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Eastern Bluebirds Using Open Cup Nests

Photo © Jason Estep

On May 24, 2017, Jason Estep noticed something unusual. A male Eastern Bluebird was inspecting an old robin’s nest above a light fixture in an open-air facility in Franklin County, Ohio. He had seen a bluebird pair in the area on previous occasions, but did not think much of it until the male appeared to start working on this old robin’s nest. Jason then monitored the nest for eight consecutive days and found, each time, a female bluebird sitting low in the nest. She appeared to be incubating!

Eastern Bluebird At Robin Nest

Eastern Bluebird At Robin Nest

A female Eastern Bluebird sits in an old nest of an American Robin.

For the next 23 days, Jason had to be away and could not monitor the nest (sometimes life gets in the way of data collection). Unfortunately, we will never know if the nest fledged or failed, or how many eggs were in it, but we do know that it was empty on the final nest check on July 11. At 25 feet high and under a roof overhang, the nest was challenging to monitor. Jason’s notes indicate that the female would step away from the nest periodically and return to it throughout the day, ruling out the explanation that she was simply using it as an overnight roosting location. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that the pair “adopted” a nest full of blue eggs (the same color as their own eggs would be) after happening upon it within their territory. Although we have heard of birds incubating the eggs or feeding the young of other species, fostering is rare. Might this have been caused by a coincidence of timing, similarity of egg color, and/or loss of their own nest?

Stranger Things

We think that Jason probably did see Eastern Bluebirds using a salvaged nest to try to raise their own young, and there are two main reasons. (1) It is the simplest explanation, and (2) Eastern Bluebirds have been documented to occasionally use cup nests. Captain S. G. Reid, writing in 1884 in The Birds of Bermuda, states about the Eastern Bluebird that “It occasionally drives the Red Bird (Cardinalis virginianus) from its nest, even after eggs have been laid, and uses it as a foundation for its own.” Reid also noted finding nests “on the branches of trees” in Bermuda. Mr. A. Sprunt, Jr. (1946) records an instance of an Eastern Bluebird nest in South Carolina which was “saddled on the horizontal limb of an oak tree.”

An Unusual Nest Site

An Unusual Nest Site

Side view of the nest repurposed by an Eastern Bluebird.

We asked Dr. Patricia Gowaty, a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA who has studied bluebirds in the field for 30 years, how unusual this sighting is. According to Gowaty, the frequency of open-nesting in bluebirds is incredibly hard to know. “Almost nobody studies Eastern Bluebirds in natural nests. Focusing on nest boxes means there are a lot of variations in life history that we don’t see.” Gowaty explained that we tend to canonize what we expect from bluebirds by focusing so closely on nest box results. In the book Longleaf, Far As The Eye Can See, one can find a photo of an Eastern Bluebird nest situated within a vertical burn scar on a tree trunk, on a short projection of bark. Gowaty points out that this type of nest may have been more common in the ancestral pine forests of the southeastern United States.

Don’t Box Them In

Below Deck

Below Deck

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds nested on deck supports in June 2017.

So was Jason’s observation actually rare, or has our close study of nest boxes colored our perceptions of “normal” bluebird behavior? Jason told us that the small woodlot behind the facility was clear cut last summer. It’s possible that the pair returned to their territory that otherwise had food and resources, but now lacks sufficient nesting cavities. Perhaps they exhibited the flexibility of their ancestors, before nest boxes were backyard staples.

At the time of writing, NestWatch holds 77,729 digital records of Eastern Bluebird nests. Of these, we could only find one that was similar to Jason’s. Barbara Starr had Eastern Bluebirds nesting under the deck of her Victor, New York home in June of this year. Barbara reports that it was possible to peek between the floorboards to check the nest. Although the below-deck nest was successful, the bluebirds did not attempt a second nest in this spot (there are two nest boxes on the property, which are also used).

Have you ever seen bluebirds doing something that they “weren’t supposed to be doing”? If so, tell us about it in the comments.

