Hello, I have a question about bluebird predation. I put up two bluebird...

Asked July 18, 2019, 3:09 PM EDT

Hello, I have a question about bluebird predation. I put up two bluebird boxes this spring and had a nest in one within a few days, thought I heard chicks, then I checked the nest a few days later since I wasn’t hearing anything, and they were gone. A couple weeks later, they nested in the other box we had put up. The chicks hatched a few days ago, then this morning, I found the female’s feathers on the ground 2’ from the nest and no chicks and the nest was cocked sideways in the box. Would this suggest a cat or raccoon? We live on 4 acres in Warren Co. and have seen raccoons and feral cats, but we also have a family of Cooper’s hawks and quite a few sparrows. I am pretty sure we need to move it from the top of the fence, to a pole with a baffle, but is there anything else we can do to help the poor male that’s left (if he does find another mate)? Also, is it worth it to make the changes this late in the season, especially since he’s already had two broods? I feel terrible, and I just want to help these poor, beautiful birds out! Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Jessica Kretzschmar

Warren County Ohio

4 Responses

I would guess cats. There is nothing to do for the male. Try to locate your boxes in a manner that they pole can't be climbed or that you place a guard so that they can't be climbed. They need to be located high enough so they can't be easily reached. They need to be located in an area where the cats can't jump from one location onto the nest.

Greg Meyer

Thanks so much!

I agree with what Greg has already said - a pole with a baffle will offer good protection and a cat was the likely cause. Hawks wouldn't be able to access the nest. Sparrows (and wrens) will peck the nestlings and adults to death, so the victims are often left in the nest. Eggs may also appear to be pecked, or are gone with little disturbance to the nesting material. It sounds like something got into the box while the female was on it, probably at night. Again, I agree with Greg on a cat as the likely culprit. Raccoons will often grab and pull, so the nesting material is often sticking out of the box. A cat attack usually results in the nesting material disrupted.

This late in the season, the male will not renest, but be happy that he was able to successfully raise 2 broods. Here in Ohio, 3 broods for bluebirds is rare anyway. Good luck and here is a site chock-full of bluebird info in case you want to do further research. http://www.sialis.org/ Or feel free to reach out to Ask-an-Expert again! Thanks for looking out for the bluebirds! More info on nest depredation and protection: http://www.sialis.org/baffle.htm, http://www.sialis.org/predatorid.htm

I appreciate all the information! Thank you!!