Fledging bluebirds: A few things to know

Young bluebird leaving the nest. Photo: Eric Davis.

How long before bluebirds fledge: Age of nest departure 

According to Benedict Pinkowsky (1974c), who monitored 184 nestling eastern bluebirds in Michigan, young bluebirds fledged between days 16 and 22 after hatching. Nestling bluebirds leave the nest on average 19 days after hatching, based on all 184 nestlings in the study. 

But there is a good deal of variation.

The table below includes all 184 bluebirds included in the monitoring study and the ages at which they naturally fledged the nest. 

Number of nestlings that left the  nestAge at which a nestling left the  nest
13 (7%)16 days
10 (5%)17 days
40 (22%)18 days
66 (36%)19 days
21 (11%)20 days
16 (9%)21 day
18 (10%)22 days

The table and graph indicate that:

  • Baby eastern bluebirds begin to leave the nest as early as day 16 and continue until day 22. 
  • Most young bluebirds leave the nest between days 18 and 22 (88%). 
  • Nestlings do not leave the nest before day 16. 

Young bluebirds typically fledge earlier in the spring than they do in the summer

Some pairs raise two broods in the northern United States and Canada; one in the spring and one in the summer. Other pairs raise only a single brood in the spring or summer and do not attempt a second nest (Peakall, 1970). 

On instances where bluebirds reared a second brood, ornithologists found that spring broods took an average of 19.39 days to fledge while summer broods took an average of 18.63 days after hatching. Thus, baby bluebirds leave the nest later in the spring and earlier in the summer.

The most likely reason for such differences in age at the moment of fledging is that food is more scarce in the cold spring of northern latitudes than in the summer. In other words, baby bluebirds take a little longer to mature in the spring and be ready for fledging.

What time of day do bluebirds fledge?

According to studies of bird nesting biology, the most critical time in a bird’s development is the transition from nestling to fledgling. Young bluebirds are most at risk of predation during this period, both as nestlings and as fledglings. Predation is most common during this period.

The risk of predation is what drives the timing of fledgling, so young bluebirds must leave the nest early enough in the day to be able to find a safe perch to hide for a few days.

Early fledging would allow them to find a place to hide, even on the ground.

As with most other studies of fledgling birds, baby bluebirds tend to leave their nest around six hours after sunrise or before noon, given that weather conditions are favorable. 

In some cases, nestlings are not strong enough to fly and fall to the ground where they are at risk of predation by wild predators, cats, and dogs. Early fledging would allow them time to find a place to hide, even on or near the ground.

How does one know when baby bluebirds are ready to fledge? 

Within 12 days of hatching, baby bluebirds are restless inside the nest, able to preen themselves and stretch their wings. They begin to peek out of the entrance hole at the world around them when they “begin to think about leaving the nest.”

On day 16, the baby bluebirds appear to compete for a chance to peek through the entrance hole. Several heads can be seen inside the nesting box. Nestlings can begin to fledge on day  16.

Nestling bluebirds can fly for a short distance by day 14, but they never leave the nest before day 16 unless something causes them to do so.

Starting about day 15, the parents decrease food delivery rates to encourage nest departure. As a result of less feeding, the nestling loses some weight, which facilitates flight. Meanwhile, the parents call the nestlings from outside the cavity to encourage them to leave.

Young bluebird taking a peek at the outside world, indicating it will fledge soon. Photo: Hawk Center of Arkansas.

The first flight

The first flight out of the nest is awkward, on a straight line, with nonstop wingbeats. On the first flight, a fledgling wants to reach a perch as soon as possible. Typically, the parents accompany the fledglings on their first flight and seem to remember where the fledgling landed. They will return to that spot to continue feeding each newly fledged bluebird.

During the first flight, the distance covered varies from 10 to 55 yards. Some birds do not make it very far and fall to the ground because they miss a landing perch or cannot fly long distances. 

Upon leaving the nest, fledglings give a characteristic call, which the parents also use. This call helps the parents to track down and locate the fledgling. 

This is the call that fledgling
bluebirds repeat constantly after
leaving the nest.

Premature Fledging

Premature fledging occurs when young bluebirds leave the nest too early when they are still unable to maintain sustained flight. Premature fledging can be caused by predators attacking the nestlings or by humans opening the nesting box after day 12 after hatching

Fledging that occurs before day 16 can be considered premature. Pinkowsky’s 1974c studies showed that none of the 184 nestlings he monitored fled before day 16 after hatching.

