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A second chance saves bluebird hatchlings: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters

Posted 6/26/19

Sometimes being at the right place at the right time is just pure luck.

Recently, I experienced a much-too-frequent occurrence that unfortunately happens in the springtime. Fortunately, as luck …

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A second chance saves bluebird hatchlings: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters

Four recent bluebird hatchings recently needed a hand.
Four recent bluebird hatchings recently needed a hand.
tom shank
Posted

Sometimes being at the right place at the right time is just pure luck.

Recently, I experienced a much-too-frequent occurrence that unfortunately happens in the springtime. Fortunately, as luck would have it, I was able to witness it occur and sprang into action.

Sitting on my backyard porch in the morning is a time of awareness in the bird world. Birds of many species chirp and become very active. I enjoy watching them in their aerial maneuvers.

This year, as in previous years, I was blessed to have bluebirds nest in a nesting box, not far from the porch. I can watch them build their nest and, as time progresses, see egg-laying and nurturing of their young, as both adult bluebirds tend to their parental responsibilities.

The morning in question began like all the others. Then it happened. From the bluebird nesting box came what appeared to be a clump of grass that fell from the bottom. As I watched, another fell and then another. A total of four small objects went to the ground.

My curiosity got the best of me and I walked over to investigate. My heart slumped and my emotions went to the bottom of my stomach.

There on the ground were four recent hatchlings. Somehow, the door of their nesting box became slightly open and they plunged into the tan bark. They were helpless, vulnerable to all elements.

Without human interaction, death to this family of baby bluebirds surely would result.

I opened the door of the nesting box and carefully placed the nest cup back into position. Each baby was picked up delicately by hand and reintroduced back to the confines of the nesting box.

I tightened the door to prevent any further premature exits and hoped and prayed that my actions would be lifesaving to them. I didn’t know if the babies were injured on their fall to the ground or if the parents would abandon this nesting box, leaving their babies unattended. Only time would tell.

The next day I watched the nesting box for the appearance of the adults, who would make continuous feedings visits while tending to their newborns. If they didn’t show up, my actions were in vain. My nesting box, through my fault, doomed these beautiful babies.

Then the parents arrived like normal. Entering the box with portions of mealworms or wing flapping as they hovered around the entrance hole. The beginning stages of success, but we were not out the woods just yet. I needed more days of the same behavior and the distinct sound of chirping and visual sightings of their young poking their heads out of the entrance hole.

A feeling of relief came over me completely, when after about two weeks, the nesting box was completely void of the babies. They had found their way out into a nearby overhanging tree. The parents still made visits for mealworms at my feeder, but instead, the feeding took place high on some tree limbs where I could watch this daily routine occur.

I checked the interior of the nesting box and it was empty. Now, I could say to myself: “Success.”

I learned a valuable lesson. Always be sure that your nesting boxes, especially any latched sides or doors to allow cleanouts, are secure and cannot be pushed open from interior movement of young birds.

Lastly, reintroduction of young birds who prematurely fall from their nests can be successfully placed back into them and given a second chance of life. I’m a witness to that and grateful to give nature a helping hand.

Tom Shank has been writing the Woods and Waters column for the Press & Journal for about 10 years. His expertise has been gained through more than 50 years hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring the full gamut of nature. The Susquehanna River and his cabin in Lycoming County are his true loves. Woods and Waters is his playground in life, and to write about it for the Press & Journal is a dream come true.