Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bluebird Courtship and Isolde Attempts to Remove the Second Dead Eyass from the Cathedral Nest

Reggie Bluebird was busily twigging the nest box when Marian Anderson and I arrived to see the eating of the mealworms. Twice a day live meal worms are brought out, once in the morning and then again at around 4 in the afternoon, and placed in the mealworm feeder for the enjoyment of Reggie and Madge Bluebird. And they've come to expect them, thank you very much.

In the meantime Reggie has been turning into Kamikaze Bluebird whenever birds come anywhere near the nestbox. He sits in stealth mode, an unsuspecting Grackle or House Sparrow cruises by and whoosh, Reggie is on their tail and they're heading the other direction.

That is every bird that I saw come by except Mourning Dove here, who was allowed to actually sit on Reggie's perch for awhile. It becomes clear it isn't just any bird that flaps by, it is the birds that might be detrimental to breeding success. It turns out Reggie is selective. A House Sparrow would just love to take over that nestbox and a Grackle? Well, they're Grackles and will eat eggs and young if given half a chance but Mourning Dove, doesn't want a nest box, the food that bluebirds eat, or anything to do with their young or eggs. Mourning Doves just go peacefully about their business of eating seeds and a crawling insect now and again. No reason for Reggie to waste his energy on them.

But where are the mealworms, it's after 5PM?

Even Madge has begun to wonder, and flies down for a look see, but sees us, does a double take and heads back to the trees by the pond.

Reggie is not in the least amused by any of it. Now he'll have to deliver the mealworms to Madge up in the tree as opposed to the handy spot on the clothesline bar she usually uses to wait for her mealworm treats.

Finally the Master of Mealworms arrives with the wiggly snack, deposits them in their special feeder and whistles his way back into the house. That's the signal.

Reggie churr-ups for Madge but she's not coming down.

He's definitely holding it against us.

Down to the Worm feeder he goes and eats one for himself.
Then selects another nice fat wiggly one.

Hops to the top of the feeder and waits.

Nope, Madge isn't even going to look at him. Churr-up or not.

Okay, okay, she'll look at him but she isn't coming down and that's the last word.

And she gives us the mad Bluebird look to prove it.

But Reggie, knows his part, and gifts of food are in the program. And not just gifts, he feeds her as he would and will feed both she at times and the chicks. Soon he arrives and places the mealworm gently in her beak.

And so one day fewer before the eggs are laid and the start of this season's young Bluebirds. And we take Reggie's look to heart and leave quietly.
Francois Portmann reported that he had seen Isolde of the Cathedral attempting to remove the body of the second eyass to die from the nest but she had been unable to do so. He also had videotaped the sequence. I asked if he was going to post the video, which he has now done.
While the sequence is not gory in any way it may be disturbing to those who may be feeling sensitive so give a moment's thought before going any further.
From Francois--
Just posted on youtube
The eyass is clearly visible ~00:02:00 min


Amazing video, well shot besides incredible timing and yes, she is definitely manipulating a dead eyass, no question. It is too heavy for her to lift with her beak, as you said, and she does almost over balances.

Did you note, she does not try with her talons. And what is the stick all about? (I have seen what I took to be unsettled Red-tails begin to re-twig the nest.) Is the RTH wiring so strong, I wonder, about talons around eyasses that somehow she is precluded from even thinking about using her talons? They would necessarily puncture the body. I wonder when it becomes less of an "eyass" to her if she will do it?

All rhetorical questions of course, we've no way of knowing until someone sees it happen. You're one of the first to actually observe a removal/attempt at any of the nests, (there may be a scant few others but of much younger eyasses) and as far as I know THE first to be onsite and get it on video. I don't know if anyone saw/saved the feed of the removal from the Briarwood nest.

Well done Francois.


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