Where are the Bluebirds?

I have always had two bluebird houses in my back yard.  Year after year, I’d watch from late March to late April for the distinctive “blue streak” of the male bluebird making its way to the yard, immediately scoping out which box was going to be home for the summer months.  The female followed soon after.

I’d watch as they defended both boxes from the barn swallows until they made up their mind, allowing the swallows to nest in the now unwanted and unneeded box.  

I’d watch as male and female became parents to a brood of four or five chicks; watch the babies grow and fledge, although still needing their parents for food; watch as the younglings became more independent.

Sometimes I’d have this repeat a second time and, on rare occasions, depending on when they initially arrived, a third time. 

So why would this year be any different?  Minnesota experienced a very mild winter so I thought the bluebirds might come marching back in mid-April.  I watched as all the other species started filling the yard, listened to the mating calls coming from the forest, watched as birds started picking up fluff and feathers from the ground to line a nest.

One by one they came.  The three that I time together, that I look for the most, are the bluebirds, Baltimore orioles and hummingbirds.

The hummers came first – beginning of May.  I’m already thinking the bluebirds are late.  Then came the Baltimore orioles, first spotted in the yard on May 20th. Now I’m starting to get worried.  What happened to the blues? 

Visiting my wild bird store where I get my feed, I found out that sightings have been very sparse and no one is buying the live meal worms that the bluebirds love so much.  So I still waited….until the other day when I went to visit my landscaper Brad at the nursery to pick out some trees.  Come to find as we’re talking that he hasn’t seen many either. The reason? That horrible cold snap in Texas that knocked out power, etc., killed off the bluebirds before they started to migrate.  I believe this.  It is a tragic occurrence with a sad outcome.  I’ve given up hope.  

Funnily, I even had a fella from the Bluebird Recovery Program in our area come to the house in early Spring to help me position two more boxes in anticipation of picking up another couple. (You shouldn’t have pairs of bluebird houses too close together or territories can get crossed.) I had gaily imagined two families of bluebirds rearing their young in the yard – other species filling up the other two.  Well, wishful thinking on the bluebird front.

Swallows took up residence in one of the boxes in the backyard, and one on the side yard.  I can’t look into those to watch progress because I’ll get dive bombed.  

I had seen chickadees scoping out the other box on the side yard and a couple of days ago I thought I’d check to see if there was any activity.  

Oh Lord, I opened the box to a beautiful moss lined nest with opened-mouths chicks.  It was such a surprise!  I quickly closed the box and ran for my phone.

Opening the box again, five or six little newborns slept, but quickly awakened and begged for food. 


I had bought some live mealworms in anticipation of bluebirds, but chickadees like them also.  I put some in a dish that I had hung from a nearby tree.  Easy protein for a big brood to feed.  

OK, I didn’t get bluebirds this season.  But I can say that for the first time I have a nest of chickadees in the yard.  They, like bluebirds, are accommodating and will allow a peek or two into the box without having a hissy fit.  It brings me much joy.  For now, one box I the backyard remains empty.  I’ll still be watching for that blue streak – maybe a pair will find its way into the yard.  But if not, I’ll wait until next year and hope that a new generation of bluebirds finds their way into the great state of Minnesota.

p.s. We went away for the Memorial Day weekend and I checked the chicks when we got home — they have grown! So cute. Fluff everywhere!

#chickadees #babychickadees #chickadeesinmn #babybirds

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