Human-induced premature fledging

Nestling bluebirds crouch as a defense mechanism when a nesting box is opened for regular monitoring. Nestlings typically change their defense mechanism from crouching to jumping off the nest when they become more physically coordinated by day 12. 

Nesting boxes should never be opened for any reason after day 11 or 12 after hatching to prevent accidental premature fledging. 

Fledgling on the ground due to leaving the nest prematurely. Photo: Ted Peterson

How can I help a fledgling bluebird if I find one on the ground?

Often, young bluebirds fall to the ground the first time they leave the nest. It may be because they are not strong enough for sustained flight, missed a perch on their first attempt, or were forced to fledge prematurely.

Fledglings on the ground are at high risk of being preyed upon by predators such as foxes, raccoons, cats, and dogs.

If you are going to help a fledgling bluebird on the ground:

  1. Check to see if it can fly up to a tree branch or bush on its own. If you approach the nestling on the ground, it will fly away and get higher to a branch above the ground.
  2. If the fledgling cannot take flight and falls back to the ground, try helping it to climb up a tree or bush. Catch it (see below) and toss it above a low tree or bush so that it lands on it and perches on a branch.
  3. Put it back in the nesting box or cavity where it came from. Return it to the nest after catching it. 

It is natural for the nestling to immediately get out of the box and continue running away from you.  Put the nestling inside the box and seal the entrance with a rug or a sock for five to ten minutes to give the bird time to settle down. Then remove the plug to allow the parents to continue feeding the nestling. The chick would need two or three more days in the nest to gain strength to leave the nest on its own and reach a branch above the ground on the next attempt.

How to catch a baby bluebird on the ground

Assess the situation and identify the areas where you do not want the fledgling to fly or run to. For example, you may have a pond nearby, a place where cats roam freely, or an area you believe is dangerous to the fledgling if you miss catching it.

Get a towel (works best) and approach the fledgling from the direction you don’t want it to run or fly to. The fledgling will likely escape from you in the opposite direction from where you are approaching it. 

When you are close enough, throw the towel on top of the bird. It will run away if you get too close; you won’t hurt it. Throw the towel quickly from a distance. 

Keep the fledgling under the towel by placing your hand over the towel. Holding the bird with one hand, grab the fledgling gently with your other hand underneath the towel.

Recently fledged young eastern bluebird sitting on its first perch. Photo: Sue Crowell.

After fledging, what do baby bluebirds do, and where do they go?

After leaving the nest, they remain in hiding for about a week. The parents continue to feed them there.

Baby bluebirds tend to get closer together as they gain strength. Siblings are often seen huddled together on a single branch. When they are close together, it is easy for the parents to feed them.  

After fledging, young bluebirds continue to grow.

Young bluebirds are not fully developed when they leave the nest. Their wings are short and rounded and still growing, the same with their short tail. When young bluebirds leave the nest, their wing and tail feathers still have unsheathed bases.

After fledging, the wing and tail feathers grow to adult size in 35 to 40 days. During this period, the juvenile ceases to be fed by the parents and becomes nutritionally independent

How long do bluebird fledglings stay with their parents?

After fledging, young bluebirds stay with their parents for about three weeks. A field study found that the parents stop feeding the chicks around day 40 after hatching. 

Within two weeks after leaving the nest, the fledglings begin to feed themselves alongside their parents. Following the parents, they gradually take less and less food from them as they learn to forage for themselves. 

When they become nutritionally independent, spring fledglings leave their parents’ territory. The parents become aggressive towards their fledglings, perhaps to encourage total independence and start another brood. 

The fledglings from the second (summer) brood tend to stay at their parents’ territory longer, often remaining together over the winter

Fledglings bluebirds join flocks of other nutritionally independent youngsters. Each flock of youngsters is different in size and moves about the landscape without being attached to one particular area.

The parents continue feeding the young bluebird anywhere they land. Photo: Sue Crowell.

Do bluebirds fledge at the same time?

When all nestlings have grown equally, they usually fledge within a few hours. Nestlings who are behind in their development take longer to leave the nest. 

Nestlings develop at different rates. Some individuals may develop up to two days ahead of their siblings despite hatching on the same day. Most nestlings have long enough wings and other measurements to fledge, but those falling behind need one or two more days to develop and be ready to fledge.

