Nature Watch: Bluebirds are protecting their young from predators


Q: I have a bluebird house with babies in it on the fence in my yard. I put mealworms in a feeder near the bluebird house for the bluebirds. The male and female bluebirds dive bomb the blue jays and grackles, but let the cardinals eat. I wonder why?

A: I can only assume that the bluebirds do not consider the cardinals to be a threat to their young. Blue jays will take eggs and baby birds when found, and like their larger relatives, the crows, are omnivorous, eating both animal and vegetable matter. During June, cut worms and other insects make up a major portion of the grackle's diet, with some fruit and berries included, but they also destroy eggs and nestlings of smaller birds. Cardinals won't. So, my guess is the bluebirds are not only driving off these species from what they augment their food supply with, but are attempting to distance these predators from their young.

Q:We just took this picture from our front door in Richmond. What do you make of it? It was swerving around the middle of the road around 7 p.m. and then went into the woods, there is a quarry pond there. It had a flat tail and was very big.

A: While a picture may "be worth a thousand words," in this instance, nine words, "it had a flat tail and was very big," is worth a thousand pictures. It is, and I am comfortable saying this as it safely got off the road where its luck may have ran out, a beaver, our largest rodent. In, or near water, adult beaver have few enemies, on roads they have motor vehicles to contend with, along with large predators.

Q: Will bluebirds raise a second family in a summer? We had a family of bluebirds nest in our new bird box, and it was noisy with the male singing a lot and baby birds screaming for more food. Then one day last week, all was quiet. They were gone. This morning in the pouring rain I saw the female on the box again, and it got me wondering.

A: Often bluebirds will raise a second brood, and early on the male will tend to the newly fledged birds while the female will tidy up the nest and prepare for another brood.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


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