I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than watching a bluebird family in their natural surroundings! I have been lucky to find a nest where I can set my camera up nearby and observe. They don’t seem to mind too much but do keep a watchful eye on me!
All excerpts taken from Cornell Lab of Ornithology….All About Birds:
Male Mountain Bluebirds lend a bit of cerulean sparkle to open habitats across much of western North America. You may spot these cavity-nesters flitting between perches in mountain meadows, in burned or cut-over areas, or where prairie meets forest—especially in places where people have provided nest boxes. Unlike many thrushes, Mountain Bluebirds hunt insects from perches or while on the wing, at times resembling a tiny American Kestrel with their long wings, hovering flight, and quick dives.
The place they call home!
- Historically, the Mountain Bluebird depended for nest sites on forest tree cavities excavated by woodpeckers. Today, many Mountain Bluebirds breed in artificial nest boxes, which tend to be situated in more open areas and have smaller openings to keep out marauders and bad weather. Most of what we know about Mountain Bluebirds comes from studies of these human-made nesting sites.
- A female Mountain Bluebird pays more attention to good nest sites than to attractive males. She chooses her mate solely on the basis of the location and quality of the nesting cavity he offers her—disregarding his attributes as a singer, a flier, or a looker.
- Males sometimes enact a kind of symbolic nest-building—miming the act of bringing nesting material to the cavity, but actually carrying nothing, or else dropping their burdens en route. The female builds the insulated nest by herself, usually working hardest in the early morning. She entirely fills the cavity floor with coarse, dry grass stems and other vegetation, hollowing out a cup just large enough to allow her to cover her eggs snugly, with a maximum interior diameter of about 2 inches. The cup is usually greater than 2 inches deep, and placed as far as possible from the entrance hole. Cavity size determines the nest’s exact external dimensions. The female lines the cup with finer plant material, such as fine grass stems and narrow strips of soft bark, and also in some cases with wool or feathers. The whole process can take several days to more than a week. Mountain Bluebirds often reuse nest cavities within and between breeding seasons, and accumulating nesting material can pile up to the level of the entrance hole.
- Eggs are pale blue and unmarked, sometimes white. The clutch size is four or five eggs. Young are naked and helpless at hatching and may have some down. Incubation normally last 14 days and the young will take about 21 days before they leave the nest. Both males and females fiercely protect the nest.
- A male Mountain Bluebird frequently feeds his mate while she is incubating and brooding. As the male approaches with food, the female may beg fledgling-style—with open beak, quivering wings, and begging calls. More often, she waits until her mate perches nearby, then silently flicks the wing farthest from him—a signal that usually sends him off to find her a snack.
As parents, they are good providers with Mom doing ALL the work it seems. (sound familiar?!!)
Mountain Bluebirds eat mostly insects, especially during breeding season. Beetles, grasshoppers, and especially caterpillars top the menu. In winter they go after small fruits, seeds, and insects when available. Commonly eaten plant items include grapes, currants, elderberries, cedar berries, and the seeds of sumac, mistletoe, and hackberry. Spiders are also an important part of the adult diet. Nestlings are fed primarily beetles and grasshoppers.
Feeding the babies! I have had a glimpse of 4 little mouths!
As breeding season winds down, flocks of 30 or more Mountain Bluebirds begin to form. Each postbreeding flock centers on one or more families with dependent fledglings, later joined by unattached adult birds who failed to reproduce that year. As the last fledglings become mobile, these postbreeding flocks may wander out of sight for periods of days or weeks, returning to visit their nesting areas for a few hours or days, until eventually they disappear from the territory.
- The longest-lived Mountain Bluebird on record was nine years old when it was trapped and released during banding operations in June 2005.
I am not sure what age these little babies are to know how soon they will leave the nest. I am guessing they may be half way though, so about 10-11 days. I will wait a few more days then go have another visit to see their progress!
I have learned a lot about these gorgeous birds, they are such a joy to watch! Stay tuned to see them grow up!
Until next time…….