After fledging, do bluebird parents sleep with their babies?

Parents do not sleep with their fledglings. For the first few days after leaving the nest, the fledglings remain hidden in separate locations. During the day, their parents know exactly where to find them to feed them, but they retreat to roost at night in one of the several cavities they typically use on their territory. 

Adult-sized fledglings that can feed themselves join flocks composed of other youngsters. Photo: Hungry Little Birdie.

Do fledgling bluebirds return to their nests?

Fledgling bluebirds do not return to the nest after they have fledged. They are physically unable to return to the nest until they gain flight strength and maneuverability.

When nestlings leave the nest, they can only rudimentarily fly. They can only fly short distances and must land on something. Experienced parents make flying in and out of the cavity look easy, but a fledgling would have difficulty doing so.

Once they leave the nest, they perch on branches and remain living in trees until they are old enough to find cavities to roost. Some fledglings may land on top of their natal nesting box about two weeks after leaving the nest as they follow their parents.

References:

  • Martin TE . 1993. Nest predation among vegetation layers and habitat types: revising the dogmas. Am Nat. 141:897–913.
  • Pinkowski, Benedict. 1997. Breeding Adaptations in the Eastern Bluebird. C., The Condor, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 289-302 (14 pages) Published By: Oxford University Press.
  • Plissner, J. H. and P. A. Gowaty. 1996. Patterns of natal dispersal, turnover, and dispersal costs in eastern bluebirds. Animal Behaviour 51:1307-1322.

50 thoughts on “Fledging bluebirds: A few things to know”

    1. This year I finally convinced some western bluebirds to nest. The second brood is just about to fledge. The first batch had 7 eggs 6 of which hatched a couple months ago or so. I feed mealworms to them and still routinely see Mom, Dad and all 6 babies at the feeder. They are so used to me that they will fly to the feeder when they see me. The second brood was 5 eggs but only 3 hatched. As mentioned, they will fledge any day. It is interesting to watch the first brood interact with the second brood. At least 3 of the first babies have been seen feeding the second babies. I have a camera in the nest and it has been interesting to see the first babies learn how to feed the second babies. Yesterday, one had a mealworm completely perpendicular with his beak. He (yes both female and male babies feed the new babies) tried for what seemed like minutes (probably 20 seconds) to feed it to each of the 3 babies. Each time it was too wide to fit in the baby’s mouth. He finally gave up, ate the mealworm himself, and left the nest. I have enjoyed my summer with the bluebirds and learned so much. I have hours of video and thousand of pictures. I am also building more houses for the neighbors.

  1. Hi Heidi,

    Yes, it is not common, but sometimes one or two older siblings (of the year’s first brood) help raise their younger siblings. This happens to pairs that have double broods.

    What is somewhat contradictory is that the parents that attempt a second brood often drive the first brood away from the territory when the fledglings are nutritionally independent; perhaps the parents want to focus on the next brood.

    Yet, the parents would benefit from having some help raising the second brood.

    I read that older siblings help as a practice run. They will be able to breed the next year.

    Do you have helpers at one of your nesting boxes? How many helpers?

    Thank you for visiting.

    Al

    1. My nest of bluebirds fledged this morning. The two babies spent a lot of time checking out the world from the birdhouse door during the previous four days.

      During the last few weeks, there have been at least two females feeding the brood.

      1. Hi Christine,

        Great, two more bluebirds to the world!

        Two females feeding young is unusual, but it happens. I wonder if you saw the two females feeding the young while they were still in the box, or the second female appeared only after the young fledged.

        Thanks.

        Dave

        1. Two females were feeding the young in my nest box. There were three babies and all disappeared after the young fledged. This is the second year they have nested in a round ceramic birdhouse. It is so much fun to watch them.

    2. We had older siblings help out with the current brood for the first time this year. We saw 3 siblings from the first brood around the house at one time (4 fledged). We’re not sure if all helped with the feeding, but there was definitely very consistent feeding by the older sibling(s).

    3. This summer my wife and I also observed western bluebird fledglings tending to their parent’s second clutch. I was surprised great to see that confirmed on this site. We did not see the parents try to chase away the first-clutch fledglings. Rather they tended to gather on communal perches. In the past I’ve had a greater affinity to mountain bluebirds, but I think this summer’s observations have change my attitudes toward there western cousins.

