Life inside a bluebird nest box

I love the outdoors! In addition to being a gardener, I am an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist. With that designation, I have been monitoring the bluebird trail in Austintown Township Park.

There are six nesting boxes, but all are not occupied by eastern bluebirds. There are several species of nesting birds such as the house wren, house sparrow, tree swallow, chickadee and eastern bluebirds.

The house sparrow is the only one mentioned that is not native to the U.S.

This season I have had an unusual amount of house wrens in the area occupying the nest boxes. The male begins the nests consisting of sticks and twigs. These are dummy nests and are completed by the female after she finds the acceptable location to put on the finishing touches for nesting which is a small cup-shaped depression made with grass. So far this season there have been several dummy nests.

They cannot be removed until the female has laid eggs in one of them. I have had three nests this season with a total of 10 eggs. However, the eggs didn’t get a chance to hatch as they were gone soon after being laid. The nest was intact, and no eggs or shells were on the ground, so I believe it could have been the sneaky gray ratsnake that ate the eggs.

Next, I had a first and very unusual nest consisting of shredded brown leaves with a few seeds intermixed. I cleaned it out several times, and it was built again. I am not completely certain who is doing this but believe it could be a mouse or flying squirrel.

Eastern bluebird nests are very intrinsically woven from grasses. The blue eggs are the same color as robin eggs but smaller. I have already had five bluebirds fledge this season and I am hoping for another brood.

Tree swallows begin their nest to be similar to a bluebird’s but shorter. The final addition is a layering of feathers on top of the nest. So far this season four have fledged. Tree swallows are protective of their nests and have swarmed me many

times but don’t make contact.

House sparrows, as I mentioned, are not native and are aggressive birds. They will crack open or toss out eggs of other species. It is permitted by law to toss out house sparrow nests and eggs. The nests are messy and constructed of scraps of string, paper wrappers, plant materials, etc. It is illegal to handle eggs or young of native birds.

For more information go to: https://go.osu.edu/bluebirdhouse.

Shively is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County.


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