Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I love birds, especially bluebirds. There is just something so colorful and nice about them. I even like them better than hummingbirds, a favorite of most gardeners. Each year we have at least one bluebird family nest in the yard. I am not sure if it is the same couple but probably. I have read bluebirds are somewhat territorial and will not nest close to another nesting pair of bluebirds.

My resident bluebirds have set up shop in no less than three different birdhouses on our property. One year they were successful raising a family with the exception of one little guy who did not make it out of his birdhouse. Last year we almost had the same outcome when another little bluebird did not make it out of the birdhouse, but were able to rescue this baby. This year the family is back in the same house they used last year. This particular house has a hinged back door that I can open periodically to check on the babies. The birds don't seem to mind too much. Obviously the parents fly away, but do stay close keeping a watchful eye on me.

This year we started with two eggs, then five.

Three of the five eggs have hatched here at one day old.

At four days old all five of the eggs hatched. The babies are beginning to get some down and we can touch them no problem. They are too little to hold though. These babies are fed well and are content. They didn't even beg when the Jimster and I visited.

At nine days old the babies are definitely looking more and more like bluebirds. They all have some feathers and have grown quite large. They can be held now with no problems whatsoever. The momma will always come back.

The baby bluebirds are now two weeks old! They are perky and have all feathers now. Their blue plumage has not quite appeared, but it will any day now. This is the crucial point when looking at bluebirds. I find it a balancing act. You can hold the babies but you must be careful not to scare them from their nest prematurely. If one hops out, just place it back in the nest and close up the box. Do not bother them again as they will fledge within days. Usually baby birds make a bunch of noise. This chirping always attracts my goldens; which will usually mean a major disaster for the bird's nest. In the case of these bluebirds, they have not made nary a sound! Even when looking at them they are quiet. I am guessing they are happy and content.

At 20 days old the babies are showing the blue color of bluebirds and two have flown the nest. I am not sure why these ones haven't already left, but they should be gone soon.

I wish them a long and happy life in my garden.

Lola sent me the following information regarding feeding bluebirds. I have never tried feeding them but Skeeter has had good luck with feeding them mealworms. The information is courtesy of Reiman Publications.

What do you feed bluebirds?

Darkling Beetles/Mealworm Information Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Coleoptera Identifying Features Appearance (Morphology) Adult Beetle

Description: Black with hardened front wings (elytra) , Antennae arise under ridge near eyes, Antennae many-segmented, enlarging near tip, Shape quite variable, from almost parallel-sided to round, Head visible from top, followed by pronotum and elytra about same width, Mealworm (larva) averages an inch in length. They have a tough yellowish brown exoskeleton and are cylindrical. Adult Males and Females It is difficult to tell the difference between the males and females without a microscope and dissection. Immatures (different stages) The larval stage (referred to generally as mealworms) is worm-like and somewhat hardened for burrowing. The egg is white. The pupa is 1/2 to 3/4" long., white initially then darkening just before the beetle emerges. Length of the life cycle is 3-5 months. The larval stage may molt 9-20 times. Natural History Food The beetles and larvae eat decaying leaves, sticks, grasses and occasionally new plant growth. As general decomposers, they also eat dead insects, feces and stored grains. Habitat Mealworms live in areas surrounded by what they eat under rocks, and logs, in animal burrows and in stored grains. They clean up after plants and animals, and therefore can be found anywhere where "leftovers" occur. Predators Many predators eat mealworms including rodents, lizards, predatory beetles, spiders, and birds. Interesting Behaviors When disturbed, some beetles (genus Eleodes) assume a defensive posture in which they stand on their head and release chemicals from a scent gland in the rear that produces noxious odors and turns skin brown. Mealworms prefer darkness and to have their body in contact with an object. Impact on the Ecosystem Positive Clean up organic materials not readily used by others. Mealworms are food for other animals. Negative Sometimes mealworms feed on seedlings and clip plants off near soil line. Mealworms can be pests to stored grain. Collecting Live Insects Where to Collect Rather than spend time looking for mealworms in the wild, spend a couple dollars of buy them. Most pet stores and many fish tackle shops sell small and large mealworms. They are sold individually or in amounts of 50, 100 or 200. The large mealworms cost more, but are more lively and easier for students to observe. The large mealworms often are treated with hormones so they will NOT become adult beetles. The small mealworms will change into adult beetles within a month or two. Mealworm larvae and adults can be purchased from: Berkshire Biological Supply Company, The Biology Store (pupae also available), Carolina Biological Supply Company, Connecticut Valley Biological Supply Co., Inc., Nasco (pupae also available), Science Kit and Boreal Laboratories (larvae only), and Ward's Biology (pupae also available).

How to Make a Mealworm Experiment Container

Materials 1. Scissors 2. Masking tape 3. Mealworms 4. One container for each team or inividual student 5. Equal numbers of black and clear film cans 6. Black construction paper

To Make a Container

1. Remove the lids of the film cans. 2. Cut squares of black construction paper larger than the film can opening. 3. Place a mealworm in the clear container. 4. Place the black paper between the openings of the film cans. Leave enough space for the mealworm to move to the other side. 5. Join the two cans together and secure the paper with tape. When taping, try not to cover up too much of the clear film container.

Handling Mealworms

To pick up a mealworm, use a plastic spoon or a folded 3x5" card to scoop up. When holding mealworms, keep hands over the container or table to avoid dropping the mealworms on the floor. Precautions Do not leave the containers where the sun will hit them. The containers can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days if the mealworm is provided with a little bran. Keep in mind, adding the bran also adds a new variable to the experiment. After the experiment is completed, dismantle the containers and give the mealworms food.

in the garden....


  1. Tina, these are amazing photos! I love bluebirds too. It's like a nature documentary in your backyard. I've been enjoying the first cygnets on the Thames but am waiting for them to get a bit bigger before posting the photos so they don't get harassed by all the people in Port Meadow. I love the bugbane photo below too.

    I really like the direction this multi-person blog is going. You all bring such different but interesting vistas. I love flowers, but I love wildlife even more.

  2. I don't think we have too many bluebirds up here but I wish we did. The blue looks to be so vibrant. It was nice for you to be able to hold them with out the parents bombing you. I've got a robin nesting somewhere (I'm assuming), we saw her chase off a bluejay yesterday. It was so funny to see a blue bully fly in cicles to get away from a red robin. No wonder they don't visit the feeder that often, nest must be close. I've never heard of robins being territorial has anyone else heard different?

  3. Good morning all!
    Sarah, thanks and I am glad you are enjoying the blog. Dawn and Skeeter truly give me a break and do bring different perspectives to the table. Always important to readers I think. I will be looking for the pictures of the cygnets. The parents don't try to bite you? I know geese, especially Canandian geese can be mean but I am not sure about the swans.

    Dawn, Robins and bluejays both will dive bomb you and wreak a bit of havoc is you get too close to their nests. I always hear mine in the garden. They have a distinctive cheep-cheep-cheep, with the emphasis on short and curt cheeps. I usually move on. We have found robin nests, or rather the dogs did. It was not a good turn out for two of the three birds. Both goldens went after them. Unfortunately finding them in the backyard is such a sudden thing at times that I fail to realize the dogs are there. I always stay away when the birds are getting close to flying. I would think you would have bluebirds. Maybe put out a bluebird house and you can attract them.

  4. Great photos Tina! You show the growth of the bluebirds very well. I need to get a birdhouse up for the bluebirds in our area. Yet another thing for the to-do list that I haven't had time to get to.

  5. Mom- I love the pictures of the little baby birds. They grow up so fast huh!

  6. Dave, It all takes time. That is for sure!

    Christine, Babies do grow up fast! Hard to believe you and your sister are so grown!

  7. A lotta info in this post and lucky you Tina, being able to watch the little cutties grow and spread their wings!!

    We FINALLY have a rainy day. Been raining for a few hours and is a nice slow gentle rain. I'll gladly wait to spread the loam for a rainy day but it will make it heavier to spread, sigh. But we do need the rain badly.

  8. Great post! I haven't see a bluebird in my yard yet this year. We have a TON of redbirds which is unusual for us.

  9. Yeah Mom! Got some rain!

    Jillybean, Red birds are good!

  10. Did you build the birdhouse yourself? I'd love to put up some with a hinged door like this. Also do you clean out the nesting material each year or leave it as is for the birds' return?

  11. Did you build the birdhouse yourself? I'd love to put up some with a hinged door like this. Also do you clean out the nesting material each year or leave it as is for the birds' return?

  12. Tina, a great documentary on the Bluebirds!
    Our mommy blue is sitting on her second batch of eggs and they should hatch any day now. We get the meal worms at "Wild Birds Unlimited" store for $10 for 1000 worms! Sounds like a lot of worms but the birds eat them so fast that we dont need to feed the worms! We have seen the Cardinal, Wren, Sparrow, Titmouse and Chickadee eating them also but mostly the Bluebirds control the feeding tray.

    We don’t touch the baby birds for fear of hurting or stressing them or the parents. As you know Tina, it is easy to drop one while holding it. LOL… Since y’all enjoy seeing the birds, I may do a posting Sunday on the baby birds we have seen in our yard along with some blooming GA colors….

    Hot and Steamy Humid here and no rain in sight! I made the mistake of planting 9 new things while mom and dad were here visiting and now I must water them each day to get them going. Wow, what makes me continue to plant things during this heat? Arggg… Hey, what can I say, we had a cold front and it was too nice not to plant that day!

  13. Hi one acre homestead! I checked out your blog and must say I really liked your description of Oklahoma-windy! No, I have not built any birdhouses but that is on my to do list. I purchase little birdhouses at flea markets and yard sales and put them out for decorations. Silly birds move in and walah. This birdhouse was already hinged, but I have also added hinges to several birdhouses so I can observe. I do clean out the bluebird houses for sure. In fact, I thought the nest in this one was from last year and dumped it out, the next day there was another nest. I had to look and be sure the nest I threw out was still there and it was so I knew I had some residents. The bluebirds usually fledge two broods a year. The sparrows go all year-about 5! Not sure on the others but with our long growing season they can be busy. I also put out eggshells for them to help.

  14. Hey Skeeter, I learned my lesson with my little wrens. But they did fledge no problem-the very next day! I have never heard of Wild Birds Unlimited but will check it out as I'd like to feed the bluebirds. I hear they get pretty accustomed to it. Do you whistle at them to let them know feeding time? It is hot here too. I think planting anytime is great for gardeners-of course we pay for it in watering. Though I like to water, the bills can get large. That is a drawback. Maybe some rain will come and I am still hopeful for that one inch per week this summer. We need it! Maine finally got some rain but none here either. ttyl

  15. Tina,

    This is a terrific post! There is nothing like a Bluebird, so glad you
    have this wonderful record for folks to enjoy. We haven't tried to bring them here...not much open yard.

  16. Yep Tina, I whistle as I head to the feeder and they come to the power lines above and wait until my back is turned and they hop down on the feeders. I can hear their wings fluttering as I walk away. I could probably tame them but I think it is best to keep wildlife wild for their safety. The next person they encounter my not be as nice as me…

  17. That's awesome that you can capture each moment of those bluebirds development. From the the time they are eggs to little beings. They must take really good care of them because they continue to come back :-)

  18. Hi Tina --loved this post --still remember when we saw bluebirds nesting at your house years ago when we lived out that way. So cute!

  19. Gail, I don't think the bluebirds need open yard. I have many trees and they seem to love it. I just put up the houses and here they come.

    Skeeter, Those bluebirds love you! (and the Saint:)

    DP, The bluebirds seem to pick not only certain houses, but certain areas. Creatures of habit I guess.

    Anonymous, Yes, of course you guys remember-especially the hubby. He was the one who found the dead baby. Poor thing couldn't get out. We almost lost one last year in the same way but since I knew of the issue I took him out and let him fly and here came his daddy. Hope all ended well then. Skeeter did such a great job documenting the wrens last year I thought I'd give it a try this year. I would dearly love to put a video in the house but it may be too far away. One day.

  20. You can also usually buy the meal worms at a fishing and tackle store.

  21. Tina, swans can be mean and do hiss at my dog. I keep her on a leash around them. There are 9 little ones. Feel free to ask more English questions - stupid questions don't exist. Ignorance comes from not asking questions. Curiosity leads to knowledge. I've learned a lot about gardening from you and your lot. Now time to get my kids to bed.

  22. Hi Tina, this was fascinating to see the progress of the baby bluebirds. I would be afraid to handle them too, I was taught that the parents might abandon them if there was human smell on them. But that must not be the case with yours! We have bluebirds nearby, and they nested in one of our houses a couple of times, but not this year. Last year the chickadee won the war of who got to use the birdhouse, they are good fighters, though small birds. We were pulling for the bluebirds and were surprised when they gave up. Maybe not as aggressive? Thanks for the wonderful photos, just like being there!

  23. Oh Sarah, No stupid questions, ignorance comes froms not asking, curiosity is knowledge. How very true!!! How neat to watch those gracefull critters grow up. Wow!!

    Raining in Harpswell today, nice soft, gentle rain so it will not destroy the sweet smelling lilacs
    that will be going by soon. You must be getting excited as you will be coming home soon. Is it next month?

    Frances I was brought up that way also and I now know for most animals it is a myth.

  24. Hi everyone, so much for weeding the yard today, lol. It was just too hot and my house was needing attention first. I wish we'd get a little rain --it makes my weeding so much easier. Today I have found two bird nests in my yard from all the wind --they are empty and probably have been for awhile. Off to baseball practice for Sidekick and girl model. Better them than me --it's so hot. I don't think I will let them practice for the full hour. Just too much heat for a small body even with ample water --see you all later:)

  25. Tina,

    I was under the impression that I needed to have a huge expanse of green in front of a nesting I am going to get me a house for next year...they are too darn cute to not invite into the yard. Thanks,

  26. Hey Mom, Glad you are getting rain. We need some too!

    Sarah, thanks for you kind words. I am always learning-so the questions come.

    Anonymous, Hope today was calmer and the kids didn't get too hot. It seemed cooler for some reason. Went to the commissary and left not getting everything because they changed it SO much-even with the head's up. I heard lots of folks commenting on it. I guess the cleaning stuff is in the warehouse now? No idea. Never did find it.

    Gail, I believe it is the martins that need an open area. I do have lawn but mainly gardens and all trees. Just put out a bluebird house. I am betting you may get some this year even! Make sure it has a hinge so you can peek. Let us know how it works out.

  27. Tina loved the pics of the babies from eggs to leaving home. I think they are so pretty. Wish I could lure them here to my garden.
    Took it a little easy today. I found a nice article at the big box store. It's a ring of soaker hose that you can put around a small bush or tree to water without waste. I put mine around my rose. I will have to get another & a short piece of hose to connect the 2 soaker's then to regular hose. I think it will work great.

    Having electric & puter problems due to switch over of power. They say it should be better. Hope they will soon finish.

    Hope all had a wonderful day & will have a restful night.

  28. We went to the bird store yesterday for more meal worms and they were out of them! Shortage of them right now. Reckon lots of people feeding the birds....

  29. I just found your blog though someones elses blog and I'm glad I did! What great pictures and stories! The old saying used to be not to touch baby birds or the mother will abandon them, but of course this is not true. In fact, I heard birds can't smell.

    You have a lot to read and look at here, so I will continue to do so. I'm enjoying your blog quite a lot.