      1. Alfredo Begazo

        Hi Barry,

        Yes, parents chasing the first brood away seems to happen in an unpredictable manner. Some parents do it and some do not. My personal opinion is that it depends on the habitat quality. I good habitat with plenty of food and good rains during the time they are feeding their young, may lead the parents to chase the older fledglings away; they do not need them. In not-so-good habitats or dry periods where insects are hard to come by, they need help, and let them stay to help. This is personal opinion.

        I’ve never seen a Mountain Bluebird, I am in Florida. They look great though.

        Al

  2. Are there “safe perches” we can build near the box for protection from predators? the Mom and Dad have been really busy feeding and protecting ..at least 5 babies.

    1. Hi Joan, I am not sure perches near the nesting box are necessary. Any perch intended for your bluebirds is likely to be used by predators as well. I don’t think there is a need for any additional perch. Your bluebirds chose the nesting site based on the current conditions, and they appear to be successful with what they have.

      It is probably best not to interfere, particularly now when they are feeding the young, which is a risky period for predation. Baffles and predator deterrents on the pole that sustain the box are the best defense against predators.

      Regards,

      Al

  3. I’ve noticed other birds sitting on the fence and even on the nesting box. The babies should be fledging any day now. Will the other birds attack the babies?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      No, those birds near the nesting box are doing their own things. They are not a threat to the fledglings. Unless one of them is a hawk or other predatory birds likely to attack newly fledged baby bluebirds.

      Also, I doubt those birds are looking into taking the nesting box as it is now a bit late for any bird to start a new nest.

  4. We recently had a bluebird couple build a nest in a birdhouse that’s only about 3 ft from the ground, in our flower garden about 10 ft from out house. We watched for weeks as the couple flew in and out of the house’s hole. Eventually, we saw little heads peeking through the hole and the parents flying back and forth constantly feedin them. Always a flurry of parental activity throughout the day and early evening bring food.
    Then , one day earlier this week, there was no activity. No parents. So we assumed the nestlings had fledged. For three or four days there has been no signs of bluebirds. No activity. I had been reading that we are supposed to remove the nest and clean the birdhouse….but yesterday around 5:30 pm and again today at the same time , the parents have come back. No food in their mouths, but they each take a turn looking into the entrance hole — just their heads. And only one look each. The female perches on top of the birdhouse for a minute or two as well. Then they fly off.
    What does this parental behavior mean? Did something happen to the nestlings and they did not fledge? I haven’t wanted to get closer than 4 ft away from the birdhouse, so I can’t really see inside the house, but if they’re alive inside they aren’t getting fed.
    What should I do? What’s going on? And..when do I have to clean out the box, because it’s wooden, decorative, and there’s no way to open it to clean it.
    Thank you for your advice. I’m so worried.
    Lynn

  5. Hi Lynn,

    If the chicks were peeking out through the nesting box hole, chances are they have fledged. They likely are sitting at separate spots, and the parents are feeding them. Right about now, since the time they apparently left the nest, they should be getting better at following the parents around rather than waiting for them to deliver the food. As to why the parents came back to check inside the nest, cavity-nesting birds do that. After all the chicks have fledged, they still come back to see if there are any chick left in the cavity. Although you saw the adult birds nearly a week after the chicks apparently fledged…this is a little different. Could they be a different pair of adults just checking the nesting box, maybe? Or just the parents checking the box for some reason.

    Question: Right after the activity stopped, did you see the parents persistently coming to the nesting box with food? If this was the case, the parents were trying to feed the young in the nest because there aren’t any other fledglings to feed elsewhere. This could indicate that predators took the chicks. But if they disappeared altogether, it is more likely that they fledged.

    Regarding approaching the box to see what is in there and cleaning it up, go ahead and do it. At this point, it is most likely that there is nothing in the box. You can use a small mirror and look inside before proceeding.

