Happy Father’s Day – Bluebird!
By Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator
A fledgling out of the cage and hiding in a bush.
People love their bluebird boxes! Recently we had a situation in the yard in Eastham involving what had been a successful nest box of Eastern Bluebirds. The people had been watching the happy bluebird family for a couple of weeks, and one day noticed that the mother was missing. The father was frantically trying to feed the six babies who remained inside the box. Constant feeding meant having to leave the babies vulnerable in the nest for frequent periods of time. Even with a continuous supply of live mealworms offered in a nearby bowl, the father was not able to prevent predators from disturbing the nest. Only two chicks remained alive, so Wild Care was called.
I gathered up a rescue box and an intern, and drove to the site. The caller was upset and showed me a recently killed nestling. By the looks of it the bird was very healthy before it was pulled from the nest. We chose to take the remaining two babies to Wild Care because it was apparent they were easy prey sitting in the box and would be picked off very shortly. These chicks were almost fledglings and were extremely stressed. The older the babies are that we receive at Wild Care, the more difficult it is to feed and take care of them. They are more afraid in general, and these particular babies had already witnessed their mom and siblings yanked from the nest. We made a box to simulate the surroundings they grew up in, but that didn’t seem to help. They would not gape (open their mouths) for food, so we had to force-feed them every half hour.
After two days of stressful feedings they fledged! We saw them hopping and perching. This meant they would naturally have jumped out of the nest box and would be attended to by a parent bird on the ground and bushes until they can fly. I called the woman and asked if the father bird was still in the yard. Yes he was! And he was still carrying bugs to the empty nest box. This was terrific! Because the chicks would have normally left the nest at this point, and because their stay at Wild Care was so stressful, we opted to attempt to reunite the birds with their father- if he would take them back it would be the best-case scenario for the babies. I quickly got a suitable release cage together, rounded up the baby bluebirds, and the intern, and off we went. The cage was placed about 8 feet from the original box. Within the hour, the father appeared. All went better than we expected. The property owner was ecstatic when she called to let us know the single parent was back with his babies! I am so glad our interns are experiencing what its like to reunite animals, first hand. It is so important and is an integral part of wildlife rehabilitation.
The father is trying to coax the babies out of the cage.
Happy Father’s Day everyone!
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