As I've watched bluebirds visit my mealworm feeder over the past several weeks, I've realized that this opportunity to observe and recognize members of the family that nested in my nest box this past season, is fleeting, and will never happen in quite the same way again.
The first brood juveniles were less precise in their landings and entrance, but also became very adapt at entering the feeder and collecting mealworms both for themselves and to feed to the second brood nestlings. They also were not bothered by my presence, having seen me many times while in the company of their parents. I could still distinguish them from their parents by behavior. The male and female adults both often faced me when they landed, sometimes flying to a closer perch when I was present, and stared at me and wing-waved to solicit more mealworms. Their bond to me as a potential source of food has remained strong due to their exposure throughout their feeding of two nest broods during the summer. This behavior sets them apart even now.
That last statement made me chuckle. Question answered, question unanswered. Am I seeing the inexperienced second brood juveniles returning to the feeder with their parents? Or am I seeing young birds from other local families or migrants that have joined this pair's flock for winter survival? It is certain I will never know the answer, but it is also certain that I am seeing young birds, numbering four to six, accompanying the familiar adult pair to the feeder, and that all of them are better equipped to survive the winter in the company of each other.
In the last three images, above, you are seeing the same young bluebird attempting to enter the feeder. She ultimately did not go inside, choosing to grab morsels of food from the outer rim, instead.
More observations on wintering bluebirds and flocking behavior in upcoming posts.
Links and Resources:
Studying Eastern Bluebirds, A Biologist's Report and Reflections by T. David Pitts
Feeding mealworms to bluebirds
My blog posts on my bluebird family
Bluebird art found on my website watercolor gallery and in my online shop.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.