    Do not worry about disturbing the parents. Bluebirds are quite tolerant. Also, they are not likely to start another nesting attempt at this point in time. It is too late.
    I hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Al

    1. Hi Al,
      Thank you so much. This info helped tremendously. No, we didn’t see parents with food after the activity stopped, so we believe they all fledged successfully. Today, we opened the birdhouse and a very neat, square pine needle nest was inside. I removed it carefully, intact.
      I’m cleaning the inside with a week solution of distilled white vinegar and water, instead of bleach. I hope that’s okay. After letting the interior dry, and screwing back the bottom, should I put the nest back in? Or Is there a proper way to dispose of it?
      We were so lucky to have a pair nesting this year. We have bluebirds here in NH year round, and at our feeders ( we take the feeders down June – Sept). It’s amazing they nested in this silly little kitschy decorative old birdhouse only 3 or 4 ft from the ground inside our wildflower garden near some 6’ tall miscanthus grasses.
      Thanks again.
      Lynn

      1. Hi Lynn,

        Regarding your question about putting the nest back, you don’t need to do that and it is better to dispose of if. The reason for this is that the nest may have parasites and their eggs that may hatch when the bluebirds return to use the box. This could increase the parasite load they normally have.

        Also, bluebirds build a nest on top of the last year’s nest, which elevates the new nest placing it closer to the entrance whole and easier to reach by predator.

        Is there a proper way to dispose of it? I would either recycle it in you compost pile if you have one or break it apart and put it where there is more pine needles. Some folks put them in the garbage can.

        About your nesting box, perhaps it would be a good idea elevating it and setting up a baffle or other predator guard. It appears that the height of the nest from the ground is rather low. Your bluebirds were successful at your yard and nesting box and they are likely to return the next season.

        Happy bluebirding.

        Al.

  6. The nestbox chosen this year is just above a 10′ area that gets extremely wet in this monsoonish rain/thunderstorms we’re having in the NE. The chicks are about 10 days old now I think…so I’ll stop monitoring. But what about the storm puddle? If it’s wet on any day after day 16 do you think I should put a tarp down or something in case they fall to the ground?

    1. Hi Thalia,

      While the puddle formation is something unusual, I don’t believe you should be overly concerned about it. First of all, I imagine that there are puddles everywhere. It would be impossible to predict where fledglings are going to land when they leave the nest. Perhaps more important is the fact that only a small percentage of young bluebirds fledge prematurely and fall to the ground, unless they are forced to do so.

      It is a good Idea that you are stopping monitoring the nest. This will help young bluebirds take their time and leave the nest when they are ready to do so, which means they are unlikely to fall to the ground. They will do just fine.

      Regards,

      Al

  7. Hi,
    I just stumbled on this site and want to share my experience with bluebird broods at my home in Raleigh, NC. This is my 4th year of new families of bluebirds in my nesting house – clearly they love this space and the food/care I provide.

    This year my THIRD brood are about to fledge (today is day 11, and I was searching for information regarding fledging …& fortunately found you!)
    Parents (and I) are feeding mealworms almost continually.

    When these nestlings fledge, the parents may have a 4th family ?? I’m told the ending for nest monitoring in this area is end of August.

    Bluebirds have so much to teach humans about how to care for one another and parent their young. 💌

    1. Hi Carol,

      Glad to hear that your bluebirds keep coming back! When they find a safe nesting site and they succeed at raising a brood, they usually return to it. In your case, it is even better because you are feeding them.

      Yes, when they fledge the parents will have a fourth brood/family. However, the family ties last until the fledglings become nutritionally independent and join flocks of other youngsters. In some cases, fledglings from a year’s earlier brood sticks around its natal territory and helps the parents raise the next brood; the helper’s siblings.

      It is fun to see bluebirds every year to raise a new brood.

      Happy bluebirding.

      Al.

      1. Hi Al,
        Thank you for your reply. Your information is very helpful. How interesting it is to observe increased vigilance in daddy pecking away other birds, squirrels, etc. entering the wide area where the nestlings will soon emerge…. very serious with a Blue Jay!!
        (I hope to be able to actually see at least one of the six fledge!) Clearly he is in charge!

        Also, I see evidence of earlier family members visiting the feeders, as you suggest.

        Yes, bluebirding is great fun, and I’m enjoying sharing observations with neighbors.

        Again, thanks!
        Carol

  8. I found a dead male bluebird on my lawn today . This is the second time that this pair has had chicks. Will the female be able to take care for he babies alone. I know that one feeds and the other watches for danger.
    I was going to get mealworms and sprinkle them on the roof of our shed near the BB house
    Would that be OK?

    1. Hi Andrea,

      Sorry to hear about your male bluebird.

      Whether she herself would be able to raise the young to fledging depends on how old and how many there are. I’ve heard stories where a similar situation happened. In some cases the female was able to raise them. It was not clear if some have to die or all were fed to the fledging age. In other cases, she abandoned the nesting attempt when the nestlings were very young.

      Some females were able to get a male replacement and have it help her raise her brood. The trade off for the new male is that the next brood would be his and now he has a female and a territory. He probably did not have any of that and he was a floater looking for a breeding opportunity.

      It is a good thing that you are providing worms. That will make a big difference. The female may not even need help if she has food available close to the nest.

      Let us know what was the outcome.

      Al

  9. Hello I have Blue birds for the first time in a wooden box, but I believe the babies have passed. I have not seen the parents, for a day and it’s really hot. I can watch the box from a distance. What should I do?

    Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda,

      By all means, watch what is inside. Get a small mirror and see what is inside. You can also open the box and check.

      Bluebirds are tolerant and won’t mind that type of disturbance.

      I am assuming that there is no longer activity. If the adult birds are still around and feeding the young, please make sure they are not old enough to be spooked and force to fledge prematurely, if you decide to open the box.

      I would like to heard about what you found.

      Al

      1. Hello, I have seen the male but not the female. No I have not opened the box as I am afraid to disturb them. I really hope the babies, in which I think I can hear something. Not sure, just watching from a distance. I will keep you updated. Love the website. Brenda

  10. Jane & Earnie

    Our 4th batch of Bluebirds (using the same house) should be fledging within the next 3 days. What a season this has been. Bluebirds abound!

    1. Hi Jane and Earnie,

      Great news! There is something fascinating about seeing birds going through the process of building a nest, feeding the young, and seeing them leave the nest.

      Watching bluebirds doing that is somehow are even more special.

      Congrats bluebird landlords!

      Al

  11. This site is so helpful. I’m writing again in case my experience will help others. I’ve just checked the post-fledge box, and no corpses. No signs of infestations. Last checked there were three babies (about 10 days ago). On fledge-day, there was good weather. A lot of calling. There is a river and a pond as well as wetland near the box. And a road. The only fledgling I ever saw was not able to get to a branch and was making its way along the forest floor, encountering things as it went, but by 7pm it was still hopping along. I stood in the road until dark in case it accidentally hopped there. Parents were on wires overhead. I never saw the other two. That night it was 50 degrees overnight. Next morning some sighting of parents but no intense feeding activity as pre-fledge. No calling during the entire day. One sighting of mom and the singleton from last brood last night. Another night with 50 degrees. Today…no sighting. No calls. My optimistic self says: this one I saw may have been the weakest and maybe the other two managed to fly a little and get farther. Maybe they made it to the woods nearby and maybe it’s normal not to see anyone after fledging…My worried self says: none of the babies survived fledging, either hopped into water, or froze, or were eaten. I’m writing because you seem to be an expert on fledging and I’m desperate for some more detail on parental behavior and what to expect in the days/week after. New to this and appreciate your observations and expertise. Thanks!

    1. Hi Thalia,

      Witnessing a bluebird fledge is special. The fact that the bird you saw did not get to a branch on its first flight and fell to the ground is normal. At least it was strong enough to fly some distance, and though it missed the branch, it appears to me that this fledgling is strong enough to attempt to fly up to a branch off the ground. Some young bluebirds leave the nest and fall to the ground within a few yards; they probably fledged too early.

      I would not worry much about the cold night. It was probably as cold when they were in the nest. By the time they fledge, they can thermoregulate their own temperature.

      The fact that you do not hear them is not surprising. During the first few days, they vocalize quietly. They don’t want to make themselves obvious to predators. They are still there, and the parents know where they are and feed them. They will get better at flying in a few more days, and the fledglings usually want to get closer together. They can move in any direction, away or closer to where you are, making it more difficult to find them.

      Perhaps in a week or so, you may be able to see the family around when the fledglings are more confident and able to follow the parents. Look for them at utility wires, fence posts, and so on.

      If one of the fledglings is missing, that is normal too. Not all fledglings (across all birds) make it to the adult age.

      I just had two red-bellied woodpeckers that fledged from a box in my backyard. I know they fledged because I saw the tree where the parents were going in and out, but never saw the fledglings and after that day never saw any of them again.

      Let us know if you see the family group again!

      Al.

  12. Joseph S Good

    I have witnessed via binoculars a nestling passing a fecal sac to its mother, who flew off to dispose of it.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Interesting observation. I am not sure I’ve heard about something similar.
      When they are old enough to do this, nestlings aim their rear ends toward the entrance hole and pass a fecal sac to the parent that is perched there to take it away from the nest.

      Happy bluebirding.

      Al

  13. Hi! Thank you for this great info. Our backyard brood in NC recently fledged, and when I opened the birdhouse to check the empty nest, a mass of tiny brown bugs started swirling out and all over the house. I would guess bird mites? It’s a wooden birdhouse. Do you recommend disposing of the old nest and using a bleach solution on the house ASAP? Is a mass of bird mites like that common? I admit that I left the birdhouse sitting open and probably won’t go near it again until the bug activity calms down, yuck!

    1. Hi Julie,

      It looks like those are hungry bird mites. Now that the nestlings fledged, they do not have any source of food (blood) and will crawl and climb on anything that moves.

      It was a good idea to leave the nesting box so that the mite activity settles down. After a few days, wear a pair of latex gloves, open the box and use a brush with a long handle to take the nest out, then use a hose to blast water into all corners using the brush to get the stuff in the bottom corners. Let it dry, and then use a plastic spray bottle with a mild solution of bleach to spray inside and outside the nesting box. Focus on all corners where mites may be hiding.

      Dispose of the nest at a far corner of your yard where mites eventually will die. Putting the mite-infested nest in your trash can is likely to allow mites to crawl all over and they will climb on the hand that handles that trash can.

      This is just one way to do it.

      Good luck,

      Al

  14. Hello,
    My first bluebirds here fledged today. I’m not sure how many babies there were, at least two, but I think three or maybe even four. They’ve been peeking out of the box for several days, and we’re much more active yesterday, jostling each other to peek out, so I figured they were about to fledge. I was blessed this morning to see one fledge. I thought it was the last one, although I’ve checked the box periodically since then. At times, it seems I can still see something moving inside, but it’s in a shaded area so hard to tell. I just checked it again and saw both adults taking turns flying up to the opening, then hovering while looking inside. They never landed. They then perched together nearby and continued this behavior for 5-10 minutes. Then they flew off. I have mealworm feeders out, and they have been at them a lot today, so I believe they’re feeding their fledglings nearby. My question is this…is there still a baby, or babies, in the nest? Over the weekend, I noticed when they had their mouths open awaiting feeding that one was much smaller than the others. Could it be there’s a runt, and it will fledge later? What happens if the parents don’t feed it? I haven’t seen them feed again since the one fledged earlier.

  15. Hi CJ,

    Nice that you saw one bird fledge! That’s is difficult to witness.

    A runt in brood is perfectly normal. The runt usually stays in the nest for one to three more days after everyone else has fledged. The parents will feed the bird left inside. If the parent neglect it, the runt will fledge too and make itself more visible to the parents that will feed it more often. Fledglings give calls repeatedly to let the parents know about their location.

    Providing mealworms certainly helps a lot.

    Regards,

    Al.

    1. Teri Switzer

      Hi, I’ve got a blue bird box at our lake house. The Blue birds seem to always lay eggs in it. Sometime though the eggs have holes and the adults abandon the nest. I’ll clear out the old nest and then the adults will lay again. Last week there were baby Blue birds in the box and the following week they were gone (5 days). Do you think they fledged? I’m worried about sparrows maybe killing them. We have lots of birds around and have heard Sparrows are predators of Blue birds.

      1. Hi Teri,

        Eggs punctured are usually the result of a house wren attack. House wrens are aggressive and try to destroy eggs of all types of birds within their territory, even when they already have a nest and are incubating their own eggs.

        About whether the nestling fledged, it is hard to tell. I am not sure how old the bluebirds chicks were when you saw them. If house sparrows attacked them, they would be dead inside or on the ground below the nesting box.

        I hope they fledged.

        Regards,

        Al

  16. Hi Al,

    My bluebirds fledged last Wednesday. Are the parents likely to nest again this late in the summer? I live in central Texas, and we have lots of warm weather to come still.

    Thanks,

    CJ

    1. Hi CJ,

      I’d say it is too late for another brood. However, bluebirds in the warm south tend to have double broods; who knows…keep us posted about what your bluebirds finally do!

      Regards,

      Al

      1. Hi Al,
        I noticed this morning (day 10 since fledglings left the nest) that there’s some nesting material hanging out of the nesting box. Does this mean the bluebirds might be building another nest? They’re very busy feeding the babies. I see them every day, and it seems the male is doing most of the feeding, although I still see the female occasionally.

        I haven’t cleaned the nest box out yet because I can’t reach it. I’ve been meaning to ask a neighbor to do it for me. At this point, should I leave it alone in case they’re building a new nest? The mealworm feeders are near the nest box, so I try to avoid a lot of activity around that area.

        Thanks!
        CJ

        1. Hi CJ,

          Bluebirds seldom leave nesting material hanging from the entrance hole. That is more typical in House Sparrows.

          It would pay to monitor the box and see what is going in and out to determine whether they are trying another brood or the nesting box was taken by other birds.

          If the male is doing most of the feeding, the female may be rebuilding???

          Some monitoring of the nesting box would help.

          Regards,

          Al.

          1. Hi Al,
            I noticed the nesting material that was hanging out of the opening has been pulled inside. However, I haven’t seen any activity around the nesting box. The fledglings that hatched almost 2 weeks ago are growing fast.

            Should I go ahead and clean out the nest box? I haven’t seen the female around very much. Is it too late to put up another nest box on my property? I have a fairly small yard. The current nest box is in a small grove of 3 oak trees in my back yard. Would another pair of bluebirds be likely to use a nest box in that same area? I also have a large oak tree on the side of my house that can’t be seen from the first nest box. It’s fairly close to the house, and it has feeders hanging from the limbs, so there’s quite a bit of activity around it. Given the relative lack of habitat around here, spud bluebirds be likely to use a nest box if I installed it on the tree with more traffic?

            Thanks for all your help and advice!
            CJ

        2. Hi CJ,

          Regarding your questions….

          Should I go ahead and clean out the nest box?

          Yes, go ahead and clean up the nest box. It is recommended to clean up boxes after the fledglings are gone, even between broods. It helps alleviate the parasite load.

          I haven’t seen the female around very much. Is it too late to put up another nest box on my property?

          It may be too late now. The fall season is around the corner, but Texas is warmer than other places, so you never know. Chances are they will not nest until the next season.

          Would another pair of bluebirds be likely to use a nest box in that same area?

          They recommend putting bluebird boxes about 300 feet apart. Territorial pairs will defend that space once they claim a nesting box. Perhaps other birds use the next box within your property.

          If you install the second nest box a bit far apart, it may attract two bluebird pairs, even if the distance apart is less than 300 feet.

          It may work; you never know…

          Regards,

          Al.

  17. Five western bluebirds fledged today. I saw 4 of them on the ground in a huddle in some tall grass. It’s just about sunset and I hope they aren’t predated upon tonight as they don’t seem to be into flying. The parents are feeding them on the ground and there’s lots of calling back and forth. This is the third brood they’ve had this year.

    I’ve hosted bluebirds for many years, but never have seen them fledge to the ground before. I have lots of cute stories about them, but tonight just thinking about the 5 fledglings.

    1. Hi Becky,

      Fledglings falling to the ground is uncommon but happens. I am surprised though that all fell on the ground. One thing that may have happened is that the first sibling left the nest early and prompted the others to do the same.

      Unless they are unlucky they will make it. A couple of days and they will begin to gain strength and fly to higher branches.

      I hope they make it.

      Regards,

      Al

  18. Linda Olivola

    Thank you for this wonderful site. I learned so much by reading the published material and the posts. My bluebirds fledged around Aug 6 and they came back to my mealworm feeder about 9 or so days later. I saw mom, dad and previous fledglings showing them the feeder and helping with feeding. Recently, I have not seen mom and fear the worst. If dad is still around next year, what is the likelihood of him choosing a new mate and using the nest box again?

    1. Hi Linda,

      Seeing the fledgling back to your feeder must have been rewarding.

      If one partner disappears, the remaining one will find a mate and will likely come back the next year with the new mate. Bluebirds have been known to find a new partner within hours of losing one! Finding a new partner in such a short period of time is extreme. Where this happened, the remaining parent was raising a young brood and needed help. Bluebirds normally take a week or much longer to find a new partner.

      If they raised a brood successfully at one nesting site, they are likely to return, particularly if a feeder with mealworms is nearby.

      I hope they do.

      Regards,

      Al

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *