The overall timing of egg-laying throughout the Bluebird’s range reflects the timing of nest building. Egg-laying begins during February and March in the warmer southern states and March and April in the northern and colder states. During April, most breeding Bluebirds are at least incubating eggs.
Baby bluebird hatchlings
Bluebird hatchlings. Photo by Robert Heyer. Right after baby birds hatch they are called “hatchlings”. At this stage, bluebird hatchlings are naked with just a few patches of light down.
|Clutch Size:||2-7 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1-3 broods|
|Egg Length:||0.7-0.9 in (1.8-2.4 cm)|
|Egg Width:||0.6-0.8 in (1.5-1.9 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||11-19 days|
Mother birds don’t sleep in the nest with their babies unless it’s a particularly cold night. Most of the time, mother birds sleep outside the nest somewhere nearby so that the chicks have plenty of room to move and grow. Many adult birds sleep in tree cavities or while perched in bushes.
According to two different studies, 26% – 44% of adult bluebirds return to breed at the same site where they nested the previous year. Therefore, there is about a one in three chance that the bluebirds you have in your nest box this year will return to the same box the following year.
She usually stays on the nest at night. While they may sit on eggs occasionally during the egg laying period, “full-time” regular incubation doesn’t start until all eggs are laid.
It’s important to remember that bluebirds are very accepting of human interaction and will never abandon a nest because of monitoring. However, it’s usually best to monitor a nest when the adult male and female are not inside.
Where do bluebirds sleep at night? Sleeping places include pastures, orchards, parks, and meadows. Eastern Bluebirds will build nests in tree cavities to protect their young, in a behavior similar to that of woodpeckers. Bluebirds will sometimes construct their nests within abandoned woodpecker holes of trees.
Once they leave the nest, they perch on branches and remain living in trees until they are old enough to find cavities to roost. Some fledglings may land on top of their natal nesting box about two weeks after leaving the nest as they follow their parents.
To the tribesmen of the Navajo and Iroquois, the bluebirds symbolize good fortune, fertility, and prosperity. These birds were often seen during the spring season and were, thus, associated with growth and new beginnings.
Bluebirds leave breeding grounds in the north of their range to winter in the southeastern U.S. or Mexico. Populations in the northern part of their range are entirely migratory, spending winters in the southeastern United States or Mexico.
Bluebirds generally fledge 16-21 days after hatching, typically 17-18. Development depends on food availability. The parents often get more defensive around the box at this time, and may divebomb passersby.
Bluebirds do not remove old nesting material, rather they simply build over an existing nest. If you do not clean out your nest box, it may become filled to the brim with old nesting material. This can potentially leave the new nest dangerously close to the entrance hole, where predators can easily reach it.
Most Bluebirds (95%) mate for life, and mated pairs can stay together for as long as they survive. In the event of the death or disappearance of the male or female, the remaining bird replaces it with a new mate.
Some birds can pick up their babies, however, and some waterbirds like loons and swans even carry their chicks around on their backs. Most birds are not built to lift heavy weights, especially not while flying. Birds of prey like eagles are an exception, but they have not been recorded carrying their live young around.
If you can find the nest (it may be well hidden), put the bird back as quickly as possible. Don’t worry—parent birds do not recognize their young by smell. They will not abandon a baby if it has been touched by humans.” So leave the cute ones alone, and put the little ratty-looking ones back in the nest.
Baby birds without a crop can only hold a small amount of food at a time and must be fed as often as every 20 minutes from sunup to sundown.
Bluebirds seem to love being around humans and have been gracing farms, backyards, school and church grounds, golf courses, and parks with their presence for hundreds of years. They are one of the easiest of all birds to entice to nest with bird houses.
Bluebird experts suggest cleaning them out after each brood has fledged. If that isn’t possible, the boxes should be cleaned out after the last brood has left the nest in late summer. That timing won’t disturb them or drive them away. Don’t miss these adorable baby bluebird pictures.
The key to attracting Eastern Bluebirds to nest in your yard is to have plenty of potential nesting locations, food and water. Bluebirds do prefer more open area so if your yard is heavily wooded you’ll enjoy many other nesting birds, but probably not bluebirds.
During the first few days after bluebird hatchlings break out of the egg they are fed entirely by their mothers. During this time, male bluebirds supply their mates with small, soft insects such as caterpillars. The females, in turn, feed the protein-rich insects to the hatchlings.
Babies need a lot of food because they grow quickly. Both the mother and father bluebird help feed them, bringing insects (like spiders, caterpillars, grasshoppers, mealworms, and beetles) and sometimes berries about every 15-20 minutes.
Foods fed to nestlings.
The parents bring crickets, spiders, grasshoppers, butterflies, and moth larvae, as well as berries such as raspberry, mulberry, dogwood, cherry, and honeysuckle. The diet of nestling bluebirds is high in protein, consisting of approximately 68% invertebrates and 32% berries.
At any rate, once a female begins laying her eggs she will lay one a day until the clutch is completed. Each egg is usually laid before mid-morning. Incubation doesn’t begin until the last egg is laid. This insures that all of the eggs will hatch at approximately the same time.
Incubation develops the eggs into chicks and typically takes 14 days for bluebirds. Since they were all incubated for the same length of time all eggs will normally hatch within 24 hours of each other.