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The other day, I did my pre-spring check of our bluebird houses.  

I found no dead birds.  But it was obvious, based on feces, that 2 boxes had been used for roosting.  

A couple years ago, in late fall/early winter right before dusk, I routinely saw 7 bluebirds fly into a single nestbox to roost.  

There are “winter roosting box” designs that I’ve seen and considered putting up for the winter, but never have.  

QUESTION:
I wonder if Steve could comment on whether he thinks winter roost boxes are a good idea and whether he has a specific design he’d recommend.

As reported by others, this past year we had few cedar berries - let’s hope this year is better.

Bluebirds should be returning here to Kirksville anytime now.  Tree swallows, which compete for boxes, usually show up in late Mar/early Apr.  But the optimal floor size is a little bigger for tree swallows, so I have both size boxes.

Dan Getman, Kirksville, northeast MO 


On Feb 26, 2021, at 8:43 AM, Steve Garr <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


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Dear Michele and all,
I have had a few reports this year of finding dead bluebirds in nest boxes and had planned to get out an email on the topic soon- now seems to be the time. 
    Periodically, areas have winters with extended severe cold that result in this situation with Bluebirds in particular.   Often, in these circumstances the Bluebird "hosts" feel they have done something wrong or didn't do something they should have. Please know that is truly not the case in the vast majority of these cases. Rarely is lack of food or water the cause. For the most part it involves the habit of our Eastern bluebirds of piling into a cavity (whether a nest box or corner or piece of equipment or whatever) to stay warm. Even when you have SEVERAL nest boxes available with in feet of each other they will all pile into just one or two. In these super cold temps for such a long time, sadly, the birds on the bottom just get smothered. Please do not think this means you need to close up nest boxes! They provide such valuable winter cover for many birds. However, while Carolina Wrens or Downy Woodpeckers or Chickadees may roost in the boxes for warmth they rarely roost in them with more than one or a few individuals. ( I have never seen a box with more than one DOWO at a time roosting in the box.) Bluebirds on the other hand can frequently have 20 or more birds inside a standard size nest box. (sometimes the last one in still has their tail sticking out of the box). This is OK unless they are in there for an extended length of time under extreme temps. If you have a very successful breeding season ( which is great!) and lots of Bluebirds, you are more likely to see more dead bluebirds in the boxes in these unusually cold years.
    I know this is not happy news or a fun part of birding but I thought it was important info to have and I hope Bluebirders will take heart in knowing their efforts for our native cavity nesters ARE worthwhile and beneficial. 
The North American Bluebird Society and the Missouri Bluebird Society do have some advice on nest box prep for winter and info about why extended roofs on nest boxes are important during these extreme cold times. ...I promise to post more on that soon! In the meantime-- thank you all who have been hosting bluebirds year round in Missouri.
Steve Garr
Missouri Bluebird Society, president
Cole county
Jefferson City
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On Friday, February 26, 2021, 07:40:37 AM CST, Michele Baumer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


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This email caused me to look in my bluebird box.  During the cold spell we had 6 or 7 bluebirds everyday around the bird bath, the meal worm and suet feeders.  I never thought to look in the bluebird house, and much to my dismay I had one dead male bluebird.  I thought they would have had enough food and water, but I guess the cold was too much.

 

Michele Baumer

Columbia, Boone County, MO

 

From: Missouri Wild Bird Forum <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of John and Linda Frederick
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2021 8:11 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Dead Bluebirds

 

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We inspected our Bluebird house today, and it was not good. There were three dead birds in the box. I am afraid they succumbed to the cold last week. We also have little food available, due to no cedar berries this year.

I also found a dead American Robin in the neighborhood. It was extremely lightweight and my fingers sunk into the breast area... Nothing there.

Has anyone else found dead birds?

 

Our Bluebird pair had a banner year last year, nesting three times, producing 15 young. During the final nesting, the female disappeared (predated by our local Broadwinged Hawk?). However the male was a great dad and fed the five nestlings through fledging and beyond. We saw the entire group several weeks later. We have seen several Bluebirds off and on all winter. We hadn't seen them since the bitter cold. I had hoped they traveled to some better habitat (hopefully to a nearby springfed creek). Maybe some did and have survived.

Our neighborhood typically has many nesting Bluebirds. It will be interesting to see how it goes this spring.

 

Linda Frederick

Rolla, MO

 

 


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The Missouri Birding Society's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Archives / Subscription options / MBS Website / Email the list owners

ABA Birding Code of Ethics


The Missouri Birding Society's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Archives / Subscription options / MBS Website / Email the list owners

ABA Birding Code of Ethics


The Missouri Birding Society's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Archives / Subscription options / MBS Website / Email the list owners

ABA Birding Code of Ethics