Monday, March 10, 2008

Bluebirds Set up Housekeeping at Selah

Bluebird images captured by Amanda Fulton

Amanda with Steven and Aiden last summer at Madrone Lake.

Amanda teaches biology at Blanco High School. She is married to Steven who is a biologist and teacher here at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve. They have a son, Aiden who was born on the 4th of July in 2006.

This past weekend, Amanda set up her camera in the yard in front of a bluebird box that a pair of bluebirds had chosen as their nest box. For hours she sat, watching and taking pictures. The six bluebird pictures in this blog show both the characteristics of the male and female, and the care the male gives the female during the nesting period.

I have asked Bamberger Ranch staff members for contributions such as pictures and ideas for the blog, and am thrilled that Amanda took these pictures.

Bluebirds are one of the Thrushes (a sub-family of birds). Thrushes have thin bills, strong legs, and many have beautiful songs. Both insects and berries are important to their diet.

Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are in Eastern and Central United States including Texas. There are also Western Bluebirds which are seen in far West Texas. Flocks of Mountain Bluebirds are seen here sometimes in the winter.

They are a medium sized songbird, 6 to 8 inches from head to tail. They have a wingspan of 10 to 13 inches. They weigh around 1 ounce.

As is true with many bird species, the male is more brightly colored than the female. The blue on this male is a uniform and intense color , and the chestnut marking of his chin and breast is a rich color. His belly is white.

In this picture of the male bluebird you can see what a lovely blue is on his back - from his head to his tail.

This female bluebird's picture shows her grey-blue face, white eye ring, and the soft chestnut color on her breast.

The female is sitting in the opening of her nest box as she waits and watches for her mate to come back, hopefully with a delicious insect or berry.

Her mate has returned with something for her to eat, and she eagerly accepts it.

Now that she has eaten he gets ready to fly away, perhaps to find something to eat for himself or perhaps he'll find more food for his mate so that she can produce healthy eggs.

Before people started putting out bluebird nest boxes, bluebirds were having a hard time finding appropriate nesting sites that weren't taken by other birds, such as European Starlings and House Sparrows. People that liked seeing and hearing bluebirds decided to make nest boxes especially for them, and now the numbers of bluebirds have increased dramatically. We have put up lots of them here.

Many Audubon Society groups have developed "Bluebird Trails" in parks and on private land. Members put up lots of nest boxes, and and develop trails with good spots for watching bluebirds come and go with food for their nestlings.

Typically the female lays 4 or 5 pale blue unmarked eggs. Incubation lasts for 13 to 16 days. Both parents bring food to for the nestlings. Young birds leave the nest at around 18 or 19 days. I have seen the adults feed them for a while after they are out of the nest.

Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood each year. The grown birds from the first clutch will often help feed the latest youngsters.

Thanks to Amanda for these wonderful pictures of Bluebirds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a wonderful website with lots of interesting visual things including a Nest Box Cam of bluebirds, which should start their 2008 season soon (within the next week or so). Last year the cams started being shown on the website in March. Some of the nests were successful and some were not. Some of the pictures from the cams during the spring last year (2007) can be viewed now.

Try to get out and enjoy the birds this spring. There is a lot of activity now, and nesting sites are being chosen and nest building is starting. I'd love to hear about things that you find! If you send answers in the "comment" section I can publish them and everyone can read them! You can use your real name or make up one. If you don't want your comment published let me know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The bluebird pictues taken by Amanda are outstanding. Thank you, Amanda, for sharing.

For those who have visited and love Selah, your blog keeps us
well-informed with interesting text and outstanding pictures.

For those who have not visited Selah or cannot visit Selah, your blog is informative, interesting and educational.

Thanks to You, Margaret, Mr. Bamberger and the entire Selah staff for this rare opportunity to ecperience Nature as it should be, a community shared by ALL.

Jo Swann