Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birdbox Battles: Eastern Bluebirds vs. Carolina Chickadees!

            In our yard, dubbed Parc Perlière, we have one bluebird box which has usually housed Eastern Bluebird families in the Spring but has also sometimes been used by Carolina Chickadees.

Last year's hungry Carolina Chickadee fledglings waiting on a meal  -- Parc Perlière -- This family did not use the nestbox though there was a Carolina Chickadee family in the box in 2011.

Last year's Carolina Chickadee family meal -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2012 -- This family did not use the next box though there was a Carolina Chickadee family in the box in 2011.

Eastern Bluebird family last year on fledging day -- Parc Perlière -- April 27, 2012

Eastern Bluebird youngster hoping for a handout from Dad who is trying to take care of Mom  who is sitting on a second set of eggs -- Parc Perlière -- May 30, 2010

Five Carolina Chickadee eggs -- March 23, 2013
               We thought that this would be the Spring for the Chickadees to use the box.  They had already built a nest. If this photo of Carolina Chickadee eggs looks familiar to my regular readers, then yes, you are correct, you did see this photo in my recent post, "Transitioning into Spring!".  Sadly, I must report that the eggs are no more!  Even before the Carolina Chickadees managed to lay these 5 eggs, we had witnessed a pair of Eastern Bluebirds showing quite an interest in the nest box, visiting it regularly, particularly in the early morning.

            What a crazy week!  How we would have liked to have provided another nestbox to prevent the conflict.  Unfortunately, our free time has been much limited by work and school obligations.  We only had a few moments each morning before leaving for work to watch the bird box disputes.  The Carolina Chickadees were able to fend them off for more than a week while they laid their eggs.  But alas, the female Eastern Bluebird became more and more persistent and aggressive. Finally, Wednesday a week ago, she entered the box, then came out, flew to the a perch.  We could not see if she was carrying anything in her beak.  I suspected she was attempting to carry out the chickadee eggs.  Three times she did this.  I stepped away from the window to finish preparing for work.  But Carl watched and reported the blow-by-blow fight that ensued.  As the female returned to enter the box a fourth time, a chickadee attacked her and knocked her to the ground where they continued to scuffle.  Then the male bluebird joined the fray!  The chickadee broke free and it was all over as quickly as it had begun.  Wow!

            That afternoon, when Carl and I checked the box, we found 3 broken eggs and two whole but cold eggs.  We were pretty sure that the Carolina Chickadees had given up but we left the nest inside just in case.  Carl also quickly installed another video camera as he had removed last year's camera for repairs.  Now we are back to watching the goings on much less intrusively now.  We saw the chickadees visit the nest box  and look in forlornly on occasion but it appeared that they realized that their eviction was a sealed deal.

            By Friday, a few pine needles had appeared -- a preferred nesting material of Eastern Bluebirds.  Saturday through Monday, we watched the female Eastern Bluebird bring much more nesting material and build her nest.  Here's a video showing her doing her jig to shape the nest bowl.

Video by Carl Miller -- Parc Perlière -- March 30, 2013

          Occasionally, the male entered and poked around a bit and would remove some of the Chickadee nesting material.  Honestly, he did not help much.  For Eastern Bluebirds, nest-building falls to the female.   I suppose his gestures were symbolic of wanting to feel useful but not knowing how.  No worries, he will work his tail feathers off once there are chicks to feed!  Here's his video clip!

Video by Carl Miller -- Parc Perlière -- March 30, 2013

         The nest now appears complete.  Over the last couple of days, the female has not brought in more nesting material but she has continued to come in to do her jig to perfect the bowl.  I am hoping for an egg tomorrow! 

         Carl and I will follow the events as they progress with our bluebirds and will share here in the blog our peeks into life inside a nestbox.  So stay tuned for updates!


  1. I can't thank you and Carl enough for sharing your wonderful birding/wildlife "doings" with us ! LOVE the pics of the BB nesting. But :-( re: loss of Chickadees!g

  2. Perfect candidate for

  3. And indeed it is! I entered the deposit of the 1st bluebird egg this morning. For those who are not aware of this Cornell Lab of Ornithology Program, I recommend you check out this Nestwatch program. This is another citizen science event in which certified (certification is easy with on-line training) nest watchers can help to contribute to the nesting data. You do not need a video feed as they train you how to observe the nests as unobtrusively as possible.