Monday, July 1, 2013

Fledging and Starting Again

We checked our larger bluebird trail Sunday evening and found that three broods of bluebirds and two broods of tree swallows had fledged. In two out of three of those bluebird boxes, new eggs had already been laid to start a second brood. It is typical for bluebirds to raise two, and sometimes even three, broods in a breeding season, and with the late start this year the birds are wasting very little time starting again. We learned last year from Carroll Johnson, one of our county Bluebird Recovery Program coordinators, that it's unlikely that new eggs will be laid after late July.

We've never seen fledging happen (though last week and once last year we checked a nestbox assuming that fledging had already occurred, only to find one bird still in the nest -- either not yet fledged or perhaps, as they sometimes do, returned to the nest). Nor have we seen any of "our" bluebird fledglings after they've left the nest, at least not while they were still identifiable as juveniles. But last night we saw a family of six -- adults and juveniles together -- that most likely was not one of "ours," and we got a great look at a couple of the young birds enjoying the insect-gathering potential at a newly mown field. Here is a young bluebird on an overhead wire, already quite accomplished at dropping down to the ground for an insect and returning to a perch. The juvenile is easily recognizable by its spotted plumage.

Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are members of the thrush family (Turdidae), as are American robins (Turdus migratorius). (It's okay, go ahead and laugh.) You can see and learn about other members of the thrush family here.

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