Saturday, May 4, 2013

Update no. 3 on Parc Perlière's Nesting Bluebirds -- Chicks in the box!

Parc Perlière's Eastern Bluebird chicks -- April 29, 2013
           Parc Perlière, our certified National Federation Wildlife habitat (yard), is hosting an Eastern Bluebird family and Pluff Mud Perspectives is recounting their story in a multi-part series.  This post is update no. 3 (which is actually the fourth one thus far in the series).  If you have missed the first 3 parts in the series, here are links to "Birdbox Battles ...", Update no. 1 and Update no. 2.      

           When I left off in Update no. 2, I was anticipating the hatching to occur the next day, Sunday, April 21.  I also had noted that Mama Bluebird (aka Princess Bluebird) comes to visit at our dining room window to let us know she wants more meal worms.  I managed to capture her more insistent attempts to communicate to us.

 Eastern Bluebird -- "Princess Bluebird" -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- April 24, 2013
           She really does know how to get your attention tapping on the window repeatedly -- quite the smart birdy!  We have set times for putting out the meal worms and generally speaking, it is towards those times that she begins to show up.  We have declined to feed her the second helpings when she requests them.  She knows how to fend for herself and her family.  The meal worms are a treat -- not a meal and we intend for that to continue to be the case as they are wild birds and not pets.  I do wonder though if her children will begin to follow her to this window once they fledge and begin to follow the parents back to the meal worm feeder.            

            Well folks, I was off by a day in my calculations as to when the 5 Eastern Bluebird eggs would hatch!  Instead of hatching that Sunday, they emerged in the wee hours of Monday, April 22.  We missed the hatching.  But in the clip below you will see our very first glimpse of the tiny bare babes when Mom left the nest Monday morning at about 8 am.  They were no bigger than peanuts!  We have been able to watch via our live video feed how the parents raise the chicks and how quickly these babes have grown to the size of a small mouse in just 10 days!  In a team effort, Carl and I created this video to share with you the first 10 days of life in the nest box.

Eastern Bluebirds' First 10 Days of Life -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 22 - May 2, 2013


          Thursday, this week, I contacted my friend, master bird bander, Chris Snook, to see if he were interested in banding these chicks while still in the nest box.  He has offered to band our chicks in previous years but we never got the timing right.  Babies birds have to be old enough that their legs have grown to the appropriate size but young enough so as not to precipitate pre-mature fledging.  The nesting period from hatching to fledging for Eastern Bluebirds is approximately 17 days.  Our birds were now 10 days old -- one full week away from fledging.  This was the right time.  Bird banders generally speaking are always interested in banding new birds.  The data gained by observations and retrieval of bands helps add to the general data base of birds, their habitats, longevity, migration routes, area and/or site fidelity.  By banding the birds, we can continue to track them even as their plumage changes into an adult plumage.  It will be interesting to see if these chicks return to this area next Spring as adults!  Chris was quite happy that we asked and we arranged for him to come the next evening.

             The photos below show how we worked together to accomplish the task which must be done quickly to avoid undue stress on the chicks and parent birds.  With the cool blustery wind, we decided to take the chicks into the garage for banding.  At 6:45 pm, Carl and Chris removed the chicks from the nest box placing them in a bird bander's bag.  The parents were a bit miffed at our invasion.  Chris plugged the hole to the box so that they would not go in to find missing chicks.

Chris and Carl removing chicks from nest box -- Parc Perlière -- May 3, 2013
At 6:46 pm, I took this picture of the first chick banded.

Eastern Bluebird chick -- 11 days old -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- May 3, 2013

At 6:48 pm, this picture was taken of the third or fourth chick being banded.

Eastern Bluebird chick being banded -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- May 3, 2013

Then at 6:50 pm, five minutes after they removed the chicks from the nest, they were returning them to the nest -- 5 chicks removed, banded and returned all in 5 minutes!  Chris was pleased at how lively and healthy the chicks appeared as he handled them.

          As a consolation prize for the intrusion, the family got an extra dose of meal worms -- comfort food!  We watched the chicks settling back down and the delivery of meal worms by the parents on our live video feed.  Everyone seems fine -- they have returned to their family routine.  Princess Bluebird does not seem to be holding a grudge for our having handled her babies, she still perches close-by in the tree when I bring out the meal worms and also comes to the window to beg for more -- silly girl!

          Stay tuned for the next update!  The big day -- Fledging Day -- should happen next Thursday, May 9!  We hope to be able to capture the event from both inside and outside the box!