Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Bluebird Nest Box: The Tenants Arrive!

Text and photos © 2015 Adele Wilson

This spring my next-door neighbor kindly put up a Bluebird nest box for me.  After coordinating with our landlord about the location of the box and purchasing the box and the parts to mount it, we finally got it up on April 24th. 

To our pleasant surprise, only one week later, on May 1st, a pair of birds landed on the box and began investigating it!  The two birds took turns poking their heads in and out of the hole to make sure it was the right size.  The photo on the right shows the male investigating the size of the hole.

One by one, the birds entered the nest box and peeked outside through the hole.  One bird would perch on the roof of the box while the other investigated the inside of it.

The photo below shows the male on top of the box with the female inside the box peeking out:

When the birds were satisfied that the box would be suitable for their nest, the female began flying to the nest with straw and carrying it into the box.  The male would guard the box from either its roof or a nearby fence post.

In the photo below, you can see the female on the left side with her feet clutching some straw, and the male guarding from the roof.

But the birds were not Bluebirds.  Instead, they were Tree Swallows!

It was no surprise that Tree Swallows, rather than Bluebirds, decided to use the box.  Although the box was designed for Bluebirds, we did not get it mounted until well after the beginning of the Bluebirds' nesting season, which begins in early to mid March.

However, I was just as delighted with the Tree Swallows as I would have been with Bluebirds.  Tree Swallows are beautiful, too, and an adult Tree Swallow eats about 2,000 flying insects per day.  And the best part was that we only had to have the box up for one week before the Tree Swallows discovered it!

Both male and female Tree Swallows have white breasts and bellies, with dark blue on their backs, wings, tails, and upper heads.  The male is especially beautiful, especially when the sunlight hits his feathers exactly right, showing his lovely iridescent blue!

In the Tree Swallow species, it is the female who builds the nest.  It is the male who has the duty of guarding her and the nest box while she is building it.

The female worked diligently, continuing to bring straw to the box each day.  The male would stand guard duty, either from the top of the box or from the nearby fence post.

Sometimes the female would land on the roof of the box with straw in her beak to rest for a moment before taking it into the nest box.  Sadly, it often took her several attempts to successfully carry the straw into the box.

Below you can see both the male and female on the roof of the box, the male displaying his brilliant, bright blue plumage and the female holding a few strands of straw in her bill.

I began to wonder what the inside of the box looked like.  Was it a hodge-podge of straw and grass, or was it a neatly woven nest?

Around 6 p.m. on May 8th, my neighbor told me she had not seen the Tree Swallows guarding the box that afternoon.  My curiosity then got the best of me, and I could no longer resist looking inside the box.  About half an hour later, with the birds nowhere in sight, I ventured to the box, carefully opened the door, and looked inside.

What I saw was quite an amazement to behold!  Strands of straw were woven into a cup shape, even with a couple of dark feathers in the front.  You can see the strand of straw protruding on the left side of the nest, indicating that the nest was still a work in progress.

Just 30 minutes later, I sighted the female Tree Swallow on the wire above my driveway.  She continued to perch there, softly twittering the whole time, and even let me take quite a few pictures of her.

All seemed peaceful, with everything going as it should.  Little did I know that a surprise was to ensue just two days later.   And that surprise was not to involve eggs or babies.  Follow this blog to find out what the surprise was!
I first began having intimate encounters with wild birds when Barn Swallows nested on my porch during 2011 and 2012.  During those encounters, I became convinced that humans and birds can develop meaningful rapports, communicate with each other, and enjoy mutually beneficial relationships.  You can read about how one special Barn Swallow communicated to me in my book Bonding with the Barn Swallows, available at Amazon at:


  1. Beautiful birds and photos! I always marvel at how the various birds construct their nests so perfectly. Amazing. A wonderful post, thanks for sharing! -- Jim

    1. Thanks, Jim! Yes, viewing a well built bird's nest is a glimpse into the Divine.

  2. I thought I had made a coment here already :-)

    What a beautiful bird! Never heard about them before so this was a pleasant new acquaintance.

    I am sometimes "lucky" to have barn swallows nesting just above my window upstairs. I use " signs because they crap down the entire wall of my cottage when nesting there :-) :-) I love watching them flying straight towards the window and just before they hit it turn upwards and in to the nest :-)

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Christer,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Our Tree Swallows look much like your House Martins, don't you think? But House Martins build mud nests like Barn Swallows do, while Tree Swallows nest in pre-made cavities. I know what a mess Barn Swallows can make. When they nested on my porch, I put a kitty litter pan lined with newspapers under the nest. But when they nest against a building, it can be a different story!

      Best wishes for a wonderful week!

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