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55 responses to “Eastern Bluebirds Using Open Cup Nests”

  1. Dawn Gallo says:

    I had a pair of Eastern Bluebirds build a mest in one of my boxes. The female laid five eggs and was incubating them. There was also a wren in a nearby box. One day I discovered all the eggs gone. I assume the wrens destroyed them. I removed the wren house, but decided to leave the clean bluebird nest. About three weeks later the bluebirds returned, took over the nest and laid another four eggs. They all fledged successfully. I ‘m guessing it was the same pair. We have had bluebirds in our houses now for nine years and they have produced over thirty youngsters. So happy to be doing our part to increase their numbers.

    • Rick Barber says:

      Dawn, larger Carolina Wrens, the ones with a white bar through the eye, will not bother Bluebirds. But the smaller House Wren will, since they compete for the same nesting boxes. There are nest cam videos showing them pecking holes in eggs, and even bodily throwing nestlings out of boxes. Would love to see such a raider encounter an angry parent at the entrance some day. I’ve seen Bluebirds run off other birds twice their size, very brave and ferocious when protecting their territory.

  2. Megan Maxwell says:

    I was greatly surprised to find a bluebird nest and one egg in one of our nest boxes in October one year. We are in East Texas. Nothing came of it– maybe they realized it was the wrong time of year? It’s a mystery.

  3. Lois Masso says:

    Two years ago we had a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers use our unused Purple Martin house to build a nest and raise young. Proud papa loved to sit on the power line a few feet away and sing. I was hoping we’d see them again but they never returned. We routinely have Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds raise young here in Central Florida each year in addition to our year-round feathered residents.

    • Susanne says:

      I had a pair of GCF’s do the same in my Purple Martin house in RI a couple of years ago.

    • Rick Barber says:

      Lois, we’ve had both Titmouse and Chickadee families raised in our Bluebird boxes before, when they weren’t being used by the intended occupants. If I see House Sparrows building though, I remove the nest as many times as it takes. This is legal since they’re an invasive species.

  4. Claudia Cliffel says:

    Years ago I took a class at Cornell to band blue birds and tree swallows. The info was a dispersal study, but Cornell lost their funding. I had to return my bands. I still have boxes on my property and they always use the boxes each year. At present there are two being used, 5 in one box and 4 in the other box. Tree swallows have already fledged.

  5. Felicity Rask says:

    Bluebirds appeared to be nesting in a cup nest under a shelter at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester VA – an ebird hot spot. It was too high for me to monitor for eggs or young but I saw both male and female birds on the roof and fly out from under the shelter.
    My experience has only been with Bluebird boxes but have often wondered where and what their nests are when there is no box available.
    I will inspect again tomorrow and perhaps get a photo to show the various layers of bird nests.

  6. Hope Orr says:

    This year a pair of bluebirds out-compeated a house wren for a nest box the house wrens were considering. The nest the bluebirds built was mostly house wren sticks with a small grass platform on top. There was no nest cup. The bluebirds successfully raised 4 young.

  7. Brinda Curran says:

    Earlier in the nesting season A pair of Bluebirds nested under the eaves of a picnic gazebo used by a Radio Controlled airplane club. Apparently the Bluebirds didn’t mind all the noise and conversations taking place each morning as the club members flew their model airplanes. Also of note: There was a bluebird nesting box within close proximity but it was being used by a pair of Carolina Chickadees. I watched for several minutes as the male and female carried nesting material to the location. Two weeks later I saw the female sitting on the nest. She flew off when I approached. Unfortunately the nest was built too high for me to see inside even when standing on a picnic table.

  8. Carol says:

    Western Bluebirds in San Diego County, California have been observed nesting in open-cup nests. The San Diego Natural History Museum documented this when doing field work for the San Diego County Bird Atlas in the late 1990’s.

  9. I have not heard any cases of open nesting bluebirds from our members over the last decade. However, this doesn’t surprise me. Bluebirds, like many other species can be very adaptable and surprise us with behaviors that are not common among most others of their own kind. The fact that we don’t often look for open bluebird nests doesn’t mean they don’t exist in some numbers. Like anything in nature, there are always outliers that fall outside the parameters that are established for a species.

