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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

Bluebird Lifespan


From: leepet1"at"dellepro.com
Subject: Life span of the bluebird
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 15:32:15 -0400

Will someone tell me what the normal life-span of the bluebird is? I had a bluebird presentation last week and someone asked me that question and I really didn't know. What is your answer? Lee Petersen, Rockford, MI.

[note from webmaster: I didn't notice a response to your Message, but looking in the "The Audubon Society Encyclopedia Of North American Birds" by John K. Terrres there is the following on banded bluebirds age:

Eastern Bluebird 6 years 6 months
Mountain Bluebird 4 years
Western Bluebird none stated]


From: "Dereth Vardaman" deecv"at"msn.com
Subject: Life span of BlueBird?
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 19:53:05 -0500

Hi - What is the average life span for the BlueBird under good conditions in the South - say Miss., Al., or Ga.? Thanks, Dee -Anniston, Al


From: "Rudy Benavides" rbenavid"at"hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Blue Bird life span
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 21:17:41 -0400

I did a search and found a UMBC Bluebird Trail paper that had this to say...

[Life span:Existing records suggest that bluebirds can live up to 10 years in the wild, although the average life span is 3 to 7 years.]

Some other sites stated about 6 years. So it sounds like 3 to 7 might be a reasonable range. I couldn't find anything tht specifically mentioned the south.

-Rudy in Maryland


From: "Dick Stauffer" sapl1"at"telusplanet.net
Subject: Lifespan
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 20:39:28 -0600

Oldest tag recorded MOBL in our area 5 years.

D Stauffer, Olds Alberta Canada


From: "judymellin" judymellin"at"netzero.net
Subject: Re: Blue Bird life span
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 14:49:07 -0700

To amplify on the information Rudy has provided:

In order to know how old birds are (or get to be), the bird would have had to be banded in the nest. That bird would then have to be caught in a mist
net at a later time or the body of the dead bird found. Then the bands would have to be read and the information turned in so that the organization with the information on the bands could determine the age of the bird.

As you can imagine, this is a very "hit or miss" process. Very few young are ever banded, an even smaller number of those are caught in a mist net at a later time and a bird that is eaten by a hawk is not a good candidate for having its bands analyzed!

We are lucky to have any information on life spans at all and it would seem to be impossible to ever isolate that age to a region of the country. I would think that the pool of potential candidates to be analyzed in a specific geographic region would be much too small as we all know that most birds don't stay put!

Judy Mellin
NE IL.


Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 10:09:14 -0700
From: Hatch Graham birdsfly"at"innercite.com
Subject: Re: Blue Bird life span

Judy's analysis of how to be sure of a bird's age is correct. However, some of us are attempting to turn around the scarcity of numbers banded in the nest. Cornell has had an on-going program for a number of years in New York, and banders in Oregon, Montana, Alberta, here in California and elsewhere have been active banding nestlings as well as adults in nestboxes. Not all Eastern Bluebirds, of course. Many older birds nest in nestboxes all their life and can be recaptured in the boxes while incubating or feeding. While there is dispersal of the young, a wide network of nestbox banders can often follow birds year after year. Perhaps most notable is the work of Don Stiles in Calgary, AB who yearly reports on the activities of the banders with Calgary Area Bluebird Trails. In 2002 , the oldest birds recaptured included 6 Mountain Bluebirds 6 years old and 3 Tree Swallows 9 years old. He also had a Tree Swallow, one of 25 found dead in a cold weather storm that hit Lake Charles, Louisiana on March 10, 2002. Two were banded, his from the Calgary Area was nearly 5 years old, the other was from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, part of the Department of Interior, USGS, Biological Research Division, has been keeping records since about 1916. Longevity records can be found on their website: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/homepage/long6882.htm The oldest Eastern Bluebird is given as 10 years, 5 months. You can bet the average after the first year is closer to 5 years.
Hatch Graham
California Bluebird Recovery Program
Cavity-Nesting Dispersal Study


From: "Lawrence Herbert" lherbert"at"4state.com
Subject: bluebird age in south
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 20:03:13 -0500

A banded Eastern Bluebird at Round Oak, Georgia, lived to be 6 years and 6 months of age. And at Nashville, Tennessee, one EABL was known to live for 5 years. This info was found in Audubon Encyclopedia of N. A. Birds, by John K. Terres, 1980.

Good birding, Larry H. Joplin MO.


From: Tnbluebirdman"at"aol.com
Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 3:33 PM
Subject: Longevity

Does anyone on the list have solid information as to how long in a perfect situation an Eastern Blue Bird will live? I have heard that in an ideal environment, that they "could" live to reach 7 or 8 years of age. Does anyone know of that being true? My resident pair has been with me counting this year, going on 3 years and I am not sure how old they were when I moved here. The female has led a charmed life as she has survived a Raccoon attack plus a day in a gutter drain pipe. The 2nd part of my question is, Do the birds reach an age at which they can no longer produce eggs and raise young? Thanks,  Bob in Tn. Formerly Muskratbob on this list!!
From: Dottie Roseboom, rosedot"at"mtco.com
Sent: Saturday, April 03, 2004 8:36 AM
Subject: Re: Longevity

Bob, The latest issue of Bluebird has a great bluebird story - The author's husband scared off a Sharp-shinned hawk that had grabbed a male bluebird in May of 93.  The left wing had been injured, so the author could recognize this particular male.  He produced 53 offspring, before leaving her area in Feb of 2000. So this individual was 8 years old (maybe 9). He had 3 broods in 1999, and although not spry, had started courting, just before his disappearance.  If you want research data, check out United States Geological Studies or The Natural History Survey.

Dottie Roseboom, Peoria    IL    (central)


From: Bet from CT
Sent: April 3, 2004
RE: Longevity

According to a UMBC Bluebird Trail paper, existing records suggest that bluebirds can live up to 10 years in the wild, although the average life span is 3 to 7 years.  See http://www.stanfordalumni.org/birdsite and http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/homepage/long6882.htm

Bet from CT


From: Jimmy Dodson [mailto:rocks_and_flies"at"hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 2:45 PM
Subject: survival

Survival varies depending upon whether you're talking about residents vs long-dist migrants. These are approx averages (there's variation depending on species, year, etc.):

For l-d migrants, fledgling and adult survivorship averages ~92-99% while on breeding or wintering grounds. But, between 40-70% die during migration north and south depending on the species. The highest mortality rates occur during fall migration amongst the youngest birds. Many fewer die on the return trip north during the following Spring.

Residents have the "bad deal" in terms of averages. Roughly 25-50% die each year staying in relatively the same place their whole life, again, depending on species.

You both have valid points (Ev & Rob). Rob's point is though is this...

If you have 10 breeding pairs (20 adults) that have 1 brood ea of 4 nestlings -- that equals 40 nestlings. If the fledging rate is 40%, that means of those 40 nestlings, 16 fledge. Yes, that's 4 birds less than the total number of adults making the initial effort. But this is 1 brood cycle... bb's have 2-4 depending on location. So, if we keep it simple and say there is only a 2nd cycle with the same numbers, that's 16 more fledglings. Bringing the year total to 32 birds fledged. Prior to mortality being figured in, that means there are now 52 birds for that area (20 initial adults + 16 fledgling from Cycle 1 + 16 fledglings from Cycle 2).

Mortality is a more complcated part, but to keep it really simple, we'll say the bb's are resident and experience 40% mortality in both age classes combined (adults + fledglings for that year) by the beginning of the breeding season next Spring. That means next Spring there will be ~31 adults ready to breed... remember, we started off the previous year with only 20. (***NOTE: I have not included anything about emigration or
immigration.)

So even with only a 40% fledging rate, things can work b/c the total number of birds has been increased compared to the level it started at.

What you choose to consider acceptable along the lines of fledging succes though is up to you. Before you can truly judge success or failure, there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle for truly accurate assessment.

Without those pieces, YOU should decide what is acceptable to you (Evelyn's point), but don't be afraid to change things along the way as you see "problems" appearing such as dealing with predators, negatively competing species (i.e. HOSP, EUST), in terms of heat vs. cold on nesting success, habitat placements, full sun vs. partial vs complete shade, box color and its effect on temp related nestling development, etc. There's not a simple, single, full encompassing answer. Locations and situations are different, and change does occur.

I know this was long and somewhat involved, but thought it might be applicable and useful. --J

Jimmy Dodson
Asst Forest Manager -- NCSU Dept of Forestry & Environmental Resources
Campus: 3024B Biltmore Hall, Raleigh, NC


From: Evelyn Cooper [mailto:emcooper"at"bayou.com]
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 2:59 PM
Subject: RE: survival

What I was referring to is the young fledgling just left the box you provided for it. Reading back over some material ( and some was provided by the Archives by Jay Gilliam who is very qualified) it was stated the first month after a nestling fledges is when the 70% is most likely to occur. It also stated that if they live to be a year old, their mortality rate then is 20%. This is all I was referring to, not any other scenario.

Evelyn
Delhi, LA


From: Jimmy Dodson [mailto:rocks_and_flies"at"hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 3:36 PM
Subject: RE: survival

I know... I've seen the archives stuff. So I elaborated (included more appropriate detail) for the problem to make it a little more realistic (granted there's still no emigration or immigration included).

So, given the following:

10 breeding pairs, 4 successful eggs per nest, 40% fledge rate, 70% juvenile mort, 20% adult mort, and only 2 nesting cycles…

Cycle 1:
Egg total = 40
Successful Fledglings = (40*.4) = 16
Juv’s surviving = (16*.3) = 4.8

Cycle 2:
Egg total = 40
Successful Fledglings = (40*.4) = 16
Juv’s surviving = (16*.3) = 4.8

That brings the juveniles making it to “adulthood” to a total of 9.6 birds… we’ll say 9.

Adults surviving to next year = (20*.8) = 16

So for this “closed-population”, by next breeding season there are 25 birds… we started off with 20.

I agree that we need to take the responsibility to do the very best we can, especially considering by putting up nestboxes we are creating "an artificial environment". But even "at" a 40% fledging rate, for this "situation" there are still 9 birds added to the population making up for the 4 adults lost and increasing the population size by 5 individuals.
That's where it comes down to us establishing what is acceptable in terms of evaluation. In some places this may be "as good as it gets". For me, 40% is far below what I know is possible... funny, I'm in the middle of figuring my approx values for our trails as we speak... so yes, if I encountered this I'd start asking a lot of questions and looking at what is going on, and what I can do to improve things.

Take care --J


From: Vicki Butler [mailto:butlerrowe"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 11:45 AM
Subject: longevity of bluebirds

Hi Folks:
 
How long does a bluebird live?  For those folks who are able to band ( or have unique birds) what is the oldest bird that you have recaptured? 
 
Vicki B
Sacramento CA

From: rdb2006"at"verizon.net [mailto:rdb2006"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 2:14 PM
Subject: Re: longevity of bluebirds

>From: Vicki Butler <butlerrowe"at"sbcglobal.net>

>Hi Folks:   How long does a bluebird live?

From a philosophical viewpoint, for an eternity.

I know, that's not what you want to hear. A study done at a local college said one lived up to 10 years in the wild, but on average they live between 2 and 3 years.

--rudy
Central MD


From: Cher [mailto:thebbnut"at"hughes.net]
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 3:30 PM
Subject: Re: longevity of bluebirds

Here's an interesting resource I had sent to my by a rehabber of my acquaintance.

The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has a section of its site where it reports the Longevity Records of North American Birds http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/longvrec.htm
The site explains the banding process, and how these numbers are calculated.

The direct link for the record of the longest-living Bluebirds are contained on this page - House Sparrow, Thrashers, Wrens, Chickadees, Thrushes, Bluebirds, Honeycreepers and Petrels:
http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/long6882.htm

The ages are recorded in a year-month format - for example the longest lived banded species is the Laysan Albatross - 50 years and 8 months, recorded in the longevity list as 50 -08.

This, of course, does not tell us about the average lifespan of any given species, just the oldest recorded lifespan according to banding records. But it is fascinating.

Cher ~ Finger Lakes region, NY State


From: mrtony8 [mailto:philip.berry"at"mchsi.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 7:01 PM
Subject: Re: longevity of bluebirds

typically about three years is the average life span..But, longevity records show a few beating the odds.
Phil Berry
From: bobanna [mailto:bobanna2"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 2:04 PM
Subject: Re: longevity of bluebirds

Info I found on the web said 6-7 years was a typical lifespan.  I'll try to find it again so y'all can take a look.  It also said cardinals only live about 1-2 years.  That's kind of sad.

Anna in Tampa

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