About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bluebirds year-round

I had a couple in my bluebird box that had babies earlier this year.  They repeated a few weeks later.  I then went out of town before the last batch of babies left the nest but assume all went well.

Now it is October and I have a couple flitting about the box, going in and out and have been doing so for 3 or 4 days now.  Because I had been away, I had not yet gotten around to cleaning out the old nest.  Now my question is, because there is strong interest in this home, should I clean it out now or leave it alone.  I don't know if they will re-use it. (I've had bluebirds for several summers, but have never had them stay for the fall/winter.  I live in North Alabama.)

Nesting season is definitely over in Michigan and I assume it should be over in Alabama too. You can contact your local Wild Birds Unlimited or Audubon Society for specific information about bluebirds in your area. I think the birds you see are just playing house.

The motivations for a lot of animals’ behaviors have yet to be understood fully. But observations of juvenile male bluebirds reveals they occasionally engage in reproductive activities and “play house” with young female bluebirds to perhaps practice for the future.

After nesting season has ended, Eastern Bluebirds usually form large nomadic groups that roost at night in the woods. This will help increase their survival through the winter. These late summer flocks change their diet from mainly insects over to more fruit, nuts, and berries. If you have fruit trees, a feeder or a reliable source of water, you may host the bluebirds year-round.

Once the baby bluebirds have fledged (left the nest box) they move around in a family group but don’t return to their nest. This is the best time to clean out a box. By cleaning out a nest box you help deter parasite infestation and a predator’s ability disturb a nest that is built on top of old nests making it closer to the entrance hole.

To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep it all in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

These clean nest boxes make the perfect roosting spot in the fall and winter for a variety of birds that seek shelter out of all the winds, rain, and snow. At night or during bad weather bluebirds often find shelter in birdhouses, tree cavities, or under the eaves of houses.

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