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Click to go to Audubon Society of Omaha Home Page Audubon Society of OmahaEastern Bluebird

Welcome to The Bluebird Box since 1995
Best of Bluebird Mailing Lists Classified

Bluebirds and BlueJays


Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 17:54:43 -0600
From: "Keith & Sandy Kridler" kridler"at"1starnet.com
Subject: Magpies

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas

Magpies can learn to land on the roof of the house and look into the entrance hole. The young birds thinking the parents are there to feed them will fight to get to the entrance hole to be fed, only to be pulled through the entrance hole and become food instead! Myrna Pearman in Alberta has witnessed this happening all along their trails in the past. Once a predator learns to feed at a nestbox they are very hard to stop and also others will learn by watching the successful predators. ....


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 10:27:53 -0400
From: Joyce Sobey jsobey"at"erols.com
Subject: Bluebirds and BlueJays

...I have two bluebird nests each with 5 eggs and both pairs of bluebirds seem to be co-existing well in the area. My question is, this past week a group of approx. 4 bluejays have been hanging around my yard and I thought someone on here at some point said that bluejays will somehow kill the baby bluebird hatchlings (can they reach into the nestbox?).

I have not seen the bluejays harrassing the bluebirds but should I be trying to discourage the bluejays visits? Do my bluebirds have any reason to fear the bluejays?

Thanks for any advice. Joyce, central Virginia


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 11:41:58 -0400
From: "v. m. straus" v.m.straus"at"mail.wdn.com
Subject: Re: Bluebirds and BlueJays

I was the one who wrote that note, but I really haven't gotten more than one comment that I remember, which said that they had not seen any conflict. In the meantime, the blue jays here have continued to spend time going to and from the blue bird box area during various times of the day. All I do is walk toward them when they are there and they leave. It is always a group of 4. They have also started raiding the feeders where I feed the titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, etc., which they have never done before. Nevertheless, they always leave when I walk out of the house. The only thing that bothers me when they do the feeder thing is that they chase off all the small birds and scatter seed everywhere, rather than just getting some for themselves and leaving. If the small birds are there, they chase them off before they settle on the feeders to begin their bull-in-china-shop feeding.


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 13:45:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: hubertrap"at"webtv.net (Joe Huber)
Subject: Re: Bluebirds and BlueJays

Hi Joyce, Bluejays are famous for robbing other birds nests by removing young birds,but they generally are not a big problem at Bluebird nest boxes. in Ohio I lived next to a road named Blue Jay Road. it was named that because of the large numbers of Blue jays that were found there. I had successful Bluebird nests there for 26 years and never once did I see any problem caused by Blue jays. If your nest boxes are made properly the jays most likely will not remove any young from the box since they are out of sight unlike open nests on tree branches. There can always be exceptions when you deal with birds. Magpies are more of a threat, and chances are you are not in an area they frequent. In other words don't be to concerned about Jays in the area unless they go to nest boxes. Joe Huber Venice Fl.


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 11:43:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Horace Sher hjsher1"at"yahoo.com
Subject: Re: Bluebirds and BlueJays

Hi Joyce..Your email reminded me of last year. Last year(spring), since I was relatively new at bluebirding & birds in general..I was trying to get every bird I could think of into my yard & to the various feeders. I was trying to attract as many different bird species as I could with all my feeders..especially the Blue Jay which I eventually did with peanuts, etc. There was never a problem between my Jays & my nesting EABL last year. This year I decided not to go out of my way to attract the Blue Jays because they do scare the other birds away from the various feeders. Once in a while they do come around but it isn't a problem as long as you do scare them off like I do. I think a lot of it depends upon the general food supply in your area..if the Jays have food elsewhere as they do in my area, then they don't come around much...Horace in NC.


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 17:37:20 EDT
From: TomGaryH"at"aol.com
Subject: Re: Bluebirds and BlueJays (long, goes OT)

Joyce, VMS, Joe, and All,

Going into the fourth nesting season, I have yet to see a bluejay on any of up to four nestboxes in my yard. However, they cruise through extensive woods behind my house; the volume of their squawking and calling can be heard getting louder as they make their way to the yard. I believe they take "inventory" of not only open-nesting birds' nests but of cavity nesting birds' activities. It may be that they are just opportunistic, however, having observed many of their activities from one location in my yard for days on end, I think they scheme. It would be interesting to test this, scientifically.

I realize I have a bias here, but they seem to cruise higher in the pines near bluebird fledging time as the grackles have done at times and as crows do on their morning and evening flights along the treeline.  

Last year I witnessed a male bluebird, positioned to guide a would-be fledgling, suddenly streak to the entrance where a nestling was poised to make its first flight. The adult hit the nestling hard and pushed it back into the box and then blocked the entrance; the male, no doubt, heard the same bluejays that I heard as they moved closer to the yard. Fledging activities resumed only after all the jays departed and could not be heard. In this regard, it may be noticed that sometimes not all of the jays will leave a yard, one may remain for a period of time before it departs.

