They were always distant and cautious. For two years they built a nest in the old wooden birdhouse, raising two broods each year, but they never approached our feeders. They never made their way to feast among the others, always content to dine on what nature provided. Two years ago they fled their nest, eggs abandoned. Last year none nested here. What posed the threat I wonder.
It has taken five years, but this year three pairs of bluebirds are feasting daily. They feel at ease pulling the mealworms from the feeder then leaving nothing but a flash of blue in their wake as they fly through the barren trees.
Yesterday I saw a pair darting in and out of the new birdhouse. It stood empty last year. Maybe it takes time to trust what is new. Finding a safe place to raise their young must be a tremendous challenge. Is it fear or wisdom guiding them?
Sometimes I think we could learn from them. They are cautious but optimistic. They take their time before planting roots, knowing every place is not hospitable. They have an innate sense of danger and take extreme precautions before selecting a nesting site. Every decision is centered around the chance of survival.
I learned the female bluebird lays one egg a day until the clutch is complete. She will not begin incubating until the clutch is complete insuring all eggs will hatch around the same time. Once incubation begins, the eggs must be kept warm and will not be left unattended for any length of time.
Incubating the clutch is the sole responsibility of the female. For 15-20 days she will stay in the nest, leaving only for minutes at a time while the male stands watch over the nest. Predators are everywhere requiring extreme vigilance.
Once the hatchlings break free of the eggs, both parents share the responsibility to feed their young. Every 20 minutes during daylight hours the tiny gaping mouths must be fed until they are strong enough to fledge. Imagine the strength it requires to feed hatchlings every 20 minutes for almost 20 days.
After the hatchlings fledge, the parents will continue to feed them for another 20 days. This is a lovely and caring sight to witness. I am fortunate to witness such tiny miracles just outside my window. Observing this microcosim of life, we see our own lives played out in a compressed timeline.
When the world seems all crazy and out of control, the birds bring me peace.
On a day like this, I can’t imagine anything better that might happen in a person’s life than for them to start paying attention to birds—to become aware of this magical world that exists all around us, unnoticed by many but totally captivating for those who know its secrets. This kind of spring day, with its bountiful myriads of colorful sprites just arrived from tropical shores, has to be one of the greatest gifts of life on Earth.