27 June 2010


In May 2009, I botanized at a private property in Jasper County, Indiana. The property owners were so excited to know what was on their property that this spring, they gave me a bluebird box that they had made in exchange for spending time on their property. Because the early spring was so busy for Lindsay and me, I didn't get a chance to get the box up right away. In mid-May, we noticed a male and female Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) hanging out around our house, often on our platform feeder and the window sills in front of our house. It really seemed as though they were looking for a place to call home, so I decided to mount the bluebird box that was given to me on the side of a large Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) in our front yard.

Almost immediately, the Eastern Bluebirds started checking out the box...

... and soon, they were collecting nesting material and loading it into the box.

It was pretty exciting to see the male patrolling the box while the female was inside building the nest (be sure to see the female's head sticking out of the box in the photograph below). I thought for sure that soon enough, baby bluebirds would be buzzing about our yard.

Unfortunately something happened, and I haven't seen the pair of Eastern Bluebirds in front of our house since late May or early June. I couldn't figure out what would have caused the bluebirds to abandon their house, so I decided to check it out. I opened the box, and there was a nest, but no sign of eggs or feathers in the nest. I then took a closer look at the box. If you look at the bottom right corner of the side of the box, you'll see a dark spot.

Upon closer inpsection, that spot was actually a hole... a hole that didn't exist when I mounted the box on the tree in mid-May. There was, however, a dark spot on the box at this location that might have been a weak spot in the wood.

The only thing that I can think of is that a woodpecker began pecking at this weaker spot, scaring off the bluebirds. I'm not sure if this happens commonly, or if maybe there is another explanation for what happened, but unfortunately, our bluebirds have abandoned their nesting box this year. Hopefully they will come back and nest in this box next spring.


Ted C. MacRae said...

Looks more like insect boring activity than woodpecker drillings - perhaps a carpenter bee?

Scott Namestnik said...

Hi Ted. I wondered if it could be be from an insect... how can you tell? Any other ideas as to why the bluebirds would have abandoned the box?

Ted C. MacRae said...

Woodpecker drillings aren't nearly so clean - the shape looks like carpenter bees, and if the box is made of cedar that almost clinches that as the culprit. They drive me nuts too, so I can imagine how the birds must feel about them :)

Scott Namestnik said...

Good to know. Thanks Ted.