Monday, May 27, 2013

Bluebird Chivalry

I found a second clutch in my bluebird box consisting of four eggs.  Yippee!  The first clutch back in March consisted of five so if all goes well with this clutch the female will be the proud mom of nine children. 
A couple weeks ago I snapped a photo of one of the juveniles from the first clutch.  It had been hanging out on the low hanging limb of an oak studying the ground for something to eat as it had been schooled to do by its parents.  It eventually flew over to the box that was its birth place, probably waiting to see if mom or dad might come along with something feed it.  Later I was able to capture a photo of the adult female bringing in a fresh strand of pine straw to add to her nest, which would eventually hold the second clutch of four eggs I spoke of earlier.  
Raising nine kids takes lots of work.  During the incubation period the female spends most of her time in the box keeping her eggs warm.  Only the female does this because only she has what is known as a brood patch.  Towards the end of the egg laying period she sheds feathers on her belly exposing an area of skin that is concentrated with blood vessels that are close to the skin’s surface.  The heat released from this area is what keeps the eggs warm during development.  She must also keep a close eye out so that predators don’t make a meal out of them.  Wrens are also prominent in this area and are known to enter bluebird housing and “pip” eggs and kill bluebird nestlings, so she has to be wary of these also.  She's so busy tending to her eggs that she doesn't have much time to even feed herself.  Ever so often she would leave the confines of the box and fly up to an airy perch on an electrical wire nearby, still all the while keeping a close eye on the wooden box that held her precious eggs.  I began to wonder where the male was.  I glassed the trees in search of him and then moments later he shows up.
He had been out fly-catching for insects for his hard working, famished mate.  There he stood on top of the nest box with a beak full of bugs.
The female drops like a stone from her high perch and lands on the box as if she’s been expecting him.  She opens her beak and he hops to her side and places the insects ever so gently into her mouth.  What a sight to see!


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