I don't know if this is an independent action or part of some group strategy. Also, last year, a bluejay got a fledgling two or three days after it had departed the nestbox. It must have picked it off from high in the pines because it dropped it as it flew downward and across the yard. Actually, the jay dropped the fledgling, circled back, retrieved it, then headed toward the woods only to once again drop the youngster. I was "fast" in pursuit when I saw the fledgling dropped the first time. At the edge of the woods, while on the run, I jumped to clear a bush. While in the air it dawned on me that I was wearing only socks on my feet and I was going to land in thickets. I didn't feel a thing when I touched down. Once I picked up the fledgling I staggered out of the woods into the yard and just made it to the shade of a small oak where I braced against it with an outstretched straight-arm. I nearly had a heart attack. I was gasping for air, sweating and scared. Less than two hundred feet away, about six teenagers were gathered around the neighbors' swimming pool. They hadn't seen me and I was too spent to call out to them; I wouldn't have been able to communicate with them if they had tried to help. As I slowly recovered I realized that the fledgling was too far gone. All I could do was use that tree to hold myself up with my head down looking at the baby in my hand. Luckily, I suffered no injuries, not even the slightest scratch.

Tom in NW Florida


Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 19:42:18 -0700
From: Linda Violett lviolett"at"earthlink.net
Subject: Re: Bluebirds and BlueJays

Linda Violett - Yorba Linda, Calif.

Joyce, I wouldn't trust the jays. Last year I wrote about jays harrassing a nestbox of western blues on my trail. The nestbox clutch had a small naked runt equivalent to about a 3 or 4-day old chick. Bluebird parents were sitting in the tree while the jay was all over that tree. It gave the impression that it had been going on for some time. Didn't have time that day to linger very long and came back the next day after work . . . the runt was gone, the others were unmolested. I suspected the jay.

Later, during the second clutch at that site, all nestlings (naked 3-4 days old) were nipped to death as if a long-beaked bird tried to reach down and pluck out the nestlings but couldn't quite get enough of a grip to lift them out. I blame the jays.

...


From: "John C James" jjames14"at"nc.rr.com
Subject: Re: meal worm feeding
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002 16:11:15 -0400

Joe,

Your advice has always been taken by me, and followed. Fortunately I have a combination raccoon, snake and squirrel guard on the nestbox in use. Next payday I will do the second nestbox. I have been watching for HOSP's but have seen none. All feeding of food containing millet has been discontinued.

Today a bluejay showed up that worries me a bit. Is he/she a danger to the bluebirds, and should I have the neighbor run him off while I am away?.

John James
Durham, M



From: "Joe Huber" hubertrap"at"webtv.net
Sent: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 3:33 PM
Subject: Re: meal worm feeding

Hello Jim and all, Meal worm
feeding has just become popular the last 2-3 years. It has always been
difficult to feed Bluebirds because of their diet. Feeding them has
nothing to do with having successful nesting. Feeding is for our
pleasure to see them close. The beginning of the first efforts to bring
back the Bluebird was done without any feeding of the Bluebirds. You
must determine when you think they need help if that is your goal in
feeding them. You don't need to feed any to be successful. Some
that feed all the time believe it has helped but that has no solid
proof. They have survived for a million years without our help. I say
spend more time controlling predators and less feeding them. Joe Huber
venice, Fl.

Charter member NABS, Charter member OBS, Life member OBS Joe Huber


From: "Bruce Burdett" blueburd"at"srnet.com
Subject: Re: meal worm feeding
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002 16:16:33 -0400

John, et al,
I have never seen Bluejays compete seriously with Bluebirds. I'd guess the reason is that the Jays have no interest in houses, since they're non-cavity-nesters. Around feeders, of course, they can be pretty obnoxious and hoggish, simply because they're big and strong and raucous. On the other hand I've seen a pair of TRES and a pair of EABL join up to chase a Bluejay clean out of the neighborhood. In about 3 seconds he was just plain GONE. Jays also like to rob Robins' nests.

In my experience, the worst birds around feeders are the Evening Grosbeaks. They come in big, noisy, aggressive flocks and clean you out in no time. But they're also, of course, very beautiful. We don't see them much up here in Sunapee, but down in CT we saw them nearly every day for 37 years whenever the feeders were out (Sept. through about Mar.)
Bruce Burdett, SW NH


From: Kelley Family [mailto:herbsh"at" epcwc.com]
Sent: Sunday, April 18, 2004 10:46 PM
Subject: Bluejays

I learned last week that we Bluejays attacked a Bluebird nest, pulled the hatchlings out and attacked them on the ground. Boxes are mounted on poles seven feet off the gound with stovepipe baffles and now this. Need advice.  Could add 3/4" front to boxes so Bluejays could not reach as far into box.  But this will not protect the babies if the nest is built high.  Another idea is to attach a Noel predator guard.  It looks like the Noel guard is too big at 3-1/2" X 5-1/2" to protect from jays so I will probably need to downsize it.  But then there is a risk, from my reading, that the the Bluebirds might reject boxes with a standard Noel guard let alone a reduced size one.  Any thoughts will be appreciated.


