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An Eastern Bluebird Fecal Sac Update

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Last updated March 2011

Housekeeping Duty

A year has passed from my visits to the Bluebird nests, and I'm on my way back to record fresh material about their nest cleaning parenting behaviour. As I set both camera and camcorder, the female is busy gathering insects and feeding the chicks. This brood is probably a second for this pair this year, and the chicks are almost ready to leave the nest. Here she comes again bringing a large insect. And the chicks become agitated even before they can spot her. They respond to her presence by opening their beaks wide. Yummy. Eastern Bluebird Female Bringing Food To Chick

I wonder how they know she’s nearby so they grab the best seat for feeding? I cannot hear any call coming from her although I’m just a few feet from the nest. I assume she either calls very quietly or they simply hear her wing beats. If you have more information on this please let me know. Eastern Bluebird Female Bringing Food To Chicks Every fourth or fifth feeding, she gets inside the nest and carries away the fecal sac. I follow her with my binoculars and sometimes she takes the sacs high into the trees at approximately 50-100m distance, at other times she places them on fence posts – at similar distances, and in two instances she takes the sacs fairly far into the field, probably at 200-300m distance. Other studies on Eastern Bluebird parenting behaviour mention the adults placing fecal sacs even on electric wires. In addition to keeping the nest clean from parasites, new research indicates that removal of the fecal sacs is also done for protection. Areas of poop whitewash on the entrance rim is a clear sign of newly hatched chicks. A visible cue that may attract raptors' attention. The following movies in slow motion show how the Bluebird female exits the nest and carries away the fecal sacs.

Movie duration: 17 seconds, filmed with Canon XH-A1 in HDV 1080i Note: You may not be able to load and view the videos directly in your RSS reader. Instead, access the story with your Internet browser and the videos will load and play correctly. Read the initial story – The Eastern Bluebird for more photographs and observations about cleaning the nest to keep parasites out, published in June 2007.

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