  10. Merna Tontat says:

    I have a bluebird box that attracts them each year. I love watching a male on top of the box trying to look handsome enough to attract the lady down from the trees. Usually there would be a successful union and eggs laid and hatched. Problem is I have never seen a fledgling outside of the box although I have a film capture or two of them poking out their heads to see where dinner was. I worry about squirrels and snakes. (We do have a big black rat snake around but I don’t think it could get its head through the hole. Yes, I know there are guards but none that fit the fat wooden post. I want so much to see a fledgling. Do they up and leave the neighborhood suddenly?
    Also, is it unusual for bluebirds to use suet blocks? In spring they are busy at the suet…more than one pair…patiently waiting for a bite even though it is so awkward for them to cling onto the container.

  11. Candace Bridgewater says:

    My son’s shed in Quitman, GA had bluebird nest with young on top of a messy nest supported by deer antlers!
    I have a photo but can’t get it to stay in this box.

    • Robyn Bailey says:

      Hi Candace. You can share photos by clicking on the “Participant Photos” button on this page. That will take you to a gallery of participant-contributed photos, where you can upload yours. Thanks!

  12. Bill Read says:

    One of our bluebird members in Ontario ( Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society ) reported a pair of bluebirds using a robins nest. This was about 10 years ago. They laid eggs and incubated them for the required length of time but they turned out to be infertile.

  13. Paula Newcomb says:

    I love reading about these Eastern Bluebird nesting experiences. Out here in Sacramento, CA we have a similar bird called the Western Bluebird. I have worked for our local wildlife rehab center for many years and only began seeing our Western Bluebird come in from time to time several years age. I also began seeing them flit by in front of my car when passing the park about a block from my suburban home. Last year I put up a Western Bluebird nest box in my back yard. Right-sized hole at the right height and facing East across a lawn but next to our red maple tree and a short distance from many other trees and shrubs. Lo and behold two Oak Titmice built a nest and raised 5 young this year. I plan to clean out the nesting material and hope for bluebirds next year.

  14. Dorothy Tompkins says:

    We also had a bluebird nest on a rafter where a phoebe has usually nested.

    • Robyn Bailey says:

      Dorothy, that’s neat. Do you have any photos to share? If so, you can upload them to our Participant Photo Gallery!

  15. Mimi says:

    Had a chickadee moss nest in my bluebird house. After chickadees fledged bluebirds moved right in and layed 5 eggs. Did not modify nest in any way. Those moss cups look so cozy I don’t blame them!!

  16. Felicity Rask says:

    Today I checked the cup nest at BB&B in VA and found an EABL sitting in the nest. Current Nest is built over what appear to be old Wren and Bluebird nests. Photo is available but I can’t find the photo gallery!
    Felicity Rask

    • Paula says:

      Felicity, scroll to the top of this page. On the left side, (under the prompt to sign up for the eNewsletter), there is a picture of some tiny nestlings with pink mouths and a caption: “NOW FEATURING PARTICIPANT PHOTOS AND VIDEOS…”. Select this and it will bring you to the photo gallery.

  17. Paula says:

    This year there was a surprise EABL nesting attempt in a disused martin “hotel” in our yard. It is positioned at half-mast and all the front panels of the compartments were removed to discourage House Sparrow breeding. The bluebirds built a nest in one of these open-front compartments. I believe this is the pair that had already completed a first attempt some yards away in a box erected for the purpose. After the fledglings left, I removed the box thinking the area to be too dangerous to encourage further nesting. They must have been looking around for a place to tend a second brood, and found this to be the only suitable crevice in the area! Determined birds. So upon discovering their nest I replaced the front panel as best as possible to protect them from the elements and erected a House Sparrow guard. Today was fledge day – I witnessed two of the babies being tended by the parents!