From: KCBSP"at"aol.com [mailto:KCBSP"at"aol.com]
Sent: Monday, April 19, 2004 12:32 AM
Subject: Re: Bluejays

If the nest is built high, just take some of the nesting material off the bottom to lower it a little.  Won't hurt as long as the cup is padded I think anyways. If you ruin the nest make one from grass yourself and put them back in it.  That won't upset the bluebirds.  You can take longer grass and fashion a nest using your thumbs to round it.  Make sure the bottom is soft and has enough grass underneath.  I do this for when there are lots of blowflies and the birds dont mind the new nest.   I wonder if the nestlings thought it was the parents coming to feed.  Was the nest high?  ...   Kathy Clark New Cumberland, PA


From: L Violett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 2:01 AM
Subject: RE: Bluejays

Linda Violett - Yorba Linda, Calif. Build larger, deeper boxes.  My trail had avian predators (jays, hawks, crows) with standard 6.5" hole-to-floor depth.  Nestlings weren't safe until the hole-to-floor depth was increased to 8.5" and wooden face guards added to the entrance holes.


From: Dottie Roseboom [mailto:rosedot"at"mtco.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 5:50 PM
Subject: Re: Bluejays

Linda, I've never had a problem with Bluejays bothering the nestboxes.  However, sometimes, the starlings do.  I had planned on building deeper nestboxes, until I read that the bluebirds just build deeper nests, to compensate.  So, I went with the extended overhanging roof.  Perhaps it's just a myth that the birds build deeper nests?   With raccoons, crows, & starlings, a nest further out-of-reach would be most advantageous and an extra 2" of material wouldn't add that much to the overall cost of the nestbox.
      Dottie Roseboom
      Peoria    IL    (central)


From: [mailto:KCBSP"at"aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 9:52 PM
Subject: Re: Bluejays

Linda, I wonder why my nests are higher but not all are!!!!.. even the chickadee nests are higher..  Not all bluebirds but a few make a nest like 6 or more inches high.  The titmouse nest is like the chickadees.   The  chickadee nests are at least 4 ore more inches high.      In a NABS  sort of style box they are lower but they are building them high this year in the Petersons too...up to the hole almost. makes it miserable to put the loggers in.  I can't figure this out.. What is it..  Anybody?.. Kathy


From: Kim St. Martin [mailto:kimstm"at"charter.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 10:05 PM
Subject: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

I am just sick!!!!! Yesterday 2 babies disappeared. I checked today and another one was gone. I have seen 2 bluejays the last couple of days and feel sure that it is them doing the stealing.

My box was a National Geographic blue bird box. I noticed that the whole is more oval shaped than the small inexpensive boxes you can get at lowes with the round hole. Not knowing what else to do I bought the round whole box from lowes, switched the boxes, removed some straw from the bottom of the nest to make it lower. In the oval hole I was able to get 3 fingers almost completely in the hole. In the round hole I wasn't able to get my fingers in nearly as far. I hope that the bluejays will not be able to get in the smaller hole.

I pray that tommorrow I will still have a baby. I told my husband for Mother's Day that he could get me a pellet gun.

Any other suggestions on keeping these pest out would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!!!

Kim
Ponchatoula, LA



From: Kate Arnold [mailto:koscharn"at"cox.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 12:07 AM du
Subject: RE: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Unless you actually see bluejays in the act, you can’t be sure what is responsible for the loss of the babies. I have bluejays here, and they never seem to bother the bluebirds or the nestboxes, although it is possible. Starlings are an even likelier cause, since they are cavity nesters and known to clean out nestboxes in preparation for taking them over. They will try to fit in the hole, especially if it is larger than normal.

It is not legal to shoot at native birds such as bluejays. A properly sized hole at least 6 inches from the bottom (preferably 8 inches) should make it more difficult for intruders to reach inside the nestbox. It sounds like you have made the right changes.

Kate Arnold
Paris, TX, 100 mi NE of Dallas



From: lviolett
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 10:36 PM
Subject: Re: Missing blue bird babies

Yes, Bluebirds can remove young babies (up to about 3 days old) from the nest.
No, you did not cause problems by touching the chicks (some folks band baby Bluebirds, etc.). Bluebirds have a poor sense of smell and are very tolerant of people.

Linda Violett
Yorba Linda, Calif.

PS: It would help if you described your nestbox, its location, guards. Also helpful is what type of predators you have in your area and whether you have seen jays, etc. near the box.



From: Kim St. Martin
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 4:45 AM
Subject: Re: Missing blue bird babies

Hi. Thanks for responding. I know the babies were older than 3 days. We haven't moved in the house yet so don't really know what types of predators we have. The day this happened I did see 2 blue jays.

I looked up info. on them so that I could see what would attract them. First thing I read was that they can steal babies. I have never seen them before so I hope they were just passing through. Unfortunately I think they may have taken the babies.

I have a National Geographic bluebird box. Do you think if it was a snake it would have eaten them all?

Kim


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 4:57 PM
Subject: RE: Missing blue bird babies

Sorry about this! It amazes (and makes me happy) that people just don’t give up entirely when they have these difficult experiences.

We had a post recently that noted that songbirds DO have a sense of smell (most folks believed it to be underdeveloped.) But I have not had an adult abandon a nest, eggs or babies because of monitoring or touching. I’ve done nest changes for severe blowfly infestations where I picked up each nestling and put it in a homemade nest, and the parents were un-phased. Bluebirds seem to be remarkably tolerant of humans.

