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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

Singing the Blues


On Skidaway Island we enjoy nearly 250 species of birds including a dazzling array of bluebirds. There are 185 bluebird boxes alongside every golf course at The Landings making it the largest monitored trail in the southeast. When we installed a birdhouse in our yard, we were unsure what we’d attract. We chose it because it was pretty. It’s not a traditional bluebird nest box. Last year we thought we were going to get some babies when we discovered 5 eggs in the house. We were heartbroken when one morning we discovered 4 of the eggs gone, and the 5th badly damaged. It was painful to watch the parents in and out of the house all day, frantic, until they ultimately gave up. We had some suspicion as to the predator, but no proof. This season we were much more cautious and aware.

In February, we cleaned out the house as we’ve learned to do. Typically, the male will scout out a nest location and, with one in mind, begin to lure a mate. We decided that our male, whom we called Bob, had little trouble attracting a partner when she got a look at our house. “Hey baby, wait ‘til you see the pad I found for you!” And soon Betty (what we call her) was busy building a nest inside our house, which was no easy feat. Because our birdhouse is about twice the interior space of a traditional nest box, she had a lot of real estate to fill. Mostly twigs and pine straw (which is in abundance here) it took her a week, with Bob’s help.

Betty began to lay eggs, which we monitored every day. Incubation does not begin until all eggs have been laid, so they’ll hatch at the same time. After a few days, and a 5th egg was dropped, she sat on the nest, mostly in the evenings. During the day, she’d hang her head out the window, or fly off for hours. At first bluebird eggs are rather dull but get slick and shiny when they are close to hatching. She became so accustomed to us (the top pops off our house for easy viewing) that she wasn’t even startled. We didn’t see much of Bob until the eggs hatched. And then on, April 22, they were all born! I named them Indigo, Lapis, Cobalt, Denim and Sapphire.

At 5 days old our baby blues were active and hungry. They were tiny and slept a lot unless mom was feeding them, which was pretty much every hour. At 10 days they got some fuzz. At 2 weeks old their eyes were open and feathers emerged.

At 17 days old, on Mother’s Day, they fledged successfully. All our baby blues flew the “coop” and were seen frolicking and exploring around our yard and the lagoon with Mama Betty and Daddy Bob; learning how to feed themselves. Hard to photograph the activity as all 5 of them fledged quickly and with little effort. They were healthy, round babies ready to test their wings. We were empty nesters. We felt a satisfied sense of relief and made this video..

DUNCAN BABY BLUES

We cleaned out the old nest and crossed our fingers for what we’d hope would be a 2nd brood. For days we watched several males come to inspect the house. No takers. Then there was a flurry of activity. At first, we thought it was a different couple, starting a nest. They seemed smaller with different markings. Then we realized it was our newest fledglings assisting ol’ Bob and Betty! How’s that for getting your kids to pitch in with new babies coming!

Two of our fledglings, a male and female sibling (likely Denim and Sapphire), competing for who can perch on the top, while Mom is inside laying eggs. We were pretty sure we heard Betty say, “Don’t make me come up off this nest.”

From our terrace we watched Betty build the new nest.

The nest was finished in a few days, and it took Betty another week to lay 5 new eggs. We waited for the arrival of Round Two of the Duncan Chateau Baby Blues of 2020. And then our suspicions from last summers’ failed brood materialized. A group of Carolina Wrens started swarming the birdhouse. Bob and Betty, along with the siblings, fought them off daily. The wrens then built a nest in one of my terrace flower-pots. After a few days, researching our options, we came to the conclusion to remove the wren nest. There were no eggs.

Just because I evicted the wrens from my terrace did not mean they’d leave the neighborhood peacefully. Bluebirds are social. Wrens are bullies (territorial). Nest terrorists. They had to be evicted. It was not an easy decision. But because they likely had other nests started (Carolina wrens are usually working on several nests at the same time before choosing which one to lay eggs), they were a threat to my 5 new bluebird eggs.


The first two of our 2nd brood was born on June 16 and we named them Duo and Duet. A few days later came the 3rd baby, we named Tandem.

Duo and Duet, the first of the 2nd brood born.


Tandem was the 3rd of this brood born a few days after Duo and Duet.


The other 2 just never hatched. We are pretty sure the wrens poked at those eggs, destroying their opportunity. It happens. It’s part of nature. I like to think we helped the first 3 to make it. We watched them feed, grow and thrive for 18 days.

My trio fledged on the 3rd of July. We watched it all, glued to the window for hours. When they finally did fledge it was as if it was an airport runway; one immediately after the other. All 3 launched into the world in less than 2 minutes. Their parents had coaxed them all day with food and then watched and waited for their first flight. 2 flew directly to our roof, and one to a near by tree. What a treat it was to witness.

2nd BROOD and FLEDGING


My garden, my birds. I’ve worked hard and earned Georgia recognition as a certified habitat. We’ll be ready when another brood comes.



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