Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Strange -

Today's Greeting
This morning very early, even before good light, I heard bluebirds out my window...I went to give them their mealworms, and "my" pair were both there....Then a very tiny little fledgling flew down, begging to be fed.
But Ollie and Camille not only wouldn't feed him; Ollie repeatedly attacked him, jumping down on the baby and pecking at his head.

The poor little thing just backed up under the birdbath and sat there and cried! It was a cry like I have never heard bluebirds make, and was pretty heartbreaking. The adult birds left, but the baby stayed there for a long time crying.
Then lo and behold, a second baby came, and was also attacked. This one didn't stay too long, but was making the same sad little sounds.

This is a puzzle to me for several reasons: 1. This would make 4 broods this summer, and I have not had more than 3 here before. 2. I have no idea where they nested this time - I did not know these babies existed, and one of the juvies from an earlier brood had been here a couple of days ago. 3. Why did the parents (?) attack them? They were fat and healthy, so they had been being fed. 4. Where did that strange, very different, sound come from?
I know the adults were "my bluebirds" because they knew me. These fledglings looked very young, so I'm wondering if maybe the parents didn't think (Do buebirds think?) the babies were old enough to be coming to the porch? I asked, but nobody was talking (Do bluebirds talk?)

23 comments:

Ivar Ivrig said...

My first visit at your blog, but not the last. I'll be back for more :-)

Jayne said...

I had a dad do this once to the smallest of the brood, and Julie offered that it was probably because they did not want to invest the time to get her up to speed with the rest of the sibs, but I've not heard of the parents doing this to the entire brood. :c(

Shellmo said...

Wow - I would be interested to know the answer - poor babies!

Mary said...

How very sad! That would break my heart to watch that. Poor little things and so pretty. I'd probably start trying to mash up worms and leave them hoping that they would eat them somehow. It would worry me so much!

fishing guy said...

Helen: Loved your card with the great photo. your story of the babies was really interesting.

Eve said...

Ha Ha!! Helen maybe the parents were just tired!!! Wow 4 sets...you cant blame them! I bet they "think" twice about doing that again!! Ha Ha! You should go out and just feed them and give mom and dad a break!

OH that card is a beauty Helen!

I hope the babies do well!

June said...

I can come up with comical scenarios about this, but my distress over it trumps my laughter. My first thought was an acting out of "survival of the fittest", but got totally confused when the second chick got attacked too. If you ever get an explanation, I'd like to know it.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Hi--Jayne asked me to comment on this. The only scenario I can propose is that the fledglings (which, as you correctly observe, are much too young to be visiting a deck--they are of the age when they should stay under cover and have food brought to them) do not belong to "your" pair of bluebirds. Bluebirds know very well who is theirs and who isn't. While bluebirds will accept strange nestlings put in their box up until the day of fledging, and feed them as their own, they will not feed fledglings that they did not raise, and will attack them if they venture into the pair's territory. I would surmise that something has happened to the male bluebird who was feeding this young brood, and these fledglings are begging out of desperation wherever they see adult bluebirds. They are younger than 26 days old and are incapable of making the mental connection to pick up their own food, which is a real shame.

I have had the same thing happen when I released orphaned bluebird fledglings that I had hand-raised into the territory of my yard pair. Instant attack. The male attacked and drove off the male fledgling, and barely tolerated the female, but he certainly never fed her.

The first photo shows a male attacking a female fledgling, which bolsters my theory that he did not father her--it's very rare for a male bluebird to attack a female, no matter the circumstances. Bluebird aggression is almost always male on male and female on female.

This would be a very hard thing for me to watch.

It is possible, although unlikely, that the male bluebird is trying to discourage the young from visiting the deck while he gathers food for them, but if this were merely discipline, you should have seen him feed them if they were his.

Checking your nest boxes once a week can clear up mysteries like this--you'll have a handle on who belongs to whom.

If this analysis rings true to you, please check my blog archives--I believe the posts are in May 2008--for advice on artificial feeding of bluebirds. The posts deal with feeding suet dough, but also refer to mealworms. When we observe abnormal behavior, our intervention, in this case supplemental feeding in summer, can be discovered to be a root cause.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Dear Birdlady,

Science Chimp had to get that information off her hairy chest. I want to add that your photography is spectacular, and your blog is a delight. Gorgeous.

dot said...

A sad story but your pictures are just fantastic especially the bird pictures!
Thanks for visiting my blog and your nice comment.

The Birdlady said...

Everybody - Thanks! Haven't seen the tiny babies again, but two of the 3rd brood came with parents this morning.
Julie - Thank you so much for looking at my puzzle and for your kind comments.

John Theberge said...

Interesting and odd behavior, Julie's explanation makes perfect sense. Mother Nature can be cruel, like they say, "survival of the fittest."

kjpweb said...

Very interesting what's going on there. My initial reaction would have been, they don't belong there - hence they are being attacked...

Seems to be in line what the Expert said.

Cheers, Klaus

Razor Family Farms said...

I love your blog!!!!!!!!!!!! These pictures are amazing! Your comments and writing reflect my own thoughts. Neat!

I came over from The Fishing Guy's blog to congratulate you and boy am I ever grateful that he sent me!

Blessings!
Lacy

RazorFamilyFarms.com
NEWS at Razor Family Farms (GRIT.com)

Bird Girl said...

Oh Helen! This is heartbreaking! I'm sure something must have happened to these little bb's parents and they are desperate for food!! I hope I never hear that 'cry' that you have never experienced. What a way to start the day - I hope things work out for the little ones!

jalynn01 said...

I was certainly saddened by the account of adult attacking baby!I'm glad I couldn't hear it too. I did think maybe this wasn't their babies, but what happened to them and where are they now if that is the case. Please keep us informed of any new happenings. The pictures were way too real but certainly portrayed exactly what was happening.

HANNIBAL said...

Ooh, that story just pulls at the heart...
Who wouldn't want to scoop em up & take over...
Hope there is a happy ending here...
I'm wishing hard for you and the babies!

2sweetnsaxy said...

Great pics and really interesting story. That would have broken my heard and I'd be just as confused as you are. Is it just the angle of the pic are are those baby birds much bigger than the parent? Of course, then I get to thinking about folks and their views of large kids and people and wonder if birds have those same judgments... I think too much.

Dave Coulter said...

What an odd situation...hopefully the little guys pull through!

Marsha said...

I really enjoyed this photo story since I have no bluebirds :-) I hope they don't continue to keep the babies from the mealworms, his cries were certainly heard through the photo!

Stacey Huston said...

LOL poor little ones. Maybe they are Ollies children's first brood..I Like to think the "think"

Darla said...

Those poor baby birds!!

Ecobirder said...

I guess that is what they mean by tough love. Great pics though.