Another post noted that adult bluebirds can remove an egg that hasn’t hatched – maybe they could remove a very small nestling too.

Bet from CT



From: lviolett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 12:13 AM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Linda Violett - Yorba Linda, Calif

Below are the offlist exchanges I sent to Kim when she was trying to ID the source of the missing chicks and still had two babies in the nest. We need to build deeper boxes, folks.

(offlist):
<clip>

Standard boxes have a hole-to-floor depth of 6.5" and I'd imagine if you had a jay in the area, it would have no difficulty getting the chicks. I had jays, crows, hawks and starlings poking around my trail, removing chicks/eggs. I continued to increase the hole-to-floor depth of the box until all avian predation stopped. Hawks seemed to be the avian predator with the longest reach and that didn't stop until 8.5" hole-to-floor depths were provided. That depth seems to work for my trail. See: http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/construction.html

Linda Violett


From: Kim St. Martin [mailto:kimstm"at"charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 7:38 AM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Hi everyone. Thanks to all of you that responded. This weekend will be devoted to making my boxes as safe as possible. I have received lots of good info. and suggestions. My husband is going to check the box this am and I am praying the last little baby made it through the night. I will let you know.

Kim


From: Kim St. Martin [mailto:kimstm"at"charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 8:29 AM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Some of you have shown concern over my comment that I wanted a pellet gun for Mother's Day due to my possible bluejay problem. I am really not going to shoot any birds. That was a comment made while I was upset and I was being, for lack of a better word--sarcastic.

Kim



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 8:40 AM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Kate Arnold answered about the Blue Jays and not to condemn them without evidence and even if they were guilty they are native and should be protected because they have suffered heavy losses to their population from West Nile Virus.

The National Geographic nestboxes are made in China with oversized Oval entrance holes making it far easier for rats and chipmunks to enter through these holes to reach young birds or eggs. You can simply install a 3/4"
thick wood block over the fronts of these nestboxes to reduce the size of the oval hole back to the better 1&1/2" round hole size.

VERY small or VERY young snakes would only eat one maybe two young birds or eggs and possibly leave the rest. (Grass snakes, garter snakes and young rat snakes are all able to eat baby birds when about 16" long.) During cold/cool spring temperatures the small snakes probably would NOT return for 3>7 days until the last meal is digested.

Linda Violett really has the best answer with making deeper nestboxes since you already had losses through the entrance hole and some predator will return. Increase the thickness of all entrance holes to 1&1/2" thick to 2"
thick. When chicks hatch out you can remove the bottoms of nests that are very thick or so tall that they place the chicks near the entrance holes on deeper nestboxes.

I would place mixed bird seed on a short platform feeder (or board) somewhere away from the nestboxes in your yard. Add some dry dog food or dry cat food to the mix and egg shells. Observe the numbers of birds that eat the high protein pet food. Try to observe if rodents are a problem at night.
You can and probably should use a small live trap set at night to catch any rodents coming to the feeders. Block the traps open during the day if you are gone and reset them when you return. KK


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 5:36 PM
Subject: RE: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Hi Kim, I’m so sorry! That’s very sad.

Bluejays are native birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You can’t shoot them without a permit.

Some folks use deeper boxes, also make sure the hole is the right size - 1.5” for eastern bluebirds.

If the nest is built up high near the entrance hole, you can remove some of the nesting material on the bottom to lower the nest so the bluejays can’t reach eggs/nestlings.

I’ve noticed there are a lot more bluejays around my house this year than the previous years.

Bet from CT


From: Lynn Emerich [mailto:lemerich"at"epix.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 5:55 PM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

I have at least a dozen bluejays in my yard at the same time. They are constantly at the feeders and suet cakes and let me know when the feeders are empty. I have never seen bluejays pay any attention to the bluebirds here. I have seen them within a few feet of each other with no problems.

Lynn near Bernville PA


From: MLieb20810"at"aol.com [mailto:MLieb20810"at"aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 8:22 PM
Subject: Re: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Sorry to hear that.
Last spring my mom had a house up but the hole was too big due to squirrels gnawing it.
Anyway some really cool fly catchers built a nest and had babies and when the babies were about 10 days blue jays attacked them and made them a meal for themselves.
It was unseasonably cold for a few days which I think was part of the problem causing the blue jays to look for food. Maybe for their own young.
We never expected something like this to happen

I think some of the suggestions that others on the list suggest about lowering the nest or moving it back somehow in the box would help.


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2005 8:25 PM
Subject: RE: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

A metal hole guard is a great way to prevent holes from being enlarged by squirrels and woodpeckers, which then affords access to other predators and competitors. (See suppliers at http://www.sialis.org/bluebirdstore.htm#red)

Bet from CT



From: Paul Kilduff [mailto:pkilduff"at"usconnex.net]
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 6:25 AM
Subject: RE: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

On today's Digest, I didn't see any mention of a starling guard on the box, that is, a block of wood (I use 2"x4" or 2"x3") with a hole in it of the requisite size that extends the depth of the hole -- this has the same effect as deepening the box (reduces the reach of the EUST bill). This way you don't have to pull out the bottom of the nest to bring it down below the hole, as it seems the birds will build the nest up almost to the entrance regardless of the depth of the box, yes?

Disadvantage may be that the adults have to go all the way into the box to feed the young, as opposed just to sticking their heads in, but I suppose a deeper floor or lowered nest has the same effect.

Advantage is it's an easy retrofit, without necessity to build/buy a new box or "lower" the nest.

We have starling guards on all our boxes, because it we don't we lose nestlings, starting with those closest to the door!

Paul Kilduff, trail at Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville MD



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 9:01 AM
Subject: RE: How do I keep bluejays out of my box???

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Paul mentions the "Starling guards" force the adults to enter the nestbox all the way to feed their young. IF a short necked, short billed bluebird can perch at the entrance hole and lean into the nestbox and be able to place food deep in the throats of their young and remove fecal sacks without entering the box then all of the young are at danger from longer necked and longer beaks on predator birds or the sharp claws of a cat!

Also while the adult bluebird is busy stuffing food in mouths and trying to pick up a dirty diaper they have their back side exposed to an attack from a sharp shinned hawk! When they lean back out of the darkened nestbox I would assume their eyes would have to adjust to the abrupt change in light just as us humans.

Normally cavity nesters are safer from these types of attacks because bushes and trees are filled with open nesting birds that provide easy food for predators. By feeding dog or cat food you "might" save a few of your songbirds or help feed some of the other birds who will eat this instead of bird seeds.

I just got a call from a lady who is having her Mourning Doves dying at her house. They are eating sunflower seeds but the sick birds have empty crops and are sitting around all puffed up and then dying over night.

I got another call from a lady who has Ivory Billed Woodpeckers in a tree in her back yard....She did not know there was a Pileated Woodpecker from the newspaper articles....KK



From: happywebl"at"comcast.net [mailto:happywebl"at"comcast.net]
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:16 PM
Subject: getting ready

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Florida to discover that I now have squirrel problems and jay problems, both of which are new to me after 20+ years in California.

There is a pair of WEBL checking out a nestbox and I saw the jay chase them yesterday. The squirrel has been emptying the black oil feeder bin on a daily basis. It's the first squirrel I've seen in my yard since I moved here! My plan is to discontinue the sunflower seed feeding, since I believe that has attracted both the furry pest and the scrub jay. They don't seem interested in the thistle seed, so I'll keep feeding that until the local seeds are available.
...!

Barbara in Cloverdale, CA


From: KK
Sent: April 23, 2006
RE: Feeding Predators

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Several people have mentioned predators, both flying and walking types and some have commented on ways to appease them and keep them from eating your nesting birds.

All creatures with bones will need calcium in order to produce young and rodents and mammals will crave calcium and will chew bones or deer antlers to get what they need in their diet. They will also eat the meat and bones of baby birds or small mammals to fill a need in their diet. Even deer will eat baby birds from open nests to get something that they need. ....

Provide eggshells and or crushed oyster shells for your birds and these are great to mix in the soil where you plant tomato plants. Provide large soup bones for rodents to chew on. Fish bones and chicken bones are soft and readily consumed by wild creatures.

During this time of the year you should probably add dried dog or cat food to your bird feeders, you might want to crush some with a grinder or blender and see if and which birds eat which brand of food.

The problem you run into if you have a couple of blue jays coming to the feeder is that they will come to it and then probably bring a few friends next week and then you can end up with a party of jays! Predators are going to eat SOMETHING today that will provide the protein and carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals that they and their young will need. A baby red bird is just as easy to catch and feed to a blue jay family as a June bug. Birds are opportunistic and will snatch up anything that looks like food and is safe & quick to pick up.

If you provide dog or cat food in bird feeders I would be sure to remove them at dark or I would set live traps to catch night prowling rats and skunks and coons. You sometimes have to balance the numbers of larger four legged predators in your area in order to protect the open nesting birds. KK



From: Herb Kelley [mailto:herbsho"at"centurytel.net]
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2006 7:11 AM
Subject: Re: feeding predators

We have been using chicken eggs shells as a source of calcium.
We wash the shells and bake them in the oven to kill off any bacteria.
We place it in our tray feeders with the black oil sunflower seed.
Would someone please comment of using chicken eggs this way, is this
considered a good source?

Thanks

Herb Kelley



From: Herb Kelley [mailto:herbsho"at"centurytel.net]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 3:32 PM
Subject: Blue Jay

Blue Jay siting on top of one of my BB houses.
What to do?



From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 4:09 PM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Herb,
Bluejays are not cavity-nesters and do not compete with Bluebirds for houses. It's probably just a chance visit.
If the Bluejay could reach the eggs or the babies, it might harm them, but if the house is built to specs, it can't reach them.
I have never known a Bluejay to interfere with a Bluebird nesting in any way.
Has any of you out there heard of this happening?
There really isn't very much you *can* do. My guess is that the Bluejay will not hang around your Bluebird house very long. I've seen both Tree Swallows and Bluebirds chase Bluejays clear out of the neighborhood. Two adult Bluebirds and two adult Tree Swallows make a pretty strong team.
Remember that Bluejays are a Federally-protected native species. House Sparrows and Starlings are not.
Do you still have your feeders out?
Feeders attract Bluejays. By the mid-April I have all my feeders put away for the summer. It's bear time in New Hampshire! They're out, and they're famished. Only my Hummingbird feeders stay out after April. Also, seed feeders should be kept well away from bird-houses of any kind, for many reasons.



