When Young Bluebirds Leave the Nest

I am an avid bird watcher and have been fortunate to watch Bluebirds nest every year for the past 6 to 7 years. This year I have paid particular attention to the fledglings leaving the nest and striking out on their own.

Some think baby birds grow up in a family that stays together and migrates South together. Actually, it is  rare for a family to stay together after a nesting season. Most young birds are totally on their own soon after leaving the nest. The parents often migrate South long before the youngsters do.

Fledgling

The Eastern Bluebirds that I have been watching, nested early in the season. They started another family shortly after the  first fledglings left the nest.

Birds that nest early have time to raise two families. If they do raise two families, they normally bond as a pair for the rest of the season.

The male bluebird takes over the feeding process for about 10 days, once the female begins a second nest. He teaches them how to fetch worms, grubs, and insects. By this time their diet is consistent with that of the adult bird.

Blue bird's first flight in Vermont spring

Day one First Flight

When the fledgling first leaves the nest, it’s a big transition. They fly awkwardly to the nearest tree, fence or anything that keeps them off the ground. Mr. Blue is nearby calling baby blue. Baby blue makes another flight in his direction, then another, and another until he gets the idea.

I was working in the garden and observed the last fledgling leaving the nest with Mr. Blue coaxing him along.

My bluebirds get a standing ovation for the time, effort, and work they’ve put into raising two families. It can be a physiological strain on both parents.

Catching food for her babies

Mrs. Blue with a catepillar

Nestlings need to be fed every 20 minutes initially — at one day of age they eat spiders (higher in calories than insects). Two- to five-day old nestlings eat spiders, butterflies, and  moth larva. Older nestlings feed on beetles, earthworms, crickets, and grasshoppers, basically the same diet as their parents. By day 13 –14 they are ready to leave the nest.

Bluebirds will remain with their parents and the fledglings of successive nesting during their first season grouping. Here they gather in a loose flock during the summer to feed. Southern migration is determined by the weather and food availability.

Juveniles of permanent residents such as Chickadees, Nuthatches, Finches, and Woodpeckers are much better off. Though their parents no longer care for them, at least they are still in familiar surroundings.

Leaving the nest is a hazardous time for all young birds. In addition to learning how to fly, birds must also learn how to feed and develop predator awareness — the price for not learning quickly enough is high. Life is far from easy for birds.

Jane Ogilvie
Green Mountain website gallery

This entry was posted in Animals, Bird watching, Birds, Vermont, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , .

17 Comments

  1. Kate Corvaja August 26, 2011 at 10:45 #

    Fantastic photographs! Never saw a bluebird before outside of NYState, and it’s the state bird. Thank you for showing me how beautiful they are, and the baby photo was especially endearing. Good work.

    • Jane Ogilvie August 26, 2011 at 16:53 #

      Kate thank you so much for viewing. I haven’t met a bird I didn’t like but think blue birds are my favorite:)
      Stay safe fingers crossed Irene loses her strength..

  2. pat Davis August 28, 2011 at 11:41 #

    This is very interesting material and the pictures are wonderful, well done , Jane !

  3. Judi (~Mama Z~) August 31, 2011 at 09:15 #

    Oh Jane, what a lovely article and photos. Proud of you, my friend. Very interesting info as well. Great Job!

  4. Katie Mead May 16, 2015 at 09:05 #

    I have had a bluebird box in my yard for the last eight years and for the most part the bluebirds have done great! This year for whatever reason, I have a baby bird that fell/jumped out of the box and is hopping around the yard. The parents are feeding it, however we saw a big rat snake hanging around the yard and we have major concerns that if he doesn’t start flying soon he will not make it. We decided to open the bluebird box and put him back, however sadly we don’t believe the other baby birds are alive. We are just wondering what is a smart move for us to make to help the poor little guy out? Thanks much!

    • Jane Ogilvie May 16, 2015 at 19:47 #

      Hi Kate,
      It’s a good thing putting your fledgling back in nesting box to protect him /her for a little while longer since it can’t fly yet..
      Maybe don’t remove the other dead birdies yet so as not to disturb junior who might easily hop out again. Eventually they will be removed when you clean your birdhouse…Use gloves bird flu is being transmitted via wild birds in the states now..

    • Jeff Foliage May 16, 2015 at 20:07 #

      Jane answered your comment

  5. Yva July 10, 2015 at 20:13 #

    We noticed a fledgling bluebird the other day in our flower garden. We were wondering when the babies we could hear crying in their box when their diligent parents were feeding them would start to fledge. Now that we have seen at least one out of the box (and had to save it from our cat) we haven’t seen the parents since. Before this they were constantly in our yard. How long do the parents stay around after their babies have fledged? It just happened two days ago and now the parents seem to be gone.

  6. Jane Ogilvie July 13, 2015 at 12:28 #

    Hi Yva, The parents usually stay with their fledglings helping them navigate, adapt to the new world outside the box, and continue to assist with feeding until they can manage themselves. Often times you won’t see them anymore near the bird box but they are around.. Frequently everyone comes back to sleep in the bird house for a few days…

    • Yva July 13, 2015 at 12:47 #

      Thank you so much for your reply! We felt so lucky to have them around and it’s nice to know they haven’t necessarily deserted our property yet.

  7. Claudeen August 10, 2015 at 18:36 #

    There is one baby bluebird left in the box, I dont see the mom and dad. I feel bad for him he is all by himself. The others must have flew today. There were four of them I have been watching them. Yesterday they were there, now only one is left. Should I feed it,he seems so sad!

    • Jeff Foliage August 12, 2015 at 11:07 #

      I talked to a local rehab person and she said leave it alone. The Mother is probably using hunger to get the last one to leave the nest. Please don’t assign human emotion to the animals (we all do it). 🙂
      The bird isn’t lonely for mom, Mom is the food source and Mom only knows that for the good of the species the baby bird has to leave the nest. If you start feeding the baby then you become the surrogate mother and you are now responsible for that bird for her/his life. Your job is to feed it, day in and day out because it may never leave the nest. Why leave the nest if you keep bringing the food to him?

  8. Jeff Foliage August 12, 2015 at 11:07 #

    done

  9. Phil Reeves July 2, 2016 at 19:17 #

    I am in a new area and recently posted a new bluebird house, but have not seen any bluebirds since earlier in the season; however, a small pair of birds have built a nest in the house and hatched their offspring which are only a few days old. I am wondering when to expect these birds to leave their nest and what to expect from their behavior. Would appreciate any info you can give me since it has been 64 years since I left the farm where birds built their nests in trees. I am now 84 years of age and have renewed my interest in bird watching. Have great day and remember God loves you and Jesus died so that we may spend eternity with Him. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Antoinette Jacobson October 27, 2016 at 17:32 #

    I have 4 or 5 fat baby bluebirds flying around these past few days. They are very round and still puffy. Today it is cold, spitting snow and sleet. Are they going to fly away? My neighbor has many bluebird houses and I am worried about them if they decide to winter here…

    • Jeff Foliage October 30, 2016 at 23:32 #

      Believe it or not mother nature is pretty tough but.. and I know you won’t want to hear this, they will either fly and head out or they won’t and possibly die. But once you take over for mother bluebird or mother nature, you are now completely responsible for them. They will also loose the ability to survive in the wild. So my advice is to let nature take its course.
      I know this isn’t easy and it breaks our hearts but this is the best course…

      Jeff Folger

      • Antoinette Jacobson October 31, 2016 at 13:20 #

        Thanks! I wasn’t going to do anything except maybe try to find mealy worms for them but since I knew i wouldn’t sustain it I didn’t even try that and there are still good stuff around for them anyway….

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