One of the nicest things about living at this property, I think, has been the bluebirds that have reliably nested in the box in the meadow a hundred meters back from the house. It’s probably the same pair returning each year; the birds can live up to 7 or 8 years or more and tend to be fairly loyal to their territories. Last week Dan and I went out to check on how the local family was doing. Although by the time I go out with the dogs in the afternoon things have mostly quieted down, Dan’s been watching them during his morning walks and he had a feeling they’d be getting close to fledging, which they do at this latitude at about 19 days old.
Sure enough, when we opened up the box the little guys were probably only a few days away from leaving the nest, if that. Fortunately, they weren’t quite ready to go yet, and just hunkered down when I reached in to count them and pull them out for a photo. Their feet, one of the first parts of a baby bird to mature so they can use them to cling to branches if they have to leave the nest early in an emergency, gripped at the nest as I picked them up, and then at my hand while I held them.
The photo above is of a baby boy. You can tell the sexes of the babies apart by the colour of the wing and tail feathers – blue in males, grayish in females (below). We had two of each in the box. While we had the box open the parents sat in a nearby tree and waited. They were pretty patient with us for most of it, having come to recognize Dan as no threat from his morning walks and occasional checks.
For temperate migrants like these guys, who spend the winter not that far south of here, the breeding season starts early and many are already fledging young. Meanwhile, tropical migrants such as many of the warblers are only just starting to establish territories and build nests. We’ll be starting our MAPS visits this week and will get to see a lot more baby birds in the next little while. I do look forward to the fieldwork, for that and other reasons. It’s too bad it requires getting up so early!