From: lviolett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 4:47 PM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Build deeper/larger boxes with wooden face guards and jays will be of no concern to your cavity nesters.
Boxes need to be 8" from the bottom of the hole to the floor to prevent jays from snatching nestlings from a standard 2" deep nest.

If you make the boxes 1/2" deeper (8.5" from bottom of hole to floor), and with wooden face guards, your birds are also protected from hawks reaching in.

Linda Violett
Yorba Linda, Calif.


From: Evelyn Cooper [mailto:emcooper"at"bayou.com]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 5:18 PM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Deeper boxes with guards will help to keep the Jays from reaching the birds. In my case, I added a thicker wooden guard to the box that does not have that deep of a drop and so far, it is working.

However, if the Jay decides to use the box to perch on and comes back and makes a nuisance of himself, it makes no difference what the depth if he is keeping the bb's away.

My trying to run the Mockingbird off in previous seasons was to no avail. This is just part of nature and it seems the majority of times, many other birds intimidate our blues. Makes it pretty hard to watch. It just made me feel better to scream.

Evelyn



From: Herb Kelley [mailto:herbsho"at"centurytel.net]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 6:30 PM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Thanks to all.
Last time we checked this box, our notes show three eggs.
We now have two.
It is too easy to suspect the Jay.
I normally do not use them, but just added a wooden guard to that box.
Hopefully, that will deter the Jay if it was checking out the box as a food source.

I still have my bird feeders out.
They are located about 500 feet away, on the other side of the house.
Do not see as many Jays lately.
Seem to remember that the Nile Virus hit them pretty hard a couple of years ago.



From: lviolett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 8:13 PM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Bruce, could you expound on your comment: " . . . if the house is built to
specs, it (Bluejay) can't reach them."

Since there are dozens of box styles, there are many "specs" from which to
choose. Surely you don't think any style box, as long as it is built to
the designer's specs, will prevent Jays from reaching in.

Linda Violett



From: Herb Kelley [mailto:herbsho"at"centurytel.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 8:07 AM
Subject: Re: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: Blue Jay

I would like to offfer the following rationale in support of spring feeding for list discussion.

We have been feeding birds through nesting season for a number of years.
Our reasoning is that nesting is a period of high stress for the birds and that they need a ready supply of food to feed themselves nestlings and even fledglings.
We add crushed egg shells to their feed in an attempt to give them the opportunity to add calcium to their diet.
We feed suet, peanuts and sunflower seed. We have observed that the birds will consume more food during nesting than at any equal period of time throughout the year. We see woodpeckers and other birds fly away
with large pieces of suet and peanuts we assume to feed their young.
One of our pleasures is to see woodpeckers, in particular Pileated Woodpeckers bring a fledgling to our suet feeder and watch him shove a
piece of suet down the youngsters throat. Soon the juvenile is joining
his elders at the suet feeder. Our feeders are mounted on a fifteen foot pole to keep them from away from four legged predators.

lviolett wrote:
> Evelyn, you must not be reading my posts. I'm one of the strongest
> voices on the List against putting feeders up. Jays, crows, hawks,
> starlings raided trail boxes until deeper boxes were built with wooden
> face guards.
>
> Linda Violett>


From: Blaine Johnson [mailto:uncleblaine"at"gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:04 AM
Subject: Re: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: Blue Jay

I am in complete agreement Herb. While we certainly want to encourage responsible feeding as to not create difficulties for cavity nesters, it seems that by making people choose between their "feeder birds" and their "nestbox birds," we are discouraging people from becoming bluebird or other cavity-nester enthusiasts. After all, most people will be able to see far more species by feeding than offering nestboxes, and for most casual birders, that is what it is about. Of course there are people who choose to refrain from one or the other, and that's fine too. I just hate to see a backyard birder discouraged from trying to host cavity nesters because they have been told that by doing so while still having feeders, they are being irresponsible. Some will probably find in time that in their situation it is best to stop feeding at certain times of the year. Others will find it is not necessary. But let's do whatever we can to get them into the "nestbox" end of the birding hobby to begin with rather than discourage them from the start.

My two cents..
Blaine


From: Amy Louise Marr [mailto:MARR_AMY_LOUISE"at"Lilly.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:30 AM
Subject: Re: Blue Jay

Speaking of bluejays, I saw what I think was a flock of 50-100 bluejays fly over my house this weekend. They flew silently.

I hadn't realized they traveled in large flocks. At least I hadn't seen one before....

Amy Marr
Greenfield, IN 46140


From: Evelyn Cooper [mailto:emcooper"at"bayou.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:12 AM
Subject: Re: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: Blue Jay

My position is that if you are going to feed, you need to do it quite a distance from cavity nesters. I feel this will cut down on activity of other birds near the nesting box as I think we are all in agreement that it is not a good thing. If you don't have the distance, in my book, it would best to cut back for a while. Sorry if I seem to be repeating myself, but just want to make myself clear on this.

I do this even in the winter. I feed the seed eating birds in another area completely away from the Bluebirds as they will take over the bluebird feeders and the Bluebirds will shy away. Also, I cannot afford to feed raisins and chunky peanut butter to hundreds of birds every day, let alone mealworms.

...

Evelyn


From: Blaine Johnson [mailto:uncleblaine"at"gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:23 AM
Subject: Re: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: Blue Jay

Evelyn,

Your position is exactly what I mean by "responsible" feeding. And it is a must that we promote that, even when cavity nesters are not an issue. We're all aware of the damage irresponsible feeding can do. Everyone who becomes a bluebirder has to start with a first box, and the more people we can get to do that, the more people will become "hooked." And people who feed birds are a great pool of folks to encourage in my mind.

And you are right about segregating bluebird feeders from others for sure. But that one is easy, as the financial drain you mention will quickly set people straight on that issue. :-)

...
Blaine



From: denisefarmer"at"comcast.net [mailto:denisefarmer"at"comcast.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 10:27 PM
Subject: RE: [Norton AntiSpam] Re: Blue Jay

I also participate in Project Feeder Watch and the Red Bellied Woodpeckers
range is moving ever northward and they believe this is due in part to bird
feeders

Denise
Parkville, MD



From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:08 AM
Subject: Re: Whose specs??

Linda,
You are right. I was too vague when I said "built to specs." Whose specs?!
I built all my houses according to the plans in "The Bluebird Book," (Stokes and Stokes) though I made mine slightly deeper and wider. I also add a 7/8" entrance block, simply to make it a little harder for predators to reach in. (All my lumber is 7/8" pine, rough one side.) The hole is 1 ½". (We have Eastern Bluebirds *only* in NH.) Floors are at least 4" x 5", or 20 sq. inches. I now leave a full 7" from the bottom of the hole to the floor. (Stokes said 5 ½") I like side-openers. All my houses are on steel poles. All are paired, so as to minimize Tree Swallow competition. I use no paint and no perch dowels. I kerf the inside of the front board, under the hole, and the outside of the entrance block.
I have rarely had trouble with predators or competitors of any kind, furred or feathered.
I urge you to make comments on these specs, especially as they concern the particular needs of Bluebirders in the West.
All of the good available books on Bluebirding contain plans and specs for a variety of "approved" Bluebird houses. I think that the Stokes'
plans approximate what I think of as the standard NABS box.
I have never used Peterson boxes, so I know nothing about them.

Bruce Burdett SW NH

PS You might also describe your support of hanging boxes and double holes.

[Note from webmaster: Part of thread also continued under Feeders - Placement.]


From: XYZ
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:40 AM
Subject: Re: My 5 BB eggs have hatched:)

In a message dated 5/29/2006 2:50:14 P.M. Central Standard Time, sheilarogers"at"charter.net writes:
A Blue Jay has been sitting on the fence...too close by the nesting
box, I heard them chirping with that distress call...I came out and
clapped the Blue Jay away.

I have a pellet gun to shoo away the jays, that works as all other things have failed.
I have tried to be more humane in the past but I will protect the bb's now after finding a juvenile dead after 2 days of fledging.
XYZ


From: Kathleen Arnold [mailto:koscharn"at"cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 6:17 PM
Subject: RE: My 5 BB eggs have hatched:)

Just remember jays are protected native birds, too, so it is not legal to shoot them. Unless you actually saw a jay kill the young bluebird, you don’t know what did it. I have never had jays harass birds in my area, they seem to mind their own business. Many times we are trying to guess what caused the loss of nests, eggs, birds, etc., and we make assumptions without actually seeing what happened.

Kate Arnold
Paris, Texas


From: lviolett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:55 PM
Subject: Re: My 5 BB eggs have hatched:)

Jays are native. Leave them be.
I had a Jay problem until deeper boxes were built. Here's my Home Page:
http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/

Here's the Construction page:
http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/construction.html

Linda Violett
Yorba Linda, Calif.



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 7:28 AM
Subject: Grackles

I worked at a house in the country the other day and a pair of the Great Boat Tailed Grackles kept hanging around where I parked my work truck. This pair got bold enough to finally come into the garage with me working and steal dog food out of a bowl inside the garage! Three large dogs did not bother these birds and they continued coming off and on all day long. They must have had a nest full of young birds somewhere close.

Bluejays were robbing the peach trees across from the driveway as were squirrels and mockingbirds. Purple Martins were nesting in a house where there was a garden last year. We are EXTREMELY dry again for the fifth year in a row and there is a bumper crop of grasshoppers. There are over 360 different species of grasshoppers in the state of Texas. Depending on the area and types of plants will determine to an extent the numbers and species of insects or potential food that is available for the wildlife.

Even with the ground crawling with grasshoppers the grackles were spoiled and wanted an easy meal for their young. Bluebirds were loafing on the power lines dropping down and feeding only occasionally. It seems to me when you watch some of this happening that if you wanted to cut down on jays and grackles feeding on your expensive meal worms that feeding cheap dog or cat food would fill up some of these birds. I could not see if the grackles hauled off this dry food to the nearby lake to soak it before feeding it to their young but doubt if they could feed a steady diet of this dry food to them without killing them. Grackles and crows are smart enough to soak dry bread in bird baths before eating it.

