Background Switcher (Hidden)

Saving a Bluebird

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There had been five bluebird babies in the front yard bluebird box when I last checked the nest. Three males and two females, I knew that. The bluebird pair made the unusual move of keeping them in and around the yard once they'd fledged; usually bluebirds take their babies deep into the woods for the vulnerable early post-Italicfledging stage, only returning two to three weeks later into the nesting territory. And it bothered me that each time I counted, I found only four babies in the yard. We were missing a male. A couple of weeks went by and he never showed up. Oh, well, c'est la vie, at least we have four. But I wondered if I'd ever know what happened to him.

One afternoon when the fledglings were pretty well grown, I pulled into the driveway, got out of my car and heard a baby bluebird calling insistently, distressed. Neener. Neener. Neener. I followed the sound, my hands still full from my errands, and pinned it down. It was coming from inside a stovepipe baffle. Oh good grief. There it was, a baby bluebird who had fallen down into the open top of the old baffle.

You can see a properly mounted stovepipe baffle on their nest box, top center, and the old topless baffle resting on the ground beneath our martin gourd pole, top right. That's the one he fell into. There was no getting out of it once he was in the 24" tube.

By this time, I'm holding the stranded baby in my hand for the kids to admire. Photos by Bill Thompson III.

He was fine, but he'd been in there a long time, so I gave him a dropper of water and four mealworms.

And it occurred to me where his brother might have gone, right after they fledged. I gave the baby to Phoebe to hold. She loooves to hold baby creatures. Liam, not so much. Too scritchy and scrabbly.

I walked over to the 2' length of stovepipe where our baby had been trapped and lifted it up.

And there was his brother, two weeks gone. The all-blue tail, telling his sex.

His skull, frail as an eggshell, unossified, so young. Rats, rats, rats.

I propped up the baffle with a rock, leaving an escape hole beneath for any future stumblers.

And gave the lucky live bluebird a final kiss on the head before releasing him to the care of his family. We've seen him in the yard many times since.

You can't anticipate all the ways a baby bird can run afoul of the careless trappings of man, but sometimes you're lucky enough to be there to help when they do.


I love Phoebe's face, all that excitement and caring in one look. Good job with both kinds of baby birds, Ms. Z.

Well, shoot. Baby birds are so fragile and vulnerable, sometimes I wonder how any of them survive.

And yowza - Phoebe looks as tall as you in that picture! Tell me that it is just the camera angle!

Analogies abound. Baby birds do what "baby" humans do--they get into all kinds of trouble we can't anticipate.
Keep them ALL safe.

He was lucky you took the time to find out where he was.

What a wonderful rescue story, Julie -- bravo to you and the kids! And I love seeing all the educational experiences your kids get to have during their "vacation" from school. Makes me wish I could stay home with mine and have such great adventures!

Great story! And as Trixie said, the look on Phoebe's face is priceless and telling. It's very cool that both your kids get to enjoy these fantastic opportunities to learn about and appreciate nature--and all from the comfort of home. If only all kids could be so lucky...

Oh darn about that one bluebird baby. At least you figured out what happened and safeguards are now in place to avoid it next time and a lucky rescue for one little bluebird!

As sad as it was to find little brother, it's so good that you heard the distress of the sibling and found out what happened. Whew. Phoebe looks so sweet holding that baby! So sweet... and grown up!


Your recent posts about life around the house and gardens are so good... 18 miles from anything - it's a busy place, full of life and you share it so nicely.

Now you notice a missing baby bluebird. I'm sorry you found it but glad that in the process you saved another. That's what Science Chimps do!


I love that last pic ... mama bird.

Brave Phoebe! I had the great joy of rescuing an orphaned grosbeak a couple of weeks ago and I was a little squirmy with that little fluffball in my hand. You must get the hang of firmly, but not too firmly, holding a half bald baby bird after a few times but I'm a newbie. We kept "Larry" in an old nest in our bathroom with a mesh pop up hamper as a cage overnight. We fed him blueberries when he would cooperate and got his face a mess in the process. We got to hear just how demanding fledgling appetites are through Larry's very strong vocal chords - if birds have vocal chords. He was adorable and wonderful to encounter and we brought him to an equally wonderful woman nearby who runs a bird sanctuary. She definitely had the touch; admired Larry's cuteness, scooped him up and popped him in her pocket until she could find him a spot in her many yard 'pods'. I took a few pictures to show our boys but I wish they could've shared in our adventure first hand. Nothing like it! Thanks as always for sharing your adventures and your disappointments and your lessons learned.
PS - word that like countess??

How ANY young birds make it into adulthood, I don't know.
Baffle pipes, water barrels, cars, cats, ill-informed people, pesticides, lack of food and habitat...jeez.
Lost one, saved one. That's better than lost two, saved zero.
I think only YOU would be able to even COUNT the number of bluebirds that SHOULD be out there...

Bittersweet story..happy that u were able to save the one bluebird!

Baby bluebird to its pals: "And then it tried to bite my head, but its beak was too soft, and I got away."

This is a touching story. Your children are lucky to be able to experience the joys and sorrows of being so close to living creatures. These are great life lessons!

Congrats on the save! Too bad about the first baby boy, but as you say, c'est la vive. Life is rough for a fledgling. I'm so glad you told us this story. What you won't do for a bluebird ...

If I haven't said it lately, while I enjoy the travel posts, I much prefer the tales of Indigo Hill. Keep 'em up.


[Back to Top]