When it's cold and rainy, the parent birds can't find enough food for their young, or even for themselves. Sometimes the parents get soaked to the skin and can hardly fly. Then their own survival is in question. So they wisely give up and just save themselves. They'll quit incubating near-term eggs; they'll quit feeding starving young. I've lost two clutches of near-term bluebird eggs from abandonment this spring. The birds couldn't find enough to eat to sustain themselves while sitting, and they knew they'd never be able to feed their babies when they hatched. And this is the latest spring on record for bluebird nesting. They waited and waited to lay this year. They knew it was going to be a real bummer of a spring, long before we did.
Ironically, the older the baby birds are when it hits, the more likely they are to succumb to cold and rain. Once baby birds are feathered, the female won't brood them any more, and they get chilled a lot faster than naked young birds who are still being sat upon. Like these in our driveway box, who were very hungry, but still toasty warm:
After that first nasty shock, I found all the other bluebirds and Carolina chickadees in my boxes still warm and clinging to life. They were weak and hungry, but they were alive.
And I had the answer, kept warm in an insulated container, with me. I call it Bug Omelet.
It's scrambled egg with...additions.
Which include dried fly (Musca domestica) larvae (available from Oregon Feeder Insects)
and ground, baked eggshells.
But Bug Omelet is superfood for starving baby birds. I have wildlife rehabilitator Astrid MacLeod to thank for this wonderful recipe. I love it because I can keep the dried fly larvae in a big ol’ jar in the cupboard and I always have eggs and eggshell on hand, so I’m ready to feed starving baby birds at the drop of a hat.