A well maintained yard or field will provide millions of insects per acre.
If you mow parts of fields and leave other parts a tall or medium height grass/weed mix you will have lots more insects. Adding organic mulches provides food for crickets and a whole host of species that bluebirds will feed on. Moisture is necessary for all living creatures. Bury shallow pottery saucers down to ground level so that toads and frogs can hop into and then out of them for water.

Create a butterfly/moth garden and you provide the nectar and food sources for caterpillars. Caterpillars make up a large part of many birds diet.
Avoid spreading insecticides in your yards. Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant Texas



From: happywebl"at"comcast.net [mailto:happywebl"at"comcast.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 2:05 PM
Subject: Single parent :- (

My attempts to help the single parent have resulted in disaster. The meal worms I offered attracted a scrub jay, and he kept chasing the female BB, once following her to the nestbox and sticking his head in.

A little while ago I heard her chirping incessantly. She was perched on the porch roof with an insect in her beak but didn't go into the nestbox. My husband got out the ladder and looked in, and he said it looks like there is only one chick left and he wasn't sure it was alive.

I suspect the jay has taken the hatchlings. This is the first time I've had anything like this happen. The nestbox is the deepest one I could find -- a chalet style, and it has a wooden predator guard on the front. I know the chicks will stretch up to be fed, which makes it easier for a predatory bird to reach them.

Now I'll watch to see if the female will go into the box, and I'll try to keep the jay away. Later I'll check the nest myself and see how much damage is done, although I don't know what to do about it now. Looks like the meal worms were not a good idea after all. I did put cat food out for the jay, but he wasn't interested in it since he knew the mealworms were available, and the chicks.

Bad day.

Barbara in Cloverdale, CA



From: lviolett [mailto:lviolett"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: Single parent :- (

Barbara, thanks for your observations. Even though you didn't actually see the Jay with a baby in its beak, that is the most likely suspect. Happened on my trail, too.
My Home page mentioning Jays in the year 2000 -- which triggered me to build deeper boxes http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/

Check the box immediately. If the last chick is alive, lower the nest as far as possible and snug the chick to the back corner.

For the Old Timers:
How many disasters do we have to experience before we start building deeper hole-to-floor boxes for our birds? And WHY is the 6.5" hole-to-floor measurement the nestbox "standard"?

How to build the box: http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/construction.html

Linda Violett
Yorba Linda, Calif.



From: Maynard Sumner [mailto:m-r-sumner"at"juno.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 8:40 PM
Subject: Re: Single parent :- (

Yes, the deeper box should be better as far as big birds trying to get the babies. What I run into here in Michigan is that you can go out and take part of the nest out each day but the female will add to the nest so she can see out of the hole. A lot of my birds will not use a deeper box. I know you may say "well if you would give them just the deeper box they would get used to them and just use the deeper box". Now we are back to if we use all the same box and they do not like your box you are going a whole year with no birds. I will keep on mixing my boxes so I will have some birds. Not all the holes in trees are the same. This goes back to you are working too much for the birds and it is not fun anymore.

Maynard Sumner
Flint, MI



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:41 PM
Subject: Shallow or deep nestboxes

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Charlie Ellis in Alberta used shallow nestboxes for more than forty years with almost no problems on his farm. He raised thousands of swallows and bluebirds. I believe his nestboxes were only about 4" deep. A couple of years after Charlie died magpies began raiding nestboxes all across the region and they came up with various guards to protect the young birds until most people switched to deeper nestboxes. This is a case where predators just did not learn to raid shallow nestboxes in one area but when bluebirding became popular and everyone was putting up the same basic nestbox across a vast region around the Ellis bird farm then the predators adapted to this food source.

I just got off the phone with a lady who I helped more than 12 years ago solve a raccoon problem. Now in the last week a long armed raccoon raided five nestboxes in one week at a park and figured out how to get around the deep entrance hole guards after all these years. Each of us needs to watch and experiment and mostly observe what we see.

I also talked with a man yesterday who watched a Carolina Wren remove three eggs from one of his nestboxes that was being used by a Red Belied Woodpecker! This Carolina Wren removed eggs from the woodpeckers on three different nesting attempts that he saw! He has been bluebirding for more than 20 years and had not watched these wrens do that with any other species.

This morning four of our Texas Master Gardeners went and helped children K>
8 th grade build fifty nestboxes and another 50 gourd bird houses or so.
When you build a large deep nestbox they are sometimes bigger than the children building them. It takes a LOT of lumber when you build fifty or 100 nestboxes at a time.

These nestbox fronts are 11&1/2" with the entrance hole 1" down from the top. I use 1" thick roof boards and this way the 6D or 2" long nails cannot be driven down into the entrance hole by inexperienced box builders. I guess this makes this batch of boxes 8 inches deep.

In the past a LOT of people would install some thick wood blocks in the bottoms of deep side opening nestboxes. When the birds built their nests they would remove the wood blocks and lower the nests with eggs down deeper.
It does no good to remove nesting material before eggs have been laid. If you have a really deep or tall nest you can often remove some of the material from the bottom IF you have a nestbox that opens from the side or front. KK


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