house for a couple of days and hope they move on? I’d love your advice!!!May 14, 2022 at 10:12 am #24387Carol – Mid-Mo.Participant
Meredith, my theory is to let them start building a nest and then BEFORE it is complete (they put in lots of sticks but you don’t want to wait until there is an egg) take out most of the nest but leaving some of THEIR sticks so they will return. I have done this for over a month now while my nest box #1 and #2 are still in use by the blues. I just returned this morning from taking out sticks which were almost 3/4 full in the box and just left about 1-2 inches in the bottom for its “stake”. But this is only workable if you have more than one box. Good luck.
P.S. If you don’t see any blues around you could plug up the hole, but then you might miss a chance for them to grab the nest.May 14, 2022 at 6:33 pm #24390
Carol, thanks so much for your insight. It sounds like what works for you is to keep the wrens occupied so they won’t mess with the other houses, do I have that right?
At the moment, I just have the one house. I’d like to give the bluebirds a chance to nab it, as I’ve seen some stopping by now and then at the mealworm feeder. I’m thinking of leaving the hole unplugged whenever I’m home so I can just keep an eye on things and plug it back up if I see the wrens making a claim. I’d like to thwart the wrens as soon as possible, as I’ve read they’re quite territorial. What do you think of this plan? :)
Thanks so much for taking the time to lend your experience — I greatly appreciate it!!May 14, 2022 at 7:37 pm #24392
Another option that might work for you is to buy or build an small inexpensive wren house and mount it away from and out of sight (if possible) of the BB nestbox. These little wren houses are in the “bird food” shelves of Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. I have used them on occasion when a wren pair seem to want to nest nearby. I just put the box up and clean it out as they put nesting materials in it.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by David in Stafford,VA.
Stafford, VAMay 15, 2022 at 10:15 am #24398
I’ve put up a decorative house out of sight (as best I could anyway!) and the wrens have already been checking it out so hope that works!! Of course, there’s now a house sparrow couple that’s interested in the bluebird house, too. Prime real estate, apparently! A bluebird couple was around last night as well so here’s hoping …. :) I don’t think I have it in me to hurt the house sparrows so I’m just plugging up the house whenever I see them. Thanks so much for the ideas and ongoing dialogue — it’s been invaluable and allowed me to learn a lot this year.
I think next year when I have the right set-up going early, I might increase my odds! :)May 15, 2022 at 10:51 pm #24402JulieParticipant
Meredith, you are going to be successful eventually because you’re trying so hard and being diligent to get all your ducks in a row, so to speak. You’ve already prepared so many things in this process. It inspires me. This whole thread reminds me of when I started with bluebirds. I saw them in the neighborhood in spring, then spent summer and fall studying and planning. I got what I needed to host them, but struggled with the sparrow aspect. Like you, I felt I could not harm the sparrows.
But the more I learned, the more I encountered the statement, “Do not put up a bluebird house if you’re not willing to deal with the house sparrows.” It took me months to get to a point where I knew I could do that. Once I set myself to the task, I was able to do it. I know you’ll be able to, as well. And if, heaven forbid, you ever have the experience of having a sparrow destroy a nest or adult in the box, trust me—you won’t find it difficult to deal with the sparrows.
Fingers crossed you get a nesting pair of bluebirds this year!May 15, 2022 at 11:01 pm #24404SkyonitsbackParticipant
I echo Julie 100%. I didn’t start off trapping—I got there when I saw how the deck is stacked against the bluebirds. When I feel squeamish or remorseful, I picture the dead bluebirds I’ve found and I brace myself and do it.
You can do it without ever touching a bird.May 16, 2022 at 10:30 am #24411
Carol, Julie, and Sky have given you some good information. You may be reluctant to deal with extreme measures with the HOSP – but I am sure that the view of a destroyed nest with the broken eggs, or worse the mangled remains of the dead female or the dead young birds will give you second thoughts about what you need to do. While trapping the birds does not harm them, moving them to another location just transfers the problem to another Bluebird monitor. It’s a tough choice but I am sure that you can do it.
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