Tag Archives: Birds

Bluebirds vs. Sparrows!

My husband made this bluebird nest box in the spring and mounted it on a pole that is easily visible from our kitchen window. We had a pair of bluebirds move in within a couple weeks. We took joy in watching them fly in and out, first bringing grasses to build a nest. Later they laid eggs and raised a clutch. We saw them spend a lot of time flying around, going in and out, carrying insects and other delicacies, presumably for their young chicks. This went on for a few weeks.

Recently, we experienced just how cruel nature can be. House sparrows and wrens started hazing the bluebirds. It was rather traumatic watching the bluebirds come under attack after watching them raise a family.

I did some on-line research and discovered that this is quite a common occurrence. House sparrows and wrens frequently chase off bluebirds. They will even break the eggs, or kill chicks, and sometimes kill adult bluebirds, so they can take over the nest. They are even known to build their nest right on top of the bluebird bodies.

House sparrows are an invasive species. That means not native to the United States. Hence, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Wrens are native and so are protected. I immediately employed some of the deterrents that I read about to help our bluebird friends. I found instructions for something called a “sparrow spooker” and constructed and installed one right away. This consists of the metal strips hung from a strip of wood or twine. It can be seen in the photo above.

The sparrow spooker seemed to confuse the sparrows for a bit. I did see them or the wrens enter the house a few times afterwards, but other times they shied away. I was back the next day ready to continue battle with the avian invaders after doing further research. Apparently, if you install monofilament fishing line vertically along either side of the entrance to the nest box, sparrows, and hopefully wrens, do not like it. The sparrows and wrens cannot see the line and when they bump into it, it confuses and upsets them. Hopefully, enough so that it will keep them away. I did see a wren bump into the line and sit in a branch nearby tilting his head and staring at the offending area. Bluebirds, being insectivores, are thought to have better eye sight and can avoid the fishing line. That installation is also visible in the photo above.

Bird activity in general is less at the nest box today. I haven’t seen the bluebirds since yesterday, and the number of sparrow and wrens sightings is less too. I am hopeful that the clutch of bluebird babies grew up and fledged before the interlopers showed up. We did not find any baby bluebird bodies in the nest, nor did we find any on the ground in the surrounding area. My research says that bluebird babies fledge in 17-21 days. We had been watching the box for some time so it is possible that the young left to live out their lives elsewhere.

There is one last thing to try at some point in the future. My delving into sparrow habits unearthed the fact that they are territorial. They will not allow other house sparrows in the immediate area of their nest. It’s not the bluebirds per se that the sparrows take issue with. They just want the nesting site. I read that if you install two of the “bluebird houses” within 10 feet of each other, the sparrows will use one and bluebirds can nest in the other. The resident sparrows will not allow other sparrows to use it, leaving it open for the bluebirds.

This experience gave us pause to think. We put up a birdhouse, but who are we to say it is a bluebird house? The sparrows and wrens do not see it that way. And although it was upsetting when “our” bluebirds were driven off, it was nature at work. Should we be allowed to specify who lives in a birdhouse just because it is our whim? Tough choices.

And following, is a photo of one of our flowerbeds that was recently enlarged. Just so there is something positive to report today. I planted gladioli in it, so it should be bright and cheery soon!

A Plethora of Birds

We have seen a plethora of birds around our house lately. Varied species.

We have a little family in this birdhouse in our red maple. The birdhouse was built by my husband and has seen one or two broods of young fledged every year. Usually it is sparrows. This year I think it is house finches.

We ran out of seed for our bird feeder two or three weeks ago. I usually stop feeding in the spring. I figure the birds can easily find their own food by then. This year I was going to continue feeding since we are staying at home isolating, and enjoy watching the birds. But my mail order sources have been out of seed. Everyone else must be thinking the same.

Even so, we are graced with many beautiful birds. The woodpeckers of course. I feel like they are special friends since they are here with us year round.

And we have been seeing the eastern bluebirds many times each day. We see them all over our property. We’re not sure if we have several pairs of bluebirds or one pair that is very active.

There are numerous goldfinches. They often flit by as I look out the kitchen window. I have seen them sitting on the lawn munching on dandelion blooms.

We have a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks that we see once or twice each day. This is the first year I have ever noticed them here.

And today, for the first time, we saw an oriole. I have seen pictures, but they do not do the bird justice. The orange is so brilliant that it is striking.

We see these birds in various areas of our yard, but they especially like to sit on our power line and jump from branch to branch in our trumpet vine. We hear the sounds of chainsaws, and trees being felled in the small valley down the hill from us, and hope that we are not seeing this increase in birds because they are being displaced.

We hope the birds are increasing in number and that the trend will continue. They are jewels of nature and we take joy in their presence.

Birdwatching

I moved our bird feeder to the front yard this year, so we can watch the birds from the living room. Actually my main motivation was so that the cats could see the bird feeder.

In an effort to get the cats to be more active, rather than like this.

The woodpecker is named Woodrow. There is probably more than one, but we call them all Woodrow. Except for the time when it was obvious that a male and female came to feed. She was known as Mrs. Woodrow.

And yes, the cats did take an interest in birdwatching. So did Zekie!