  18. Lynne Bernstein says:

    I’ve had nesting boxes for a few years and enjoyed watching the successful breeding each year. This year, however, was a completely new experience for me. We live on a lake and also have lots of tree swallows that compete for the nest boxes. In the past, the swallows and bluebirds have managed to work things out pretty well, but this year was rough. Even though I put 2 boxes right next to each other on the assumption that they would each take one, the swallows were guarding both very tenaciously. So the bluebirds accepted a third box about 20 feet away. In April – which is very early from my experience – they laid 5 eggs. The day after they hatched, the female was snatched by a hawk. It forced her to fly into my living room window and then grabbed her. The male continued to come to the nest with food for a day or so but she was not there to receive it and he couldn’t care for the tiny hatchlings. I was devastated, never having had anything but success with the bluebird boxes. After a week I cleaned out the box and buried the nest and babies. Within 3 days, the male was back with a new lady! I was overjoyed! But she wasn’t so keen about the box he took her to. She wanted to check out all the nesting boxes we have – a total of 5 – and decided she preferred the one that a pair of tree swallows was already nesting in. She entered the box and was immediately ejected by an angry swallow. A tussle ensued between the bluebird and the entire flock of swallows – and the male bluebird came to her rescue which was pretty exciting to watch. This new female had another odd behavior: she was obsessed with her own reflection in my dining room window. She would stand on the deck railing looking in/at the window and then she’d gently fly at the window. She taught the male to do this, too. I ended up putting plastic sheeting across the window so they couldn’t see their reflection. Eventually they turned to nesting, settling into the same box the male had been in before. She laid 5 eggs but within a few days they were discovered by a house wren that pierced them all and threw a few out of the box. Once again, I was devastated. Then the female seemed to disappear. The male stuck around, singing his head off all day long. He’d go from one end of the yard to the other, from the front to the back, high in the trees, belting out the most haunting song. But he was always alone. This went on for 6 weeks and I was so sad for him. I figured he’d find a new mate over the winter or next spring. But last weekend – the first week in August – I noticed some unusual activity at the box next to the swallow box. (The swallows had already moved out.) Sure enough – it was the male bluebird with yet another female! I really never expected him to find another lady this season but there they were, going in and out of the box. When I looked in the next day, there was a fully formed nest and several eggs – I think 4. When I check the next day, there was a pile of hatchlings and 1 egg that had been pushed to the side – unhatched. Today, three days later, I can see 3 birds and that one egg left. One of the babies looks much smaller and maybe sickly (judging from the eye). But the others look OK. The parents are tending them. I am wondering about such late breeding – is this normal for NY or is the male playing catch-up? And what about that littlest one and the egg that remains in the box. Is this common in such a late clutch? In the past I’ve had pretty typical clutches of 5 eggs – all of which hatched and fledged successfully. This is all such a mystery – but I am happy that this male finally had some breeding success this year. I hope they grow and fledge and mature before the first frost which could be in 8 weeks.

  19. Sharon I Gouwens says:

    We had a bluebird pair who moved into our new box in April. They left in July. In September and October 4 bluebirds, coloring equally saturated, began returning to the house and looking in and hanging out on the fence nearby. Is this mom and dad bringing the kids back to see the old home? This is Vermont, and though it has been unseasonably warm, surely these four are not house-hunting in October.

    • The length of daylight in the fall is similar to the spring and it can cause confusion and elicit behaviors typically reserved for the breeding season. Some birds may be house-hunting for next spring and others may be curious migrants stopping to check out the real estate. Young birds may be practicing by seeking out cavities and displaying.There is also the possibility that birds are looking for places to roost.

  20. Renee Harper says:

    A few years ago I had a nesting of Eastern Blue Birds that had a clutch of 5 eggs. On fledgling day one of the nestlings fell out of the hole and was able to make its way back into the box. I was able to get a series of photos of it returning to the box.

  21. Jay Eason says:

    Why would Eastern Bluebirds build a nest and then never use it. Male keeps coming back but no female? Had two successful clutches last summer.

