Monday, June 15, 2015

Second Time Around – A New Beginning

Text and photos © 2015 Adele Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows

Mr. Bluebird has found a new mate!  His previous mate laid five eggs in May and then abandoned the nest box without incubating the eggs.  Needless to say, the eggs did not hatch.

We still do not know why Mr. Bluebird’s previous mate disappeared.  I did not remove the unhatched eggs from the nest; Mr. Bluebird told me not to do so!  Every evening I would see him hanging around the nest box as if to be protecting his eggs.  Such a sad sight!

But on Friday morning, June 12th, a seeming miracle occurred.  A new female Bluebird appeared and began perching on top of the nest box with Mr. Bluebird!

Mr. Bluebird commenced the courtship ritual of holding some straw in his bill to show Ms. Bluebird that it was time to build the nest.

Under normal circumstances, a male Bluebird will gather the first nesting material and bring it to the box.  This time, however, since there was already straw in the box from the nest that had been built by his previous mate, Mr. Bluebird just ventured inside the box, grabbed some straw, and then brought it to the top of the box!

The photo at the above right shows Mr. Bluebird on top of the nest box with straw in his bill.  If you look carefully at the end of his tail, you will see the new Ms. Bluebird perching in the background on the fence.

Ms. Bluebird apparently received Mr. Bluebird's message that it was time to start building a nest because Ms. Bluebird began bringing straw to the box.

The photo on the left shows Ms. Bluebird flying to the box with straw in her bill while Mr. Bluebird guards the box from its top.  Presumably, Ms. Bluebird is building a new nest on top of the old one – the one that the former Ms. Bluebird built in May.

I've read that Bluebirds sometimes do this; that is, they build a nest directly on top of an old one.  To be more accurate, the FEMALE Bluebird builds a nest on top of the old one.  That is because, in this species, the female is the nest builder while the male's job is to stand guard.

As an example of Bluebirds building a nest on top of an existing nest, the Bluebirds that arrived at this box on May 10th – nine days after a pair of Tree Swallows had built their nest inside the box – chased the Tree Swallows away and began building their own nest on top of the Tree Swallows' nest.  The nest builder at that time was the former Ms. Bluebird.  She finished building the nest, and, as previously mentioned, laid five eggs.

But now that the former Ms. Bluebird has vanished and Mr. Bluebird has found a new mate, the process begins all over again!  

On Friday morning, June 12th, even after the new Ms. Bluebird began carrying the straw inside the box, Mr. Bluebird would continue to appear at the box with straw in his bill.  The photo on the right shows Mr. Bluebird holding straw while peeking out of the box’s hole while Ms. Bluebird is also holding some straw at the top of the box.

It seems that, this time, Mr. Bluebird is being extra diligent and proactive to ensure that the new Ms. Bluebird remains around the nesting site.  I have seen Mr. Bluebird on the front of the nest box (see photo below) engaging in the motions of feeding Ms. Bluebird through the hole even when he knows she is not inside the box!

I suppose that Mr. Bluebird is practicing for the time when Ms. Bluebird lays her eggs and begins to incubate them.  That’s the time when, in the Eastern Bluebird species, the male must begin bringing food to the nest and feeding the female, just as if he is feeding a baby Bluebird.

I am no expert on Bluebird behavior, but it seemed to me that Mr. Bluebird did not feed the former Ms. Bluebird often enough after she had laid her eggs.  Sometimes Mr. Bluebird would come to the box, feed her through the hole, and take flight, after which the former Ms. Bluebird would immediately fly out of the box after him!

I am praying that this nesting attempt will be successful.  Our weather pattern has stabilized now.  Each day is warm and humid, often with rain showers in the afternoon or evening.  During the time when the former Ms. Bluebird was laying her eggs, we were in the middle of a cool spell, and one night we even had frost.  Perhaps, as my neighbor suggested to me, the former Ms. Bluebird became confused and thought that winter was coming, making it too cold to raise chicks. 

Stay tuned to find out what becomes of Mr. Bluebird’s new relationship!  The next post will show photos of both the previous Ms. Bluebird and the current Ms. Bluebird.  You can follow this blog by entering your email address at the top right of this page.
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.  To find out more about the book and read a preview, just click on the image to the right.   


  1. Way to go! Fingers crossed for this second pairing! :)

    1. Thanks, Jim! I'm crossing my fingers, too!

  2. So interesting! I do hope it will go better this time!

    How does things work for the Tree Swallows? Have their eggs hatched yet do You think?

    Here ther House Sparrows are on their third litter of chicks, they nest beneath the tiles and I can hear them through the roof, they aren't especially quiet birds :-)

    Have a great midsummer's eve!

    1. Hi Christer,

      Happy Midsummer's Eve to you! Sweden is several hours ahead of us, so it is now evening where you live.

      I love your blog, especially your latest post about the Midsummer's Eve holiday, and encourage everyone to read it. The URL is I love your beautiful nature photos and your discourses about how weather conditions affect everything.

      Thanks so much for your comments on this post! I've had House Sparrows nesting here, also. For the past two months, they have been using an old mud swallow nest on my porch. It's difficult to keep track of how many babies they have hatched so far, but we did see at least 2 fledge from the nest. I've read that in our local climate, they can have 3 to 5 broods per year. And yes, they are extremely noisy as compared with other birds. I can often hear them on the edge of the roof and on the gutter.

      Believe it or not, House Sparrows are considered to be undesirable by ornithologists in North America. House (also called English) Sparrows were introduced to this continent in the 1800s, but they ended up taking nesting sites away from some of our native birds. They are "secondary cavity" nesters, as are our native Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and some of our other birds. "Secondary cavity" means that they use pre-existing cavities for nests. They do not carve out their own holes like Woodpeckers do. Instead, they often use old Woodpecker holes.

      House Sparrows not only usurp nesting sites from other birds, but they can also kill the nesting birds and chicks. They are not protected by law in the United States as are most of our native birds. It is even legal to kill House Sparrows! I just don't think I could bring myself to do that, but perhaps I could trap them and move them elsewhere. Most ornithologists recommend euthanizing them, however. I hope to cover this in a future blog post after I have straightened out my mind about it.

      The Tree Swallow eggs were due to hatch this week, but something terrible happened, which I don't think was related to the House Sparrows. It's been an emotional time, and I haven't been able to write about it yet. I'm planning to cover it in my next post.

      Meanwhile, the new female Bluebird and her mate are still active around the nest box. I think the female may be laying eggs now, but I don't want to check the box too frequently for fear of scaring her away. I plan to check tomorrow afternoon if the weather is dry.

      Best wishes for a fun Holiday (what remains of it)!