  22. Holly Faulkner says:

    Hi Jay,
    Many species of birds build multiple nests, but end up only using one. However, bluebirds also have been known to exhibit pair-bond behavior at the nest site: males will first perform a nest demonstration display for prospecting females and then pairs are “bonded” once females enter cavities with males for the first time. Sometimes, the male may even reject potential mates by removing nesting materials of females who are building.
    -Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant

  23. Amy Pfaltz’ says:

    I looked up this thread because it seems I have a female Eastern Bluebird who has taken over an old barn swallow nest up in the waves of the front porch and was curious if they ever did this. Will try to monitor the nest

  24. DCH says:

    I live in Southern GA on a lake. I had been watching two Eastern Bluebirds sitting on the bars of my second-floor apartment balcony and flying in and out of my balcony area. Last week I could hear lots of chirping -I assumed that there was a nest, then disaster, two nestlings fell from a nest (The bird’s eyes were still closed and had just a touch of down on their backs, no feathers). I couldn’t replace the birds in the nest. I called a rehabber who told me the only thing I could do was a makeshift nest. I placed the babies in the nest directly under where the nest is located in the eave, and I have left them alone. Last night two more nestlings fell. I added those two to the Tupperware nest and waited. Mom and Dad have found them and are feeding them frequently it seems like every five minutes or so. Any other suggestions?

  25. Holly Faulkner says:

    Hi DCH, It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things. A local rehabber is the best person to contact in situations like this, and it seems as though the parents have successfully re-found the nest/nestlings. Your nest is probably fine to leave as-is. The only other thing we can think of is protecting the nest from predators. If the nest is unprotected, a small fence or other way to shield it from chipmunks, raccoons, cats and other predators may be helpful, but you may want to consult with your rehabber. You would want to be careful that the fence is placed in a way that does not “shield” the nest from the parents’ view, or otherwise confuse them. On the second floor, you may have the height advantage over predators, though many, like cats, could still climb up to your balcony.
    -Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant

  26. Pam Potter says:

    I have a porch on my garage where there are several wide columns which leave nice sized ledges. The corner ones make excellent places for nests. I usually have eastern phoebes or house finches. But last year (2017), I’d say late summer, I had Eastern Bluebirds build a nest in one corner. I was able to see them building the nest, they successfully raised a family. I am not able to climb up a tall ladder so I don’t know how many chicks they had but I did see at least three being fed.

    I knew the location was unusual but I’d no inkling that it was considered rare.

    So far this year they’ve not come back so I took the nest down (painting house). This was so mudded up I was surprised & still in very good condition. I was wondering if you would like me to send in the nest?

  27. Chele says:

    I’ve had a barn swallow nest on my patio for yeas but this year I was surprised to see bluebirds nesting there. They had 3 babies and two flew away. The last one was there this morning but I found it dead on the ground this evening. So sad. I don’t know what happened. There isn’t a mark on him, so it wasn’t an animal attack. I was mostly surprised that they would lay eggs in an open nest.

  28. Mary Oster says:

    I have a bluebird house on my back porch here in Tennessee. In the past summer, two families were successfully hatched there. Now, in late October, I am seeing several mature bluebirds going in and out of the box. Are they the birds that hatched there. Are they roosting there to escape the cold nights?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Mary, There’s no way to tell if the birds are the same individuals, unless they were banded, however bluebirds often gather and forage in family groups in the winter, sometimes defending areas around nesting cavities in areas where they’re resident all year (including Tennessee). It’s likely that they are the same birds from this previous breeding season, and may be roosting in the boxes at night.

  29. David Ganoe says:

    Bluebirds return every year, but I never see any fledglings. There are no signs of predatory action. Is this usual ?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi David, Birds can be secretive during breeding season, and fledglings do not always come out in the open, so it’s possible they are producing broods that you may simply not be seeing. That being said, it’s also good to keep in mind that in nature, around half of all birds’ nests fail – either due to predators, weather events, or other things beyond our control. If you don’t have one already, try putting up a nest box to attract the bluebirds. You can monitor them regularly (about once per week) and report your data to NestWatch- this provides data for our researchers and also give you a chance to track the progress of your local pair. Learn more about how to get started on our Overview page.

  30. Jessica Glendinning says:

    We appear to have bluebirds nesting (and overwintering) in the barn swallow nests under the north-west facing eaves of our house. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how many of them there are, but it’s more than one bird.

    We live in the Appalachian mountains on the far western edge Virginia. This is the first year we’ve observed this happening (but we’ve only lived here for 2 winters at this point).

  31. Carolyn Gallagher says:

    Last week, we were so fortunate to see 4 bluebird fledglings leave the nest box in our back yard, so we removed the old nest and, over the past few days, we also observed the parents bringing new nesting materials to the same nest box. But what surprised my husband and me during today’s morning walk was the sight of a bluebird pair flying to and from a nest at least 20 feet up and under the eave of a neighbor’s house down the block– about a football field away– and by a pond. The nest appeared to rest precariously in a very narrow space between two eaves, but it wasn’t clear that it was supported by any “flooring”. How can that be?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Carolyn, Is it possible the nest could have been built on top of another bird’s nest, such as a Barn Swallow or American Robin? Barn Swallows can attach their nests to the wall of a building easily and such a foundation could be camouflaged. We encourage you to share a photo to our public gallery, or send it to us at NestWatch@cornell.edu if you like.

  32. Sean F Black says:

    Open nest at my sisters in ocala Fl with 4 baby bluebirds.Sent me a picture today.The nest is between ac unit and wall.

  33. Lisa Norris says:

    I appear to have a pair of bluebirds using a barn swallow nest under the south-facing eaves of my house. I see them flying to and from the nest. I cannot tell if they have laid eggs as I cannot see into the nest.

  34. Leah Tomez says:

    So I kind of have a comment and a question. It is a long story that I will try to decrease in size. Long story short we have had bluebird houses up for a few years and always had bluebirds nesting in them. This year the houses were both taken over by sparrows. House sparrows of course the kind that you do not want. Before we realized that they were an invasive species they each had a brood. After learning how terrible these birds are, we then proceeded to tear out their nests each time. They of course did not give up and continued to try to nest in the houses no matter how much we tore out their nest or chased them away. We decided to plug the nesting holes for about a week. After we no longer saw the sparrows and we saw blue birds looking in the houses I decided to unplug the holes to allow the bluebirds to claim the house. They of course did within a matter of an hour! However the male sparrow then swooped in and went inside the house. He continued to do this off and on all morning while the bluebirds fought him and chased him away each time. However, I later realized after watching carefully was that this pair of bluebirds is the same pair of bluebirds that currently have a nest and are incubating eggs inside of our gutter on our home. I watched the male guard the birdhouse and then if the sparrow came back he would call the female, who then will leave the nest in the gutter to fly over and assist him in fighting off the sparrow. I haven’t number one, ever had blue birds nesting in my gutters, possibly due to not having the birdhouses originally maybe. But what is even stranger is the fact that my brooding pair of bluebirds who already have a safe nest in my gutter with eggs are also defending a birdhouse at the same exact time! Is this normal? I don’t even know how to process this.

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Leah, Eastern Bluebirds will often defend the area around their nest, so if the bluebird house is close to your gutter, this would make sense. Eastern Bluebirds typically don’t nest within 300 feet of one another, so usually that’s about the range of the area they defend. They also lay up to 3 broods per year, so they could be staking out the birdhouse for subsequent broods. We have tips on managing invasive species on this page. You may be interested in putting up more boxes to reduce competition, and once the House Sparrows lay eggs, oiling them. Oiling eggs keeps the sparrows occupied by incubating eggs that will never hatch, and allows other birds to nest nearby without too much interference. You can learn more about this method in our 2019 annual report. Look for the article starting on page 16. Please email us with any further questions at nestwatch@cornell.edu – these comment sections are not regularly monitored.

  35. Don says:

    We have two bluebird boxes on our property. This year, the bluebirds have been around, but did not build nests in the boxes. We are in upstate , New York. Any clues, anyone?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Don, We recommend you check your boxes against our Features of a Good Birdhouse infographic to make sure they are the best they can be for the birds. If boxes are getting old, if they were not cleaned out last fall, or the bluebirds previously experienced a predator attack at the boxes, those could be reasons they opted not to use them this year. Alternatively, if the boxes are brand new, sometimes it takes a year or so for the birds to use boxes – something about the weathering process seems to make them more attractive. Regardless, it is not always guaranteed that birds will nest in boxes. Sometimes we can make them as best as they can be, and the birds will still opt to nest elsewhere.

  36. Ani Allard says:

    Eastern bluebirds built a neat nest. Now, I only see the male bluebird, no female. Yesterday and today, male and female bluebirds showed up. But, female does not stay. There is a nest inside the nestbox. I assume a previous female built it. It seems to me the new female, the male bluebird is bringing to the nestbox, is not interested in using that nest. Should i remove the old nest? Now. I am only seeing the male bluebird

  37. Christopher Kelling says:

    We have a pair of bluebirds nesting in a box that we can monitor closely from our front porch. We spend a lot of time observing them, and my wife has captured literally thousands of photos of them and their family.

    This year, they fledged a Brood One of 5 babies. They now have a Brood 2 in the box. We can hear the young, they are feeding, and they are removing fecal sacs.

    Odd Behavior We Have Observed: Some of the juvenile birds from Brood 1 are going into the box in between visits from the adults. We were wondering why. Yesterday, we saw 3 or 4 crystal clear examples of Brood 1 juveniles taking food into the box and leaving “empty beaked”. It certainly appears that Brood 1 juveniles are helping feed Brood 2 young that haven’t fledged yet. We still occasionally see Brood 1 juveniles asking for food from the adults, with mouths wide open. So, we find it amazing that the Brood 1 juveniles are giving some of their food to Brood 2 young on their own “initiative”.

    We are wondering if this is a known behavior in Eastern Bluebirds, or something uncommon. Please advise/comment. Thanks!

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Christopher, these “helpers” are more common in Western Bluebirds rather than Eastern – in Eastern Bluebirds it’s fairly uncommon. If you have photos of this, please feel free to upload them to your nesting attempts entered into NestWatch, and/or our public gallery here. If you have further questions, please email us at nestwatch@cornell.edu. That is the easiest way to reach us – the comment sections are not regularly monitored.

  38. Melvin L Hughes says:

    We have an older, established barn swallow nest in a corner of our front porch. Every year that we have lived here, barn swallow have raised one brood in that nest. But this year, 2021, a pair of Eastern bluebirds beat the barn swallow to the nest. Today I peeked over the rim and found two young bluebirds staring back at me. They have been so quiet i hadn’t thought the bluebirds had any eggs.

  39. Shelly Kapitan says:

    We have two sets of bluebirds, one set that successfully nests in our bluebird house out in an open field, and one the other direction which nests in the woods. The woods birds visit our birdbath but the field bluebirds never do, being closer to a natural stream. This year the field birds are starting to feed their second brood after fledging 3 babies. The woods bluebirds appear to have made a nest in the triangular cavity where the roof overhangs the shielded gutter. of our house, and are busily feeding babies. I am hoping for the best, but worry about the safety of their choice!

  40. Theresa M. Maurer says:

    So I designed and built these gutter mount nesting platforms for the robins and put one on my gutter a few years ago and discovered yesterday that Eastern Blue birds are nesting in it and they are feeding chicks!!! I’m trying to get good pics without disturbing them to document it but I did get a couple with the parents on the nest. Maybe if Eastern Bluebirds learn to nest this way it will give them help with the house sparrows! I pulled down my bluebird boxes last year and replaced them with wren boxes because I couldn’t take the carnage anymore, but the sparrows seem totally uninterested in this nest!!! I watched mom and dad Eastern Bluebird chase off a blue Jay and then my brown thrasher who’s nesting nearby chased a blue Jay away so maybe their combined forces will make this a successful clutch. I can send better pictures and continue to monitor this nest and try to get up there with a ladder to see how many chicks and take pics. I can tell by their chirps they are tiny.

    Sent from my iPhone

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology