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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

Dead Tree Swallows in Nestbox (Part 1)

(Not killed by House Sparrows). Also see Dead bluebird adults, Tree Swallows and Predator ID. Note: Most of these posts on this page were excerpted from other Tree Swallow threads.


Subj: tree swallows
Date: 10/31/99 3:53:05 PM Central Standard Time
From: cas"at"superior.net (Chickie Smith)

Hi Stephanie,
My name is Chickie Smith and I am also from New York State. I live in Fonda. I also found 1 baby tree swallow dead in the box. I thought maybe it was either trampled on by the other swallows( there are usually six babies in a very narrow box), or it starved to death because it had too many siblings and didn't get a chance to have enough to eat. As far as finding dead birds outside to box, it probably was a predator of some kind. One morning I found my birdhouse down and two of the baby bluebirds were missing. I'm sure a cat, or some other varmit knocked down the house and ate two of the babies, and maybe I scared it away before it got all four. I did save two of the blue ones and they fledged sucessfully. Keep on trying for the bluebirds. They will come and you'll enjoy them soooo much.
Happy Birding. Chickie Smith


Subj: Dead Tree Swallows
Date: 11/1/99 12:00:40 AM Central Standard Time
From: linary"at"netscape.net (Linda Johnson)

Stephanie,
When we had a trail in northern Minnesota we also had a few dead Tree Swallows in the nest. In one of the bluebird books at that park there was an article that stated juveniles Tree Swallows that have fledge from nearby nests tend to fly around nestboxes where the nestlings have not yet fledged in order to steal some of the food the parents bring for their own. Some of the young Tree Swallows in the nestbox then starve. Kind of harsh, isn't it!
Linda J.
Payson, AZ


Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 09:13:09 -0500
From: Bill Forrester wforres1"at"twcny.rr.com
Subject: magpies/swallows

Hi Gary and all - I have had two unhappy experiences with tree swallows unable to fledge, and highly recommend the roughened inside for them. The first time, we didn't know till we looked in the box and found 5 dead ones, having seen 2 babies come out before we left. The second time we carefully watched after two fledged, but no more. Parents tended to the fledged babies and never went back to the box-they must be programmed" to expect all to fledge together. We went to the box after 1/2 hour and pushed remaining babies through the hole - didn't want to do this but also didn't want to see them die like the previous ones. Parents then tended all young up on the wires. All our other bird species come back for a last check, and often fledging is spread over two days with parents continuing to feed, but tree swallows do not do this, at least not here. We have had no more trouble after gouging the inside box front. I think the first fledglings climb up over the others, and those on the bottom are stuck. My boxes are wood, so I suspect PVC would cause even more problems.

Dot (upstate NY north of Syracuse) ...


Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 10:41:23 -0500
From: Dean & Kim Harding deawh"at"erols.com
Subject: Re: magpies/swallows

I wonder if this is what happened to my tree swallows. I had two nests of swallows last year that the soon to be fledlings were doing fine and then I found them just dead on the nest. No evidence of damage to their bodies. Although my boxes have ventilation, I, at that time, could only think that it might have been the extreme heat of summer. I will have to check those two specific boxes to see if they have grooves. All of my boxes are somewhat different due to acquiring them year after year. Kim in Broad Run Maryland... 


Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 12:56:28 -0500
From: "Elizabeth Nichols" birdlady"at"netstorm.net
Subject: Re:Monitoring Swallows

...It is fun to monitor Tree Swallows(TRES)! While completing nest-building the TRES will snatch a light-colored feather from your hand. The feathers act as insulation for nestlings.

Also, early in the year I have removed dead TRES from box where he perished. Following their long migration they are obviously low on energy and probably have difficulty exiting smooth box. For this reason I make certain inside front of box is roughed up. Natural cavities already are rough enough for their NATURALLY weak legs to grasp for exit. We need the presence of TRES due to their protective habits against the House Sparrows. They are a delight!

Betty Nichols, Middletown, MD


Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 13:40:37 -0500 (EST)
From: hubertrap"at"webtv.net (Joe Huber)

Subject: -kerfs in box,

Joe Huber Venice Fl. The city on the gulf. Hello all, At one tie all my boxes had saw kerfs cut below the entrance hole. Later it was found that the built in sparrow trap that was used in all my boxes made a good toe hold for the nesting birds. The rod that crosses the front just below the entrance hole is in the ideal position for birds to grab to get out. From experience at watching the adults feed the young this same rod helps them reach in to feed and to remove waste sacks. Have seen adult birds go in so far that only the tip of their tail is sticking out, and then back out with ease. IT is evident that they are using the rod to hold onto. Tree SWallows found dead in a nest box is a problem that we all have had since the beginning of the bluebird trails across the country. Many adult Tree Swallows have been found dead in the box before the nest is built. Are we sure it is a slick box front that is the problem? This seems to be every ones guess and has been for years. This is the only thing we can do any thing about. Now is the time to make any changes if needed before the swallows start nesting. Joe...


Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 14:09:20 -0600
From: "Fread Loane" firefrost2"at"earthlink.net
Subject: Tree Swallow Deaths

I first should state, that I have never had any experience with Tree Swallows. However, I have enjoyed Barn Swallows and Purple Martins most of my life. One year, in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas, there was an absolutely amazing infestation of Army Worms that were devastating crops. To protect the crops, many farmers hired crop dusters to spray their infested fields. The result was horrific on its toll of Purple Martins and Barn Swallows, both of which take their prey on the wing.

I can't help but wonder if the Tree Swallow is also exposed to similar pesticide dangers, more so than ground feeding birds, resulting in finding so many dead mature adults in nestboxes?

It is strange that there are two insect eating species in the same area and one specie (particularly the mature adult) is found dead in nestboxes, while the other remains relatively unscathed. Is anyone familiar with a study that addresses this question?

Fread J. Loane
Tulsa, Oklahoma


Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 20:07:24 EST
From: OCMossBack"at"aol.com
Subject: Re: Tree Swallow Deaths

BB'ers

The first year I had a BB trail my nest boxes had no toe holds on the inside of the front. I found eight dead VGSW &TRSW that year and thought that pesticides must be killing them. When I asked fellow BB people about my findings they informed me that the swallows do not have as strong of feet as the BB, They catch there food on the wing not by hawking like the BB. Also that when the swallows return in the spring many are weekend from there migration, look for shelter in our boxes and are to week to climb out without toe holds.

All my new boxes have grooves cut in the front and the old ones have a square of wire mesh stapled under the entrance hole. I have never found another dead swallow in one of my boxes again! As for the natural nest cavities It should be obvious, only man uses a planer to smooth his wood projects, the very act of excavating a hole in a tree with your beak will make the sides ruff enough to make toe holds.

Sam Pointer
Oregon City, Oregon


Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 11:56:37 -0400
From: "Brenda Best" jabbest"at"dreamscape.com
Subject: Dead Tree Swallow

Hi, Gang! Checked some of my nestboxes today. Found the beginning of a bluebird nest at one location, and a pair defending another box down the road. Tree Swallows (TRES) are flying all over the place! One box, however, had a dead pair of TRES inside. One was an unbanded SY female. The other was a male, band #217130120, which I immediately recognized as one of mine from last year. Upon checking when I got home, this male was banded on 6/16/99 at the same box where I found him today.
Brenda Best
Durhamville, NY


Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 00:20:58 -0400
From: The Carriers eemmuu"at"att.net
Subject: COLD!

...

About where Tree swallows go in the cold. Unlike the BBs, the swallow must find its food on the wing. When it gets cold, and no apparent insects are flying, they head for the streams and lakes. Here they find the hatching of insects such as stone flies etc. Its really their only hope for survival. Most years in the north, the early arriving vanguards suffer large casualties, and this year is one of the worst i have seen in years! I would be interested to hear from other New Englanders on how their Tree swallows faired for them this spring. Please post what you find.......... I expect to find many dead swallows in my boxes this weekend here in 1000' high NW CT.....Just north of me in Goshen and Norfolk, they had all white ground yesterday in the cold, snowy day we had! .....Paul from cold CT


Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 08:34:00 -0400
From: Bill & Dot Forrester wforres1"at"twcny.rr.com
Subject: Re: COLD! no tree swallows

Hi Paul and all,

Here in the Lake Ontario snowbelt north of Syracuse, NY, the tree swallows are also in trouble. After a spell of warm weather a while back, our daily high temperatures have barely gotten to 40 in the last 3 weeks. The snow flurries we're getting off and on don't help. I have seen NO tree swallows at all yet in their usual places. A few years back, we had similar weather, and many, many TRES died from lack of flying insects. Their population still hasn't recovered here. In recent years, instead of lots of pairs fighting for nestboxes, I am lucky to get even two. Last year I had one pair (they were successful); the year before I had none. Yes, it would be nice if Mother Nature stopped her cruel tricks!

Dot..


Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 07:10:51 -0400
From: "Brenda Best" jabbest"at"dreamscape.com
Subject: Re: North East drowning

Haleya, and others!

You hit the nail on the head when you said: I have not seen one hide nor hair of TRES even though they've got 6 babies in the box in the back yard... H

Yesterday was exactly the kind of day when vulnerable Tree Swallow chicks perish. Constant steady rain, daytime temps in the 50's, nighttime temps in the 40's. Flying insects are scarce, the chicks get cold, and the parents are absent. According to my records, I've got 5 clutches that were 6-7 days old yesterday. That means the female has stopped nighttime brooding, but the chicks are still unable to regulate their own body temps. I'm really NOT looking forward to checking my boxes. :-(
Brenda Best
Durhamville, NY ...


Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 08:11:56 -0700
From: "Elaine Stayton" moron"at"a-znet.com
Subject: Northeast drowning--bad report

I had been worried about the tree swallow also--unfortuanly checked the boxes this morning and not good. One batch that was 8 days old were completely gone from the nest-- no signs of attack. The other babys about 12 days old were all dead .

I had my first housesparrows of the year move in and I immediately moved them out. They found another box and layed 2 eggs and I threw that out also. They had layed an egg on the dead tree swallow babys so now all boxes are empty and closed off until the sparrows can be dealt with.(the sparrow must have layed the egg this morning as I had just thrown out the nest last night) I'm pretty sure the cold weather killed the last swallows. The babys did not look attacted like a typical sparrow attack. Elaine from Central New York.


Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 23:40:08 -0700
From: "Alan Reid" areid"at"bossig.com
Subject: Swallow, 8 eggs & mortality

I checked some of my Tree Swallow boxes today. At the Fern Ridge W.M.A., Royal Ave., one box had 7 dead young and one unhatched egg, for 8. Another box had 6 dead young and another one dead with 5 alive & healthy. Right after the first 2 clutches hatched we had quite a spell of cold, wet weather. All the ones at my home place are in good shape, but they hatched well before or just after the bad weather.

Alan Reid Oregon


Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000 23:17:20 -0500
From: "Anne DeVries"
Subject: Checking TRES big babies

Hi,

I have found many dead baby tree swallows in my boxes with the live babies. I would guess removing these makes it more comfortable and healthier, so I inspect the contents fully even if they are very big. Sometimes with 5 or 6 it is difficult but usually they are shy and cower as I reach in to check and remove dead babies.

For the first time in my 10 years checking, I had the babies become agitated and even try to jump out. I caught the first little trouble maker and closed the door and poped it back inside the hole with its mates and put my hand over the boxes opening. They were sticking their little beaks out the vent holes in the Peterson trying to escape. Well as it turned out, they were READY to fledge. The adults were making a big fuss the whole time I was checking this box, and as I was trying to calm the babies and wait until they seemed calm. I turned the box away from me took my hand away from the opening and walked away. As I looked back my heart stopped as I saw the first of the babies pop out of the box and take off. I felt sure they would be in the tall grass, impossible to find. It took but a breath to watch the first one soar to heights I didn't think were possible on a first flight. Like clock-work each of the six babies popped out and glided with increasing beauty as I realized this was a successful fledge with strong healthy babies. They soared and swooped with the adults "talking" to them the whole time. There were so many TRES in the air it was magical. There were power lines nearby, but I didn't stay long and they seemed to just fly away into the distance. I am sure some landed on the lines, but the babies look exactly like the adults when they fly.

I am so glad I have never had babies flop out of a box too soon into the grass, and the only experience was this wonderful one of floating little tuxedos.

Anne DeVries
Lincoln, NE


Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 21:06:44 -0700
From: "rnelson"
Subject: Messy Swallow nest

This TRES nest was in my box that had one problem after another. First, too much sun. Then I put the echo roof on and it was then so heavy the pole turned directly into the sun. Thought I had it stationary but a very windy day knocked the echo roof off and the top flipped open. Could have been
like this for a day before I was able to close it. These parents were very defensive and "attacked" me every time I even got close to the box so I would work as fast as possible and leave. The box was too high, so hard for me to look in to and I also knew they were old enough I shouldn't peek, I
did hear them though a few days before the roof flipped open. After that, I did not hear them but since the parents were so defensive I figured they must be alive. 4 days after the roof opening Ma and Pa were there. The 5th day, there was no sign of them so I went to the nest. My husband looked down in and said no babies but it was smelly. I took out the nest then and at first there did appear to be no babies, but sure enough all 3 were there dead. The looked good for being dead, feathers in good shape, no outer damage to bodies. The thing was, the nest was full off poop and it was also on top of the babies. I have heard swallows keep a messy nest but this seemed extreme.

So, questions are....would the parents still defend the nest if babies are dead for several days? If so, would parents still enter and sit in nest with dead babies and poop on them?

This is just my 2nd year and I have learned so much about nest box placement. I thought after last year, I KNEW better this year...but...now, I really know better and next year will be better.

Still have a an active Bluebird nest....this is the one that had seven eggs. I don't think they all hatched but there are at least 4 babies in there!

Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 18:58:26 -0700
From: Janet King kingfarm"at"sonic.net
Subject: Re: Nestbox design -- Re: bird houses

A method that the wood duck box builders use is to just groove the inside of the front panel of the box with a router in a zigzag fashion. This idea might work for those who are building the deeper boxes and want to make it easier for the swallows. Any kind of screening can be lethal as sometimes toes get caught and the bird cannot get out of the box. Janet King NW CAlif.

..


Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 19:54:01 -0400
From: Bill & Dot Forrester wforres1"at"twcny.rr.com
Subject: Re: tree swallow nest-peeping tom

Hi Cinda, and all other novice tree swallow "guardians", Tree swallows (TRES) do not tolerate interference as much as bluebirds do. They will not abandon if you look, but they will become upset and divebomb you. If you have never seen their nesting cycle, naturally you are curious. Probably the safest time to look at babies is a few days after eggs have hatched and the female no longer stays in the box with them all the time. I personally am a firm believer in leaving our wild visitors alone as much as possible. I do not interfere with my TRES unless there is an obvious problem such as parents refusing to enter the box or flying round and round making alarmed calls. I see no need whatsoever (under normal circumstances) to be handling the eggs or young of any bird species.

*IMPORTANT* Boxes for tree swallows should be rough on the inside front under the entrance hole. TRES toes were not made for climbing, and standard bluebird boxes are often too deep for their shallow nests. Parents do not return to the box to feed the young inside once the first one has fledged. All too often, the first two babies fledge by standing on top of the others, but the rest can not climb out, and starve to death. I learned this lesson from bitter experience, and can assure you that there's nothing much worse than watching over a month's work by TRES ending with 3-4 healthy dead babies who simply could not climb up to the hole to get out. If you make your own boxes, use rough-cut lumber for the inside front. If your purchased box is new and/or smooth inside, it would be wise to risk the swallow's wrath and quickly open the box to score or gouge out the inside front to provide toeholds - a tool such as an old screwdriver will do the job in a hurry. If you've looked at the Antietam nestbox camera, you can see the scored lines running horizontally across the inside front under the hole.

Don (Ontario)


Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 08:04:18 -0400
From: Bill & Dot Forrester wforres1"at"twcny.rr.com
Subject: Re: tree swallow nest-peeping tom

Hi Brenda and all,

My very first back yard tree swallow nesting came about 10 years ago, in a brand-new box. Before then, on my trail, I only got to check the TRES every few days. Those boxes were well-weathered with no smooth surfaces. Since this close-up view of activities was new to me and the box could be easily seen from the garage back window, I watched constantly when fledging was due. I had seen 6 healthy chicks when I checked this box 4 days earlier. I saw the first two TRES fledge, and saw the next one peering out the hole. We had to leave for the weekend an hour later. When we returned, I checked the box expecting to find it empty. Instead I found 4 dead chicks who were fully developed with no signs of injury or illness. I know for sure that at least one of them, the one I saw at the hole before we left, was not sick. The only reasonable assumption I could make is that he and the other three could not climb out. I can think of no other explanation. Since then, as a precaution, I rough up the inside front of all my boxes, and have not seen trapped TRES chicks since. All any of us can do is report our personal experiences in hopes that others will avoid similar disasters.

Dot

Brenda Best wrote:

There is no harm in roughing up the inside. But please consider this: Is there a chance the TRES chicks died for some reason a day or two before fledging , but you're attributing it to the inability to climb to the hole? I've found one or two dead chicks remaining after others have fledged in boxes made from rough-cut lumber. Those chicks died due to some other reason that we'll probably never know.


Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 08:29:42 -0400
From: "Elizabeth Nichols" birdlady"at"netstorm.net
Subject: Re: tree swallow nest-peeping tom

Hi Dot & All:

Thanks for your report on fledglings unable to exit box. You are so right to rough up the front of the box below the entrance hole.

Often, just after migration from Central & S. America adult Tree Swallows can be found dead in box. The legs of the Tree Swallow are not as strong as other songbirds and upon arriving from their migration they are exhausted & have difficulty exiting the box after resting. It is therefore important that the wood or plastic allows for easy foothold.

Betty Nichols, Middletown, MD ..


Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2001 08:43:03 -0500
From: "Keith & Sandy Kridler" kridler"at"1starnet.com
Subject: birds or numbers

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas

Last year the United States used 930 million acres for production of food and fiber. Texas led the nation in acreage used for farm production at 130 million acres or an area equal to approximately five times the size of Ohio. In the year 2000, over 150,000 farms and ranches reported raising cattle in Texas. Maybe I don't have to worry too much about running out of "rural" places to put up nestboxes.

Theories and myths: During cold rainy springs, members of the swallow family will die in nestboxes whether you roughen the front of the box or not. Adult Purple martins and their young die by the thousands some springs and their entrance hole is only 1 inch off the floor and many times the nest is actually above the entrance hole so they could roll over and fall out of the box yet martins that look "ready to fledge" die sitting shoulder to shoulder.

Yes some young tree swallows maybe too weak to climb out of a box or hop to the entrance hole and may be found dead in the box but if they are too weak to make a six inch hop are they going to be strong enough to fly? Just because a bird leaves the box does not mean it has survived. Robert M. Patterson in the early 1980's when testing the PVC pipe nestboxes for NABS found that healthy tree swallows could exit these slick pipes even when the nest was 10" below the entrance hole.

There are several different vitamin and mineral deficiencies that will lead to symptoms similar to "rickets" in the birds where their legs are not strong enough to hold the weight of their bodies. If these poorly formed birds cannot crawl out of the box then they will die in the box. If their bones cannot lift them to the entrance hole then surely they will not be able to fly.

Most hungry predators eat the birds completely feathers and all! Many predators carry off their food and eat it in the safety of brush piles or holes. Hawks and owls often feed from high perches scattering the few feathers they strip off to fly with the wind. If you are finding the primary or secondary wing feathers of song bird feathers now, even a few in your yard or used in nestboxes then you can bet that the bird died to give up those feathers!

I am NOT saying that box builders should not "roughen" the inside front of the nestbox but I am saying that if your box is smooth fronted I would NOT rush out and alter the box now while the swallows are already nesting! If they have built a nest and laid eggs then evidently they are having little problems entering and exiting the box. If you feel stressed and worried about a smooth fronted box then wait till the birds quit nesting to alter or change nestboxes.

Tree swallows have longer intestines than other species of the swallow family. This suggests that they have evolved to live off of fruits and berries when their normal supply of easily digested insects are not available. It is known that they do indeed eat fruits and berries! ...


Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 11:56:54 -0400
From: "Don Ward" ward"at"absolute-net.com
Subject: Dead TRES

Lynn Ward, South Central Michigan

I had the pleasure of watching several TREe Swallows fledge while on vacation this week. The process took a couple of days and Sunday night, the whole family seemed to be encouraging the last one to leave the safety of his/her box. He or she finally fledged during thunderstorms Monday morning. Shortly afterwards, when I cleaned out the box I found one TRES (there were a total of six nestlings) dead, lying face down. It looked to be of the age of a fledgling and had probably been dead a day or two. I can't figure out any reason for this. My question is this: do nestlings get trampled or forgotten during the fledging process? As I watched the fledging process, I would see constant feeding of whoever had its head poking out and not of any others that still might be in the box. Could one have not been fed, got weak, and finally died? The only other thing I noticed (besides a filthy nest) was that the box was crawling with thousands of mites.

Thanks to whoever could shed some light on this death of a seemingly healthy bird that should have fledged along with the others.

Four EAstern BLuebirds ready to fledge today or tomorrow - hope to catch the action on this box too!


Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 16:31:48 -0400
From: "Bruce Burdett" blueburd"at"srnet.com
Subject: Re: Dead TRES

Lynn Ward, et al,
There are quite a number of things that could kill the nestling that you describe. One of our 'bona fide' scientists gave us a good long list of them last summer, and maybe he'll respond again. They all come under the general heading of 'natural attrition' of one kind or another. Survival of the Fittest is with us every day, in every species on Earth. 

A few that occur to me are: excessive heat in the house, too much damp cold, one or more kinds of internal parasites, blood-sucking insects, insecticide-tainted food, Chemlawn in the neighborhood, or a possible genetic flaw. (birth defect) My most likely guess is that a runt chick simply couldn't compete with his sturdier siblings and became undernourished. A large percentage of clutches have runts; some can make it and some don't. That can be a vicious circle. The more undernourished he becomes, the less able he is to compete - a sort of galloping debilitation.

In the final analysis, the weakened individual will succumb to things which do not kill his nest-mates. One thing is probably certain; the fault was NOT yours. And fortunately we have no shortage of Tree Swallows; their reproduction rates are generally high.

Bruce Burdett, SW NH
Typical Pointy-headed Academy


Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 12:18:01 -0700
From: "judymellin" judymellin"at"netzero.net
Subject: Re: Tree Swallow Nestings

Theories abound! Each of us has our own unique stories about this species but here is some information from John Eastman's Birds of Field and Shore (and, please remember- his research is on eastern birds):

"Tree swallows are slow to begin nesting, usually in May. Nest building, done by the female, can encompass several days to 2 weeks and egg laying may not begin for a week or two after nest completion. ... Nest building usually occurs only in the morning. ... Territorial disputes, attacks and chases commonly occur before incubation begins. The birds' fierceness extends to other occupied nests: a male tree swallow moving in to replace a dead or missing male will often kill nestlings of the widowed mate before breeding with her and claiming the same nest site (note from Judy: this seems to dispel his statement that this species has only one nesting!) ... Before and sometimes even during incubation, tree swallows may completely abandon the nesting area for up to several days. Eggs already laid do not seem to lose viability. This behavior may be related to the temporary lack of aerial insect food during cold or wet weather; the birds may fly 20 miles or more to forage elsewhere. This volitional abandonment of territory for such lengthy durations- thus far seen in no other North American species- is a remarkable adaptation for a bird dependent on aerial insect prey."

This seems to support Tina's words on lack of insects but does not talk about the molting factor. I agree with her: since all birds molt, it would seem strange that only this one would expend so much energy that it could not renest. I wonder, though, that the fact that it will travel up to 20 miles for food would be contributing factor? 

Judy Mellin
NE IL.


Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 22:53:12 -0700
From: Hatch Graham birdsfly"at"innercite.com
Subject: [Fwd: Dead Violet-green Swallow nestling]

RRCRLEP"at"aol.com wrote:

When I checked my Violet-green Swallow nest box this evening there was an odor and I could see only four beaks instead of the usual five. I think the nestlings are on top of a dead one.

Could I please get some advice or tips on how to go about removing the dead one? Should I take out all the live ones to get to the dead one or should I try to get it out without taking the live nestlings out? The nestlings are so small. I do not want to hurt them.

Thanks for any help.

Renee
Hayden, Idaho

You can take the nestlings out by gently cupping your hand around them. If they are very small, take two or three at a time. They are used to being packed together in a nest. I often place a bandanna or hankerchief in my hat and place them there. Then pick up the dead one -- it may smell but it won't hurt you and give it a toss. The ants or other scavengers will appreciate it. Look carefully at the other nestlings to make sure they don't have blowfly larvae attached to their feet and legs. Not likely when very small. If there is no infestation of ants or mites and the nest is dry, the chick most likely died of natural causes. Return the nestlings and they should be okay. A single nestling succumbing to cold or some other malady is a common occurrence. Many monitors never notice. They mummify and are not very apparent as the rest of the brood feathers out and eventually fledge. The dead carcass will be completely covered with droppings by the time the rest leave the nest.

There seldom is contagion involved and an overly concern with cleanliness is uncalled for. We humans often equate cleanliness with godliness but were it not for House Sparrows, Starlings, and habitat encroachment and destruction, cavity-nesters would be out of sight in natural cavities and such mortality would go unseen without our intervention. And the cavity-nesters would do just fine. I realize that nature's way is shocking to many and dismaying as well. I am not advocating a hands off attitude, either. As nestbox landlords we have a responsibility to care for our tenants. But some losses are beyond our abilities to prevent.

I arrived at a Mountain Chickadee nestbox this morning. It is located at 8800 ft elevation near the crest of the Sierra Nevada. We had experienced the warmest month of May ever in the Sacramento-San Joaquin valley. The snow was nearly gone by the end of May and my wife and I made our first visit on May 31, the earliest in the 5 years we've had that trail. It so happened that we had a cold storm come in on Tuesday and Wednesday with rain. Though there was no sign of frost, the temperature was 59 degrees this morning with a brisk wind. I had already banded two clutches of 7 chickadees. This one had seven also, but 3 were dead. From the size, I expect they died last night. Also, the nesting material was more scant than the other two nests. I carry a soft dustrag with me and cut off a chunk to better insulated this nest which the parents had done so poorly. I banded the remaining four and put them back in with their blue comforter. These four brought my year's total of banded cavity-nesters to 1107. They were not the first losses but we've probably lost less than 25 -- mostly to heat at lower elevations. Only one or two died between banding and fledging. Losses are always sad, but some are inevitable.

Hatch Graham
Wildlife biologist
Master banding permit 06539.
California Bluebird Recovery Program
PS: lift babies up cupped in your hand; not by the wing.


Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 19:32:53 -0700 (PDT)
From: Darrell bluebird_monitor"at"go.com
Subject:

Here in Alliance Ohio, had several tree swallows found dead inside nestboxs(no nests)around last part of April. Wondered if they might have been too weak and exhausted from flying. Anyone else had a high number of tree swallows(or eastern bluebirds) found dead in nestboxes without nesting material? Any ideas the cause? Darrell

Stark County Coordinator Ohio Bluebird Society


From: bluebirdlist"at"netscape.net
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 12:31:58 -0400
Subject: dead tree swallows

Every year I have the same problem...dead tree swallows in my empty boxes. These birds have suffered no trauma. They seemed to have just entered the box, stayed awhile and died. This is evidenced by matting of fecal matter in the feathers and box floor. Today I actually found one in the process of dying! It was convulsing, throwing its head back and arching its back. I can't figure out what could be going on...no one is farming in the region yet so that rules out pesticides. There are no injuries (usually) and that rules out sparrows.
Anyone else experience this?


From: bluebirdlist"at"netscape.net
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 12:31:58 -0400
Subject: dead tree swallows

Every year I have the same problem...dead tree swallows in my empty boxes. These birds have suffered no trauma. They seemed to have just entered the box, stayed awhile and died. This is evidenced by matting of fecal matter in the feathers and box floor. Today I actually found one in the process of dying! It was convulsing, throwing its head back and arching its back. I can't figure out what could be going on...no one is farming in the region yet so that rules out pesticides. There are no injuries (usually) and that rules out sparrows.
Anyone else experience this?


From: Jennifer Hoffman jhoffman"at"sal.wisc.edu
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 11:37:31 -0500 (CDT)

Oh, how awful -- so sorry. Do your boxes have very smooth surfaces inside, underneath the entrance holes? Swallows don't use their feet much for climbing, so they are often unable to get out of a box unless the inner front surface is roughened up or ladderlike grooves are cut into it. If this is your problem, it's easy to fix and you will stop losing swallows.

Jennifer, S WI


Pine Bluff Observatory
Cross Plains, WI
43.0775 N, 89.6717 W
Zone 4b

From: "Bruce Burdett" blueburd"at"srnet.com
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 13:22:24 -0400

To: bluebirdlist"at", BLUEBIRD-L, WLInst, et al,

This is the time of year for dead Tree Swallows to appear in our houses. I've heard the suggestion about insufficient traction for their puny little feet. I've also heard the notion that they often arrive in their nesting territories severely debilitated (worn out) and perhaps also old to boot. Birds get old and die like all the rest of us. Honeybees die not because their bodies wear out so much as because their wings get so tattered that they can't fly any more.

It's also the time of year for "window-bangers." Right now ours is a Robin who's been whacking his beak on my woodshop window for three days. I had a Yellow-rumped Warbler once who kept at it for more than a week. Are these birds simply wacko? Are they attacking their reflections? Does this Robin want to use my bandsaw? I've heard lots of theories, but nothing definitive. Bruce Burdett, SW NH


From: "Mary Beth Roen" mbroen"at"hotmail.com
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 13:53:06 -0500

Hi all,

I just went to a Bluebird conference and participants there also mentioned this problem. It was the concensus there, that these Tree Swallows probably used up all of their reserves in the migration and had nothing left when they arrive north. They have no fat to live off, so if food isn't plentiful, they perish. Or maybe they don't even have enough energy to even look for food, and perish.

Mary Roen, River Falls, WI


From: "KimMarie Markel" auroramn"at"duranetweb.com
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 15:18:27 -0400

Due to the fact that we get Tree Swallows in our area we have made sure to "rough up" the inside of our nestboxes underneath the entrance hole. I don't know what other methods people use to do this, but I used a Dremel. It's fast and leaves a nice rough finish without the splinters.

(saw 10! TRES flying around the front yard as I was leaving this afternoon, but still no more investigating of nestboxes)
kimmarie :)
Back in Buffalo/Varysburg WNY


From: "Bill & Dot Forrester" forreste"at"ptdprolog.net
To: "bluebird-l" bluebird-l"at"cornell.edu
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 18:04:21 -0400

Hi - all responses to this so far have mentioned the most common causes of tree swallows dead in the box - too smooth on the inside or old/sick/weakened birds. But none of these would cause a swallow to go into convulsions, would it? I am inclined to think first of poison, since more pesticides and insecticides are put on the average homeowner's lawn and landscaping than on farmland. Swallows don't eat insects from the ground but they do eat berries and do go to the ground for grass for their nests. Do you have any fanatical gardeners in your neighborhood who may be saturating the lawn/shrubs/trees with these poisons??? Swallows also drink water from ponds, so it's possible that they have drunk from a contaminated water source nearby. The other possibility that occurs to me is that perhaps the inside of the box was stained or treated with a toxic wood preservative or cleaned with clorox bleach.

Dot


From: "Karen Louise Lippy" brdbrain"at"superpa.net
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 20:41:13 -0400

In early spring it is quite common to find dead tree swallows in nest boxes. They have just returned from a vigorous journer. They are exhausted upon return. They have two immediate critical goals--rest and food. If their journey has been very difficult, they actually begin to burn muscle to help them reach their goals.

It is possible your birds were too weak to get back out of the box after entering it. If the box is too smooth inside under the entrance hole, the birds cannot climb to the exit. It might help if you rough up the inside of the front of the box to make it easier for the bird to climb to the hole. It may be that the bird just expended too much energy to complete its journey, or it may have been sick. Swallows are not as likely as other birds to eat insects laced with pesticides since they are feeding on free flying insects.

If temperatures have been warm, it is possible that your bird may have died from West Nile Encephaliits (sp?). Some states have set up agencies to track the spread of this disease which can be potentially dangerous to humans. If you find several of the birds, contact your agricultural agent. They may be able to get the birds tested and they will tell you how to handle the dead bird. While it is believed that humans cannot contract this disease from dead animals, I would use caution when handling the birds.

Karen from South Central PA


From: bluebirdlist"at"netscape.net
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 15:43:45 -0400
Subject: THANKS!DEAD TS

Thank you everyone for your wise counsel and insights! I'm finally putting together a puzzle and I'm so excited I can hardly type! This is what I think, after years of observation plus your kind input, is happening.

We can rule out pesticides. Even though swallows eat flying insects, they can be poisoned by insecticides used by farmers. After all, bugs do fly. However, it's too early for that. I've observed that these dead birds appear shortly after aerial battles with other swallows over the box. I think they are, as some pointed out, short on reserves or running on empty. They enter the box and are exhausted. I do not have rough interiors on the front panel, so they are unable to exit. Then the heat of day sets in and they die from heat stroke! No kidding! That would explain the convulsions...the day I found one convulsing it was 90 degrees + out!

So, what do you think of my hypothesis?

I'm going to rough up my front panels ASAP!! Should I add some grass to give them a boost, too? Elizabeth


From: "Keith & Sandy Kridler" kridler"at"1starnet.com
Subject: Re:dead tree swallows
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 07:48:11 -0500

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
....

The key here is that the birds have loose runny bowel movements, so many that the bird is matted and the box is soiled, so they are NOT starving but have eaten something that is affecting their digestive system. If a bird were to over heat and die of heat stroke then they "probably" would be dehydrated and not even have bowel or kidney movements.

One of the men working for me went through Little RockMemphis on April 13 and said the truckers on the CB's were ALL talking about the large number of "crop dusters" (airplanes) hitting the fields ALL up and down the Mississippi delta. Remember that there are right now over 1 billion acres of crop land covered with the top 7 grain crops in the United States.

On April 17 we also went this route and were in awe at the huge numbers of Barn Swallows and Tree swallows skimming right along the interstate feeding over thousands of acres of crop lands and flooded bar ditches and flooded rice fields. We also were horrified watching these same flocks of birds happily feeding on insects close to the ground while crop dusters were screaming over head dropping wide streams of "fog" for the birds to fly through with open beaks....These birds are flying about 3040 MPH and after getting a belly full of chemicals could easily have been 400 miles from Memphis by dark as we went through very early in the AM.

Our car was "hit" by four different crop dusters before we got out of the Delta crop lands (we had driven most of the way through Arkansas at night) so how many birds flying through received a dusting of whatever they were spraying? Just because your neighbors are not spraying doesn't mean your birds didn't get sprayed! Where do most of the swallows migrate? Along rivers and water ways. Where is most of our best farm land in the east? Along flat river valleys...

We did see many of the farm land using the insect collectors to determine the ideal time to hit crop pests to minimize extra spraying but it seems the damaging insects coincided with swallow migration in this area. Well anyway off to eat a bowl of cereal! See I am part of the problem these birds face. KK


Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 11:48:05 -0400
From: "Pat Haught" PAHaught"at"mail.wvu.edu
Subject: dead TRES

Hello Everyone,

We found a dead tree swallow on a nest of 3 eggs in one of our boxes. The bird had not been physically harmed (e.g., no pecking on the head). She was just dead but had evidence of severe diarrhea. Any thoughts what might have killed her?

Patty in Fairview, WV (Marion county)


From: "Keith & Sandy Kridler" kridler"at"1starnet.com
Subject: Re:dead TRES
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 22:19:09 -0500

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
It sounds like this bird either ate something or drank something that totally disrupted the digestive tract. It could have been a manmade poison or a naturally occurring pathogen in either the water or food it found. There are many possibilities and not very many clues. Try to watch to see if this is isolated or becomes wide spread across your area. If Tree Swallows were found to be dying then other members of the swallow family would also be affected. Keep us posted on any more problems. KK


From: "paul kilduff" plkldf"at"hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Successful fledglings
Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 00:04:49 +0000

Paul Kilduff, Baltimore MD

"Bruce Burdett" WROTE:

I often find dead TRES in my houses, and there are many theories about
why they die.

Bruce and all:

In previous years, we have had an average of 7 TRES per year trapped in our boxes on the trail at Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville MD, with a max of 16 trapped in 2000. Msst of the trapped ones were dead. About 1/5 were released alive.

This year, we have had, so far, zero swallows trapped. I'm not "counting my swallows before they're hatched," but at this point I'd say we're over the worst.

What did I do?

I made sure that every box had some kind of swallow ladder below the hole, inside the box. Saw kerfs, plastic gutter guard, even scratching very hard with the tip of a hand saw, anything to give the swallow something to grab onto as it tries to make its way back out of the box.

Reducing or eliminating TRES deaths was my first priority as I took over as coordinator of the trail at Oregon Ridge. I'm as happy as I can be that my first goal seems to have been achieved!

best,
Paul in Baltimore


From: "Keith & Sandy Kridler" kridler"at"1starnet.com
Subject: Re:dead TRES and other birds too
Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 06:58:11 -0500

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Anytime you are finding numerous dead birds you need to determine a probable cause. Finding dead seed eaters with birds that only feed from the air alongside birds that feed on fishing worms to birds that feed mostly in brushy areas tells me that either water is contaminated or that there is a contagious disease. Either way authorities in the county or state animal health department need to be contacted. You can often contact local veterinarians or your state colleges that specialize in agriculture.

Freeze freshly killed birds in a Ziploc bag. Open the bag inside out and use the bag as a plastic glove so that you do not have to touch the bird. After visiting your trail and cleaning out nestboxes sanitize your hands BEFORE you go home and handle any pet birds!!!

The average person on this list is probably going to be better at finding the cause of large bird kills than a state or county agent! YOU are in contact with other birders, people are probably going to "fess up" to using or dumping chemicals or turn over other dead birds or tell you what they saw than to an official that might prosecute them! You will probably get brushed off by most local authorities as this will clutter their job BUT IF you have a major poultry operation in your state THEY will normally want to know what is killing the birds. Check out the local water supply for the wild birds in the area they are dying in. Is there a public landfill or sewer treatment plant nearby? These breeding birds probably are going to be dying and living within a mile of their nest! The cause has to be on nearby property as they are not communal roosting or migrating at this time! Check to see if there is spray being applied by aircraft in your county. Get MSDS sheets from these airplane operators to see what, where and when they applied these sprays.

Walk the creeks nearby and remember that chemicals strong enough to kill birds drinking or bathing in the water will annihilate the less hardy fish. Watch for dead possums, raccoons and skunks that would be feeding on this dead meat. Pollution runs downstream and not up stream. It is VERY common for tanker trucks to pull over at a bridge or creek and dump hazardous waste into a bar ditch or small creek or even large rivers. Normally but not always there is a vee shaped kill zone running down a bank from the roadway towards a creek where the vegetation has been killed. ANYTIME you see a tanker truck parked along side a road with their hoses connected to the truck and running out into the bar ditch get the truck license number!

Parking lots kill LOTS of different birds because cars with leaking radiators "boil over" in summer and antifreeze is deadly to birds that drink from puddles or bathe in them and then preen their feathers. It only takes about 1 tablespoon of antifreeze to stop the kidney function in an average cat and kill it within days. Same goes for other pets and less is needed for birds.

One of the first California Condors released into the wild died after drinking water from a puddle in the parking lot built to hold the cars of birders coming to watch these birds! A leaking radiator on a birders' car killed a million $ bird!

ANYTIME you are dealing with a local official (or local representative for a large company) in nearly any business transaction take along a note pad. Ask them for the correct spelling of their name and their work phone number. Ask for the name and number of the person they report to (at the state or main office level) verify the spelling to make sure they understand you ARE going to go "over their head" when they do not call you by an agreed upon time! You will be amazed at the difference this makes almost immediately in their attitude!

The following quote was sent to me last night and I feel this is a profound statement for all people concerned with habitat loss and the various conservation movements! We have fabulous people on the list giving great answers like Ann Wick and releasing of young bluebirds (applies to most other birds) last night! A special thanks to those taking the time to help others help the creatures we love and cherish. KK

The highway of life is filled with flat squirrels who couldn't make up their minds!


Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 17:07:48 -0400
From: Tina Phillips cbp6"at"cornell.edu
Subject: Tree Swallow deaths

Hi everyone,

This nesting season, I received nearly a dozen e-mails by nest box monitors who had reports of adult Tree Swallows dying in their nest boxes, early in the season with no visible physical trauma. Obviously, there could be many causes for these mysterious deaths. Based on the information given and current knowledge, I am guessing most of these deaths have to do with fatigue as a result of migration. But I am also wondering how widespread this is. I am hoping that everyone who has experienced this will report it in TBN's database so we can take a closer look at it in the future.

If you have had adult Tree Swallows that died for unknown reasons, please report it to us and additionally, write me personally. I would like to compile these observations in a format which takes into account location, weather, and time of year, so please include these factors in your e-mail.

Also, if you have more than one nest box, and other birds nested in nearby boxes at the same time with no visible problems, please note that, as this may help us to eliminate other possible causes such as pesticide application.

Feel free to write me with questions.

Thanks in advance,

Tina Phillips
The Birdhouse Network
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14850

(607)254-2482
cbp6"at"cornell.edu
Join TBN at: http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse


From: "J. Petko" jpetko"at"neo.rr.com
Subject: Dead TRES
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 22:51:46 -0400

I found 3 dead TRES in one of my nesting boxes yesterday. They did not look like HOSP kills. Does anyone have any idea what might have killed them? The only thing I can think of is that they had just arrived and were exhausted from their migration. Janice Petko NE Ohio


From: "Dick Stauffer" sapl1"at"telusplanet.net
Subject: Re Dead TRES
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 22:42:06 -0600

Check the breast bone area of the birds to see if they are emaciated. The bone will feel very sharp with no fat / flesh on it. If they are emaciated they probably succumbed to hypothermia. It would have to be cold when they arrived??

D Stauffer
Olds Alberta


From: khussie"at"localnet.com
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 09:07:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: dead TRES

found a dead female TRES on the graveyard trail yesterday inside a box w/ no nest. I don't think she was attacked as I don't see any major sign of that, however, she did have a real tiny cut just above her beak. Any thoughts? Kieran NW of Philly


From: hubertrap"at"webtv.net (Joe Huber)
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 10:10:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: dead TRES

Kieran, During early spring when there is wet or prolonged cold weather many Tree Swallows perish due to lack of flying insects. It is common to find dead Tree swallows in nest boxes. Some think they are to weak to exit the box,but there is no proof of exactly what went wrong. Remove the dead bird,as others should come soon to continue the nesting for this year. Joe Huber, Venice, Fl.


From: [mailto:Nature1951"at"aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 8:01 AM
Subject: Dead TRES in Boxes

Yesterday I found two dead adult TRES in an empty box I had just put up this spring. Regretably, I caused this situation, and I just want to remind others about this so they do not repeat my mistake. For areas with TRES, nest boxes must have something inside the front beneath the hole upon which tree swallows can grasp onto in order to exit. (To function like a ladder.) Many people simply cut grooves with a saw or other tool and that works great. I buy 6" plastic screen (gutter guard)and staple a 1 1/2 or 2 inch wide strip inside each front beneath the hole. It works great, and is simple and cheap. Yesterday, when I came upon the box with two tree dead TRES and nothing else, I realized there was no plastic screen inside. I had forgotten to place the screen inside this one box only. I had checked many dozens of other boxes yesterday with no problems, but only found the dead birds in this one new box without screen. Now, while I am on this, I should say that it is fairly common to find dead adult TRES in boxes that have been killed by house sparrows. When this occurs, the cause is obvious since the birds will have noticeable damage to their heads. John Rogers, Brewerton, NY (near Syracuse)


From: Deb Cohen [mailto:bdcohen"at"webriver.net]
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2005 2:48 PM
Subject: Dead tree swallows

Today I discovered two dead adult tree swallows in one of my nesting boxes. Any idea what might have caused their deaths in the box? Thanks for any information.

Deb in upstate New York


From: Brucemac1"at"aol.com [mailto:Brucemac1"at"aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2005 3:49 PM
Subject: Re: Dead tree swallows

Hello Deb,

Were the TRES physically damaged in any way...?? If they were, it is likely that HOSP are responsible.
I suspect that the recent cold weather is to blame, if you cannot find any physical damage.

Bruce Macdonald, SW Ontario South of Detroit, North shore of Lake Erie


From: Paul Kilduff [mailto:pkilduff"at"usconnex.net]
Sent: Sunday, May 01, 2005 8:15 PM
Subject: RE: Dead tree swallows
Paul Kilduff, trail at Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville MD

I'm on digest so please forgive if this is repeat, but it bears repeating anyway.

Sorry. There may be any number of theories but there is one theory that works like a charm.

I can't say for sure what happened, but I'll bet there is no "ladder" beneath the hole inside the box. TRES cannot jump back up to the hole if the inside of the cavity is slick beneath the hole. The year I installed "ladders" in all our boxes the number of dead TRES went from an average of about 10 to *zero*. In a subsequent year we found a dead TRES and I discovered that I had accidentally neglected to put a "ladder" in *that one* box. Since then we've had zero dead TRES in empty boxes.

The evidence is clear -- you can fix this.

You can make ladders with plastic gutter guard, steel hardware cloth, or just rough up the wood under the hole inside the box. If you can take the boxes apart you can use a handsaw to make kerfs -- three or four saw marks running horizontally works quite well.

:o)
Paul in Baltimore


From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2005 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: Dead tree swallows

Deb,
It is not unusual to find dead Tree Swallows in our Bluebird boxes, often without any sign of attempted nesting. There are a number of theories about this phenomenon. To me, the likeliest is that they are exhausted and debilitated by their strenuous migration, and lack the vitality to feed themselves and get back in condition. They have relatively short, puny legs, and when they take shelter in a box, they just can't muster the strength and agility to get out, and are trapped there.
Probably a stretch of nasty weather doesn't help the situation.

Bruce Burdett, SW NH


From: Nature1951"at"aol.com [mailto:Nature1951"at"aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, May 01, 2005 10:58 AM
Subject: Re: Dead tree swallows

Deb,
If your nest boxes are made with smooth wood, is very important to have something for tree
swallows to grasp onto (beneath the entrance hole inside) to exit the box. I use a one inch by six inch piece of plastic "gutter guard" stapled beneath the hole. Others simply saw horizontal grooves beneath the hole. Regardless, this is essential.

I am not exactly certain why some tree swallows are unable to leave a box, but I know for sure that placing a "ladder" beneath the hole in boxes saves a significant number of them. There really is something to this.

I am not referring to those tree swallows that are killed by house sparrows - these will have clear signs of damage or injury to their heads.

John Rogers
Brewerton, NY


From: Torrey [mailto:torrey_canyon"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: Dead tree swallows

Tree swallows early in the season will often starve in the nestbox. They shelter in it overnight, then aren't strong enough to flutter back up to the entrance hole in the morning.

A starved bird will have a very sharp keel. (On a turkey, it's the breastbone.) It's where the flight muscles attach, & a starved bird will have used its muscle tissue as an energy source. Feel the chest, & if there's a bony ridge going down the middle, that's what happened.

Hope this helps you figure out what happened.

Torrey Moss
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo, MI

From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 10:10 AM
To: BLUEBIRD-L"at"cornell.edu; Tina Phillips
Subject: Dead TRES in nestbox

In five years on my small trail, where TRES nestings are common, I have only found one dead (mummified) nestling in a possible second nesting. Yesterday on my weekly check, I found one dead adult in a box with nesting material in it. The bird was in an unusual position – beak first in the nest. We have had extended cold and rainy weather. The birds’ feathers were in excellent condition, and he looked healthy. Starvation is possible – I could feel the breastbone but I’m not sure what is normal as I haven’t handled many adult TRES.

I went through the Best of Bluebird L Classifieds (archives – see http://www.bestofbbml.audubon-omaha.org/ ) to see what I could glean, as I think this is a very curious phenomenon. Tina Phillips had indicated in 2002 that Cornell was going to look into this – any results yet Tina?

Anyway, here’s what I’ve compiled so far. (I’m assuming the TRES were NOT killed by house sparrows.) I’d be interested in your reactions/more info, and also whether this situation also applies to Violett Green Swallows. Sorry this is kind of long, I’m trying to explore all possibilities.

*****

Sometimes nestling or adult tree swallows (TRES) are found mysteriously dead in a nestbox, with no apparent injuries. It may not be possible to determine why they died. Perhaps TRES have weaker legs/feet than other cavity nesters, and thus require a rough surface (toeholds) to exit a nestbox. To eliminate this as a potential cause of death, use rough sawn wood on the board where the entrance hole is, or roughen below the entrance hole with an ice pick, awl, screwdriver, or chisel; or use a router or hand saw to make "kerfs" in the door below the entrance hole. It is easiest to do this before mounting the door panel on the box. Do NOT paint or varnish the interior under the entrance hole.

If there is no evidence of trauma, the nest is dry, and there are no fire ants, here are some other possible explanations. Consider clues such as the condition of the bird, whether it is an isolated incident, recent weather, etc. The usual suspects are weather, starvation, pesticides and disease, or some combination thereof.

ADULTS OR NESTLINGS

  • Weather:
    • Lack of flying insects due to prolonged cold/rainy weather (see Starvation ). Tree swallows are aerial hunters.
    • Excessive heat or heat exhaustion (e.g., in temperatures of 90 degrees plus).
  • Starvation: Check the breast bone area (where the flight muscles attach) for a bony ridge down the middle (i.e., bone feels very sharp with no fat/flesh on it - the bird is emaciated). An undernourished bird is more susceptible to hypothermia, disease, etc.
  • Pesticides (perhaps they are more sensitive than other bird species?) If you have more than one nestbox, and other birds in nearby boxes at the same time have no visible problems, this makes pesticide application a less likely cause of death.
  • Diarrhea: Excessive/loose or runny fecal matter in feathers/nest/floor. They ate something that affected their digestive system. (Note: Tree swallows parents stop removing fecal sacs around Day 14 but young may not fledge until Day 16-30, so it is not unusual for an older nest to be a tarry mess. )

ADULTS

  • Death shortly after return to an area: Following their long migration TRES are low on energy. They seek shelter in a nestbox, and may either be too weak, exhausted or starved (see starvation) to exit. Often the box has no nesting material in it.
  • West Nile virus. The USGS has confirmed West Nile Virus in dead tree swallows.
  • Other disease/pathogens.
  • Engaged in an aerial battle with another TRES or competitor, returned to nestbox and died (possibly of exhaustion or injuries.)
  • Ingestion of contaminated water.

NESTLINGS

  • Unable to fledge from a box because the surface did not offer purchase for under-developed legs. Some nestlings may successfully exit by standing on siblings. The parents may cease to tend remaining nestlings.
    • Note: Per Keith Kridler, in the early 1980's when testing the PVC pipe nestboxes for NABS, Robert M. Patterson found that healthy tree swallows could exit these slick pipes even when the nest was 10" below the entrance hole.
  • Hypothermia associated cold steady rain, day time temperatures in the 50's and night time temperatures in the 40's or below. Parents are absent more often because flying insects are scarce. Particularly a problem after female stops night time brooding (around Day 6 or 7.)
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies, legs are not strong enough to hold weight (similar to rickets.)
  • Juvenile TRES fledged from nearby nests fly around other nestboxes to steal some of the food the parents bring for their own nestlings. Some of the young still in the nestbox then starve (see starvation ).
  • One or both parents killed, nestlings starve or succumb to hypothermia .
  • Parents abandoned nest - could be for a variety of reasons. Some reports of second nestings being abandoned when group migrates. Nestlings starve or succumb to hypothermia .
  • Blowfly infestation (serious - more than 10 larva per nestling. May weaken nestlings enough to make them more susceptible to other problems such as hypothermia . According to Terry Whitworth , blowfly infestation in and of itself is unlikely to cause death.)
  • Runt undernourished - less able to compete (see starvation ).
  • Birth defects.
  • Male tree swallow moves in to replace a dead or missing male and kills nestlings of widow.

If you do find a dead adult or nestling, use a plastic bag to pick it up and seal it, and dispose of it. Sanitize your hands before you go home and handle any pet birds. If there are other live nestlings in the box, remove them (gently cup your hand around them and place them in a bandana/handkerchief in a hat/box/bag). Sometimes nestlings that have been dead for a while are "mummified" and not discovered until the box is being cleaned out. If the nest is infested with maggots, you may want to do a nest change .

***

Bet from CT



From: Torrey [mailto:torrey_canyon"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 9:28 PM
Subject: Re: Dead TRES in nestbox

Hi Bet,

I had a couple of starved TRES (& 1 EABL) with the recent nasty weather. A healthy TRES will be "plump" in the chest -- Not fat, but the keel (or breastbone) isn't very noticeable. Some dead TRES have sharper keels than others -- Maybe those ones had something else going on? (Hypothermia, a heart condition...)

Torrey Moss
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo, MI



From: Lawrence Herbert [mailto:lherbert"at"4state.com]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 10:01 PM
Subject: wasp sting?

Bet and Bluebirdsters: Regarding the dead TRES, I'll guess something far
out like a wasp sting.
Good birding, Larry H. Joplin MO.



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:58 AM
Subject: RE: wasp sting?

Never thought of that! I wonder if it can be fatal to an adult bird.... does anyone know? Maybe multiple stings? Or maybe a nestling is more susceptible?

Bet


From: John Schuster [mailto:wildwingco"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: wasp sting?

Dear Friends,

We had a big challenge last year at a vineyard in Santa Rosa, CA where the Yellow Jackets had a feast with multiple Bluebird nest boxes (stinging, killing and feasting on the baby Bluebirds and Swallows inside.)

This year we are loading up this vineyard (and other vineyards too) with Yellow Jacket traps to reduce predation.

Did not see any adult songbirds deaths due to Yellow Jacket stinging, but then again, Yellow Jacket eat until there is nothing left so you’ll never really know for sure.

...John Schuster



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:25 AM
Subject: RE: Dead TRES in nestbox

I couldn't SEE the keel, but could feel it. In an emaciated bird, does it visibly stick out?

Bet from CT



From: Paula [mailto:PaulaZ"at"columbus.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 10:37 AM
Subject: TRES Starvation

I was reading some of the posts on Tree Swallow (TRES) deaths and thought I would mention that I found a pair of TRES dead in a nestbox this past
weekend. They were both immaciated. My untrained eye could not see it,
but I had a friend with me who is a seasoned birder. As Torrey mentioned in an earlier post, if you can feel the keel of the bird, it likely died of starvation. The keels of both these birds could be felt easily. I can easily compare this with healthy HOSP's I have held. You cannot feel their keel. It is a good educational exercise to carefully look at birds found dead on the trail to try to determine how they died.

We have had a cold spring in Ohio and this pair of TRES probably had trouble finding food. This box is on an island in northern Ohio. The island is inundated with swallows of all kinds. I also wonder whether they spent too much time trying to defend their box from other TRES instead of foraging for food. It was sad to find the two together though.

I am a new Purple Martin (PUMA) landlady. This is my second year. Late last summer, the PUMA began their migration. I did not realize that one brood was left without parents before they were able to fledge. They did not get enough food and starved to death. Their keels felt like the TRES.
This spring, I have 16 adult PUMA on the housing and they are a welcome sight and sound. I trapped and removed a male HOSP that thought he might try to live in there with them.

Paula Z
Powell (Central) Ohio
South Bass Island (Northern) Ohio


From: bookfanaticef-bluebird"at"yahoo.com [mailto:bookfanaticef-bluebird"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 6:36 PM
Subject: Re: TRES Starvation & how to tell bird's health

IN case some of you don't know this already, there's another, more direct way (other than just feeling for the keelbone with your fingers) you can tell the relative health of a living or freshly-dead bird--like on those HOSP many of you routinely trap, or on those dead TRES.

Blow on the breast feathers so that you can see the keel and the "wishbone" directly above the keel. Birds deposit fat in the "V" of the wishbone--and you can see it as yellow deposits through the skin there. There are other places they deposit fat, too, but that is the best place to look. Many birds use up resources as soon as they get them, and so don't have excess to deposit as fat, unless they're gorging themselves just before migration. You might notice yellow fat deposits on nestlings, too, before they get all their feathers hiding their skin & if their parents are feeding them a lot.

If a bird is short on resources, they use up the fat (if they have any), then begin using muscle mass to survive. Apparently, this often happens during/after a long migration, foraging is poor, or the birds are otherwise heavily stressed. A wild bird in top form will have rounded breast muscles, gradually becoming smaller & flatter, and eventually concave with the keel sharply-defined as the bird's health declines. I don't know how well this would apply to caged birds, because they usually don't get as much excercise as wild birds, and the breast muscles might atrophy & be small & flat/concave from disuse, rather than because they aren't healthy or eating enough.

If you could feel the keels on those dead TRES so easily, if you had looked beneath their breast feathers at their breast muscles, they probably would have been concave. Though sometimes you can easily feel the keel on a fairly healthy bird too.

Hopefully, it'll warm up soon, and you won't find more dead birds in your boxes, though if migrant TRES are still arriving up there, there's always that chance. Good Luck!
Elizabeth Farley
Gainesville, FL



From: Paul Kilduff [mailto:pkilduff"at"usconnex.net]
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 9:47 AM
Subject: RE: TRES Starvation, ne: Attracting Purple Martings

Just pointing out that a TRES that dies trapped in a box is, I presume, going to die of either starvation or deyhdration.

We don't want to conclude that it couldn't get out of the box because it was emaciated when it could be that it is emaciated *because* it couldn't get out of the box.... (If it couldn't get out of the box, in our experience at Oregon Ridge park in Cockeysville, MD, it is because there's no "ladder" beneath the hole. At the risk of repeating this too often, I know this because we went from, going from memory here, a min of 5 trapped TRES per year and a maximum of 13 per year on a 35-box trail, to zero after making sure that all boxes had gutter guard, galvanized hardware cloth, or saw kerfs beneath the hole)

Is this true: if a healthy and well-fed TRES is trapped in a box, will it be emaciated when it is found dead?

Paul Kilduff, Baltimore MD



From: Torrey [mailto:torrey_canyon"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 5:31 PM
Subject: RE: TRES Starvation

Based on my personal observations of 9 years running a
100+ box trail in southern Michigan, Tree Swallows
only get stuck in boxes early in the season or during cold spells. During good weather, i never find trapped birds. That would imply a weakened condition.

Flying is an "energy hog" activity -- If a bird is too weak to fly, it will still be able to walk or climb.
That is why having a "ladder" is so important -- Once out of the box, the TRES can at least glide & has a chance to find food. I still occasionally have TRES deaths, so obviously my ladders are not as effective as Paul's.

Torrey Moss
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo, MI



From: Paula [mailto:PaulaZ"at"columbus.rr.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 4:34 PM
Subject: Re: TRES Starvation, ne: Attracting Purple Martings

Paul,

This is an excellent point and I'm glad you made it. This particular box
does have saw kerfs beneath the hole. They were still too weak apparently
to climb up and out. I think you are right. A healthy and well-fed TRES
would be emaciated when found dead if it were trapped in a box. Thank you
for reminding all of us to check the insides of our boxes to make sure the
birds can exit properly. I wonder, does hardware cloth work better then and
saw kerfs?

Paula Z
Powell (Central) Ohio


From: markmele"at"att.net [mailto:markmele"at"att.net]
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2005 12:06 PM
Subject: TRES - trouble?

Our female tree swallow seems to missing. She had been in and out of the nest box with regularity watching over her 4 eggs. But for 4 days now, we have not seen her at all. The male shows up and perches on another empty box we have 20 feet away, as if he is waiting for her to appear. I checked the box, and found 4 eggs and no sign of foul play.

My fear is the female is dead. Can someone recommend the next step? Should I wait a few more days and then clean out the box?

Mark M.

Hillsborough, NJ



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 1:52 PM
Subject: Dead TRES

See http://www.sialis.org/tresdead.htm for foto of dead tree swallow (TRES) I found in a box yesterday. The bird was sitting on 5 eggs, so obviously it was able to enter and exit the box on numerous occasions (all my boxes have kerfs/grooves in the door to facilitate TRES exit.)

I could feel the keel BUT there are 10 other boxes in this area that are occupied by TRES with no other losses, and plenty o' bugs around, and no pesticide use. I can't compare the keel to a healthy bird because I haven't handled live TRES.

The feathers on the back looked sort of weird, but otherwise appeared normal. No blood or diarrhea.
The only way I figured out it was dead is because the eyes were closed (TRES here usually sit very tightly when I monitor the box.)

Bet from CT


From: Torrey
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005
RE: Dead TRES

Hi Bet,

I found the same thing last week, a dead but apparently healthy female Tree Swallow sitting on 3 eggs. I thought she was just "hiding" until i took her out & she didn't move. All of the other TRES & EABL in the area were OK. (I left the nest -- It'll be very interesting to see what's in it tomorrow.)

Her keel was slightly noticeable -- I could feel it but there was definitely muscle on both sides. The weather hadn't been too abnormal & she had no injuries. I took her to work (my boss has a salvage
permit) & nobody there had any ideas either. Disease, maybe, or a health condition. (I'd think migrating would be harder than nesting, but who knows what kind of stress all those hormones create.)

This is when i'd like a good bird forensics lab.
Maybe that'll be Cornell's next big project, now that they've found an extinct bird. :-)

Torrey Moss
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo, MI


From: John Schuster [mailto:wildwingco"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 10:32 AM
Subject: Re: Bluebird vs. Tree swallow - Help please!

Dear Paula and friends,

A great question.

First, Western Bluebirds will try to move into a 1 3/8" entry hole, they can't get in and eventually move on. Furthermore, our Western Bluebirds over winter here and claim their nest boxes long before the Tree or Violet Green Swallows arrive.

The likely hood of a cavity nesting swallow moving into a larger holed nest box that should have been claimed by a Western Bluebird, when there is a more accommodating nest box that the Western Bluebird have rejected is remote, but not impossible.

However, lets just say that a Tree or Violet Green Swallow moves into the nest box with the larger hole. My observations of our Western Bluebirds is that once they know there is an accommodating nest box, they will drive cavity nesting swallows off to usurp the location.

...

John Schuster



From: Paula [mailto:PaulaZ"at"columbus.rr.com]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 10:58 AM
Subject: Re: Bluebird vs. Tree swallow - Help please!

Thanks John. It makes sense that your WEBL would over winter there and
start nesting earlier than the swallows. Not all our EABL over winter here.
Often, with our cold springs, the TRES and EABL are vying for nesting sites
at the same time. Our EABL usually start nesting before the TRES, but not
always. Different birds, different location, different habits.
Interesting. Keep up the good (no, I mean great) work!

Thanks,
Paula Z
Powell (Central) Ohio


From: John Schuster [mailto:wildwingco"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: Bluebird vs. Tree swallow - Help please!

Dear Evelyn, Paula and friends,

I've done pulmonary tests and the evidence bore fruit. That is why I will do a complete trail based on my first hand experience.

This is all I do gang, obverse cavity nesters all day long (sometimes only a few feet away) working our vineyards both day and night (Barn Owls) without feeding them anything (excluding Hummingbird feeders) other than what nature provides.



From: Tyler Mann [mailto:t_mann05"at"hotmail.com]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 3:31 PM
Subject: How long can cold eggs last?

hi all

i have 4 TRES eggs that were on incubation day 8 when the female left never to return. it has been at least a week since. my question is how long can can the eggs survive without heat? what happens to the developing embryos?
if they can last about 12 or 13 more days, i have another TRES pair with 3 eggs so far laid there and i want to add the abandoned eggs to the clutch when they are close to the same stages. is this a good idea? should i throw out the nest. The male is still around but not able to incubate. i feel bad for him. any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

Tyler in West Central OH



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 6:40 PM
Subject: RE: How long can cold eggs last?

This is a TOTAL SWAG, but I'm guessing not even 24 hours. If incubation is interrupted, the eggs are not likely to hatch. I think they just stop developing.

The ONLY case I would even consider adding abandoned eggs to another nest would be if I KNEW that incubation had not started in either nest OR they had been incubated for EXACTLY the same number of days (e.g., egg laying ended in both nests on the same day.) Otherwise they would not hatch on the same day, which means you'd have a runt that would probably be left to starve, or the younger egg would not hatch at all because it won't be incubated long enough. That's why birds wait until all the eggs are laid (or at least till the next to the last is laid in some species) to start incubating - they want all the babies to be the same size, and on the same eating/fledging schedule.

Sorry, I know this is not good news. BUT if it's early in the season, the male might hook up with another female and start a late nesting.

With regard to throwing out a TRES nest, it takes them so long to build here (unlike Paula's speed demons) that I'd be tempted to leave it. I left a nest in a box where I found a dead TRES (sex unknown) and that box had eggs in that nest a week or two later.

Bet from CT


From: EHDerry"at"aol.com [mailto:EHDerry"at"aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 7:23 AM
Subject: TRES

Last week while monitoring my golf course trail, I approached a box that TRES had been defending the week before. As I approached, I saw several TRES flying around the box and calling out. They were obviously disturbed. No other birds were in the area. When I opened the box, there was a TRES lying on his/her side with feet extended towards the door of the front-opening box. She was uttering a soft "tst". I could see her breathing very fast. At that point I believed her to be badly injured and went to my golf cart to get a towel to wrap her in. I left the door ajar a couple of inches. The other TRES were continuing to fly around the box - more numerous than usual when I monitor a TRES box.
When I came back to the box with the towel and lifted the the front door fully, the "injured" TRES was gone!
Any ideas? I guess it would all be presumptions, but I had never seen this before. I have found several dead TRES in boxes this spring - 3 pecked to death by HOSP and one apparently a natural death.

Judy Derry
New York State (Western)


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 10:14 AM
Subject: Do TRES males feed incubating females

The Birdhouse Network summary on tree swallows (TRES) doesn’t mention whether males feed females while they were incubating. We were speculating as to whether this could be a contributor to starvation if a female lost a mate….

Bet from CT

Webpage on TRES found dead in box at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bird_bios/speciesaccounts/treswa.html


From: KimMarie Markel [mailto:auroramn"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 11:24 AM
Subject: Re: Do TRES males feed incubating females

I can only go by the behaviors I'm observing with "our" backyard pair of TRES. Yes, the male does feed her, or he guards the box while she leaves to feed herself.

In fact last night I witnessed him bringing food to her on two seperate occassions (it was unusually chilly last night so I'm guessing he did this so she wouldn't have to leave the box or the six eggs....)

kimmarie :)
Buffalo/Varysburg, Western NY


From: markmele"at"att.net [mailto:markmele"at"att.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 8:12 PMn
Subject: RE: How long can cold eggs last?

I reported earlier a very similiar situation with the female disappearing from the area and leaving a house with 5 eggs. It was 8 days later and then the male retured to the box with a younger female. Both have been in and out of the box several times checking things out. She appears to be very comfortable in the box, sticking her head out while he talks to her. I have heard that this could happen, but this is the first time I have experienced it first hand.

Does anyone know if the new female will incubate the existing Eggs? Will she lay more eggs?

Mark M. Hillsborough, NJ


From: bookfanaticef-bluebird"at"yahoo.com [mailto:bookfanaticef-bluebird"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 1:37 PM
Subject: RE: male w/new female & old eggs (was "How long can cold eggs last?")

Mark,
Usually if any bird (or nearly any other animal for that matter) hooks up with a new mate after the loss of a previous mate, they'll just start over from the beginning. So if the male has a new female in that box, they'll mate, and she'll lay her own eggs. They'll likely build a new nest right over top of the old eggs--and even if she did just lay her own eggs in the same nest as the previous ones without building a new nest (very unlikely), I doubt the old ones would hatch after such a long interval. The female would not waste time incubating another female's eggs (unless the other female "dumped" them in there while she herself was laying/incubating, or a person placed the eggs in there)--it would be detrimental to the passing on of her own genes.
Hoepfully, this next nesting will be successful.
Elizabeth F
Gainesville, FL


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2005 9:12 AM
Subject: Dead TRES and pink eggs

This is hardly scientific, but I noticed that of the two dead TRES on two different trails that I found on top of eggs, both had distinctly pink eggs.

Anybody else notice this?

Bet from CT


From: JBrindo"at"aol.com [mailto:JBrindo"at"aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2005 11:06 PM
Subject: has anyone seen this

Hi everyone, Today while checking my trail, I found a dead Tree Swallow laying on five BB eggs. It did not appear to have been attacked in any way. Seemed very strange. Anyone else experienced this? Thanks in advance.
Jay Brindo
Mountain Glen Farm Trail
North eastern Ohio



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 8:07 AM
Subject: RE:Dead TRES and pink eggs

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Bet has run into an interesting situation seeing "pink" eggs with a couple of dead Tree Swallows on the nest.

the illusion/appearance of pink eggs "might" have been to the female being old or sick or unable to steal enough calcium from her body to create a eggshell with normal thickness that will hide the insides of the egg.

We should all buy a micrometer that will read the thickness of the "bad"
eggshells in our nestboxes. If Bet saved these nests, then she could break the eggs, rinse them out well and take them to a machine shop or auto repair shop and have the shop foreman "read" the thickness of the shells for you.

Cornell did some research on this in the past to compare egg shell thickness in different areas and for different reasons as I recall.

Some chemicals the Tree Swallows might ingest while eating insects or preening feathers after flying through crop duster spray could prevent the female from producing enough calcium. Thus she ends up laying a thin shelled egg that looks pink. She might be just old or starving due to cold or bad weather but she might also have other problems. KK


From: Barbara
Sent: May 29, 2005
RE: Pink eggs

I visited with my neighbors last evening -- they are the ones who put up a bluebird nestbox and got a pair of TRES. Seems the TRES laid four eggs, one of which was pink and SOFT! I encourage folks to put out crushed egg shells this time of year. I guess they could buy the ground oyster shells that are fed to chickens, also.

Sometime after the nest was complete and the eggs laid, another pair of TRES drove off the originals and took over the nestbox. The first female has returned several times trying to enter the box, I suppose to incubate.

I asked about feathers in the nest and was told there were feathers, and they were grey. Grey? I haven't seen any grey birds around here yet, but they must be here somewhere. Maybe owls? I haven't seen or heard mockingbirds.

Well,the new TRES pair have happily moved in, and our neighbors will continue to monitor the nest and report to me. In the meantime, we have bluebirds squabbling all over the neihgborhood. I have to get out and encourage people to put up nestboxes.

Barbara in Cloverdale, CA



From: Herb Kelley [mailto:herbsho"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 12:03 PM
Subject: RE:Dead TRES and pink eggs

Keith,
Harbor Freight sells a digital caliper (sale price $16) to anyone so inclined to measuring egg thickness. It can be set to read in inches or millimeters.



From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 11:54 AM
Subject: RE:Dead TRES and pink eggs

Bet, et al,
A lot of theories have been put forth to explain why Tree Swallows are so often found dead in a nestbox without any visible sign of trauma.
The one that makes most sense to me is that they are in a poor, weakened condition, and their stubby little legs don't permit them to get up to the hole.
They can't fly so they can't hunt, and if they can't hunt they can't eat, and if they can't eat they simply starve.
Often we find dead Tree Swallows early in the season when their vitality is low because of a gruelling migration flight. Try flying all that distance just by flapping your arms. You'd be tired too.

Bruce Burdett, SW NH



From: Vai Gokhale [mailto:gokhalevai"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2005 4:34 PM
Subject: Upset over 6 dead TRES babies - blowfly larvae?

Vai Gokhale
Frewsburg, NY (~1.5 hrs south of Buffalo, NY, ~1 hr east of Erie, PA)

Our B house has had a TRES nesting with 6 eggs that hatched ~ 2 weeks ago. I stopped checking the box a couple of days ago since the babies were getting larger and I didn't want them to be scared and fledge too soon.

This morning (Saturday), I saw a male EABL sitting on top of the house. I thought maybe the TRES fledged yesterday and the EABL was looking to take over the house. I opened the bos and found 6 dead TRES babies (~ 2 weeks old).

I read a lot of articles online (including the "Dead Tree Swallows in NestBox" link from Bluebird-L website. I saw no signs of pecking on the chicks, the nest box was dry inside, the day/night temps have been upper 70s/low 60s so it's not too hot nor too cold, we see the TRES male and female making regular trips with insects. The hole of my nestbox is very rough. I just can't figure out why all 6 died in 2 days.

I did find some blowfly larvae in the nest. They looked fat. Could they have sucked enough blood to kill 6 TRES? The only good news is that now I can clean the nestbox and make it ready and looks like I have an EABL couple getting ready to move in.



From: Autumn L. Kruer [mailto:autumnk"at"iglou.com]
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 12:45 AM
Subject: RE: Upset over 6 dead TRES babies - blowfly larvae?

Oh, I don't blame you for being upset. I'd be very upset myself. From what I've read of blowfly larvae, they can weaken nestlings but usually do not
kill them. To kill all of them seems particularly unusual.

Has anyone used herbicides or chemicals near the area lately?

And then there are unknowns. About 2-3 years ago, foals were dying in
Kentucky and no one could figure out why. Wild cherry trees release a form
of cyanide toxic to horses and are fenced off, but no one figured that caterpillars that fed off cherry trees and dropped in the grass that the
horses ate could harm them. But it was just enough toxin to kill young
foals.

Autumn in Kentucky



From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 8:27 AM
Subject: Re: Upset over 6 dead TRES babies - blowfly larvae?

Did the house from which the chicks were removed have some sort of
anti-predator device, either an entrance block or a Noel guard?

Bruce Burdett, SW NH



From: Lana Hunt [mailto:lanahunt"at"kcp.uky.edu]
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 9:21 AM
Subject: RE: Upset over 6 dead TRES babies - blowfly larvae?

Autumn, I mounted a nest box a few weeks ago about 20-25 feet to the side of a wild cherry tree thinking it would be a handy source of nourishment.
In addition, I was thinking it would be a good place for the nestlings to fledge. It is still a small tree with no fruit yet. Was this a mistake?

I remember now the year you are referring to concerning horses and caterpillars, I had forgotten its relationship to cherry trees. This was particularly devastating to the racehorse industry. I was with a friend, a veterinarian, on a call involving a full-grown horse. It was so sad to watch, the horse just started becoming paralyzed, and it had to be drug on a tarpaulin into a horse ambulance. I learned later that it did not make it, apparently it eventually affects vital organs; paralyzing them, causing death.

Are these trees toxic to birds? Will the wild cherries or bugs that have eaten from the tree be dangerous for the blue birds? Blue birds occupied this nest box shortly after it was mounted and now has five blue eggs! I could easily do away with this tree, as the truck is only about 2-3 inches in diameter.

Lana



From: Paul Kilduff [mailto:pkilduff"at"usconnex.net]
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 7:43 PM
Subject: RE: Upset over 6 dead TRES babies - blowfly larvae?

Paul Kilduff
trail at Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville, Baltimore County, MD

The year before last we had an epidemic of dead TRES babies in the boxes. We never did find out what it was. The suspicion was pesticide or herbicide, or else West Nile Virus. There was a pattern to the deaths, most of the boxes were near the public garden area in the park, but it wasn't a very clear pattern, and a couple boxses were nowhere near. We are also pretty close to a golf course, where they must surely use lots of lawn chemicals.

Still, we never narrowed it down. It was a very frustrating thing! So far, knock wood, all healthy this year.

Paul Kilduff



From: Lawrence, Miriam [mailto:mlawrence"at"horsesmouth.com]
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2005 10:31 PM
Subject: advice needed on dead nestlings

I had a terribly sad evening today. I went around to check my nest boxes and found dead TRES nestlings at various stages of development in 4 different boxes that were thriving just a few days ago (a total of nearly 20 birds, from a few days old to nearly ready to fledge).

I assume this was a HOSP rampage, but I did not see any blood or other obvious evidence of attack, although I did not closely inspect the nestlings (they are already beginning to decay -- again, it's been very wet -- and I didn't have any gloves or other equipment with me because the whole thing took me completely by surprise.) All nestlings were in their boxes, none had been tossed out.

The sole bluebird family we have was thankfully spared despite being paired with a box in which the TRES were dead. Also spared (so far) were two TRES boxes on a different part of the property. I couldn't bring myself to check the other remaining box -- will do that tomorrow.

It's been very rainy for many days, including one day of near constant
misting, but it hasn't been especially cold. Is there any other possible
explanation for this mass die-off besides HOSP attack? Is there any
definitive way to tell if HOSP are responsible?

I've already made spookers that I plan to install on the remaining boxes early tomorrow morning (I'm hoping it won't interrupt feeding at all -- it's worth a try, given the obvious risk of doing nothing), and I plan to use spookers on any boxes in which TRES or EABL renest. I have also now been converted to aggressive HOSP management and have already ordered two van Ert traps. But I would like to be sure I'm dealing with the right culprit here
-- I feel a bit at sea because the scenes were much less violent than some of the pictures I've seen. It won't affect what I do with the HOSP, but I want to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

A second question... I have ahead of me the unpleasant job of cleaning out the boxes and preparing them for possible renesting. Once I discard the carcasses and clean out the nesting material, should I use bleach or some other disinfectant to kill the bacteria and maggots? I don't want to risk harming any potential new occupants either by not cleaning enough or by cleaning with an agent that will be toxic for them.

Third, how late in the summer are TRES known to attempt nesting here in northern New England?

Finally, to anyone reading this who, like me, didn't have the stomach to actively control the HOSP -- I can tell you it will be much easier than the sight of box after box full of dead babies. I thought "my" birds were safe, and this was really devastating. I've been crying on and off all evening, and had to try to explain to my 3-year-old why mama was sad.

I know I'm just repeating the same story so many others have shared in the past. I should have listened to the wise folks on this list and trapped the HOSP on my property when I had the chance. It's hard to learn from other people's mistakes.... but wow, I wish I had. Please, if you're on the fence about HOSP as I was until today -- learn from MY mistake.

Thanks,

Miriam Lawrence
Monkton, VT



From: Kate Arnold [mailto:koscharn"at"cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 12:08 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

This doesn't sound like a house sparrow attack to me. They peck the birds,
especially on the head--it would be pretty obvious.

Kate Arnold
Paris, TX, 100 mi NE of Dallas



From: Jean Carter Wilson [mailto:peanut123"at"comcast.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 12:34 AM
Subject: Re: advice needed on dead nestlings

Awwww. I am SO sorry to hear it.

I lost a couple of bluebird fledglings earlier this spring - this is my first season raising birds and I didn't realize how seriously I needed to take the advice to install a predator baffle. Luckily, three of the birds from the brood made it and are already as big as their parents - prettier, tho. I love the stripes they have when they're young.

I won't forget the carnage I found in that nestbox, either. I have two boxes up right now with mothers on the eggs, and both of them have the extra long 36" baffle on their extra slippery poles.

I wonder if insecticides might have been to blame. Did you have the heart to do a beak count? Maybe a few of them made it out...How are the parents?



From: Kenny Kleinpeter [mailto:kpkmajk"at"cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 6:36 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

The reason your blues made it and your swallows didn't might be the weather.
Swallows feed exclusively on the fly and flying insects just don't fly in the rain. Bluebirds can still find insects moving on the ground during such weather. Swallows, like TRES and PUMA, can take about three days of the following conditions before they start dying of starvation: wind, rain and cold.

Don't be too quick to blame those bad HOSP.

Kenny Kleinpeter
Baton Rouge, LA



From: Paul Kilduff [mailto:pkilduff"at"usconnex.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 7:01 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

Miriam,

First, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I have been there. We lost six Carolina Chickadee babies in our backyard box and I was furious and grief-stricken -- and ready to lash out. I'm sorry.

I do wonder it was HOSP, though, if there was no visible damage to any of the nestlings.

We had this on our trail (Baltimore County MD) a couple years ago -- TRES only affected, not EABL. At that time we did not, as I recall, have any prolonged period of wet or cold weather. As these stories keep coming in I wonder more about West Nile Virus. Also, the fact that you've had a prolonged period of wet weather makes me think of THAT as the culprit -- no food, the parents have to go where the food is -- otherwise, babies and parents would die.

I believe you can have dead birds tested for WNV (we did not do this, I'm sorry to say). I think your local rehabber can help you find out if this is possible, should it happen again, which I sincerely hope it doesn't!!

Sorry if this duplicates other replies; I'm on Digest.

Paul Kilduff
Trail at Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville, Baltimore County, MD



From: Autumn L. Kruer [mailto:autumnk"at"iglou.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:08 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

This is several notes now on dead tree swallows in boxes for no apparent
reason, not obviously attacks by house sparrows. Personally, if I found
just TRES dead in varying stages with no obvious signs of HOSP attacks, I'd be calling or E-mailing my state wildlife biologist and start looking for a way to determine cause
of death.

Autumn in Kentucky



From: Lawrence, Miriam [mailto:mlawrence"at"horsesmouth.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:36 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

Kate Arnold wrote:

> This doesn't sound like a house sparrow attack to me. They peck the
birds,
> especially on the head--it would be pretty obvious.

Thanks Kate, and to everyone else who responded to me. That was my initial reaction upon seeing the dead babies -- I just didn't know enough about TRES to realize what the real culprit might be. And in fact, the overwhelming consensus seems to be that it was in fact the rainy weather, and not a sparrow attack, that killed the birds. Pesticides (from nearby cornfields) are a remote possibility but highly unlikely, and the fact that the one bluebird brood seems fine, I think, reinforces the weather thesis.

It's also reinforced by the fact that of the two houses of TRES that survived, one of them contained only eggs on my last check four days prior
-- I just looked today and they're just hatching (there are now 4 nestlings and 1 egg left). So mom and dad didn't have to worry about feeding or keeping anyone warm.

The one odd thing is that the final box had just hatched out before this cold and rainy period that seems to have led to the demise of so many nestlings -- yet those young survived despite being so small and naked.
Just shows the extent to which nature is about the luck of the draw.

Anyway, I did the sad job of cleaning out the boxes this morning. I'm hopeful we may get some renesting, because there were a number of adult TRES swooping about in the field around the boxes and they appeared to be either inspecting or fighting over at least one box. I was wondering if they might be the parents of the dead nestlings... but I didn't imagine they would still be hanging about 2-3 days later. Anyone know about that?

Thanks again to all who wrote in to help me with this. As I told a few folks directly, the event is still devastating, but I feel less of a burden about it because I don't feel I helped bring it on through inaction. I still plan to install Van Ert traps in problem boxes, because I never want to have something like this happen as a result of HOSP attack, and based on what others have experienced, it seems to be only a matter of time.

Miriam Lawrence
Monkton, VT



From: Gail [mailto:thorntog"at"ci.hamilton.oh.us]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:57 A
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

Miriam:

Not that it's any consolation to you, but I had the same experience with Tree Swallows in SW Ohio - 4 adult sized, fully feathered nestlings were perfectly formed & healthy looking (but dead) when I opened the box door.
The nest height would have allowed easy exit by the fledglings. I later found one of the parent birds dead nearby with no visible damage on him.
Maybe there is some kind of disease that affects TRES. I've already buried the dead birds; if I have any additional unexplained deaths I'll check with our local wildlife agent or extension office. I believe the surviving parent has just built a nest in another box, so I'll keep a close eye on that family.

Gail
Hamilton, OH



From: Lawrence, Miriam [mailto:mlawrence"at"horsesmouth.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:12 AM
Subject: RE: advice needed on dead nestlings

Gail,

So sorry to hear you went through this too -- I try not to anthropomorphize, but it's hard not to feel protective of the little guys.

One other respondent to my inquiry raised the question of West Nile Virus.
In my case that is extremely unlikely bc West Nile is not widespread in Vermont, and the weather was indeed quite bad. But is it a possibility in your case? Is West Nile prevalent in your area? If so, and if you have more deaths, it's probably worth looking into that.

Good luck -- I hope the renesting is sucessful!

Best,
Miriam Lawrence
Monkton, VT



From: Keith & Sandy Kridler [mailto:txbluebirder"at"sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:40 AM
Subject: Re: advice needed on dead nestlings/lack of insects

Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas
As Kenny and several others mentioned weather and not House Sparrows are probably to blame this time. Tree and Barn Swallows normally feed on smaller insects that fly closer to the ground than Purple Martins. Check your windshield on your car to see how many insects "hits" you have while driving during the day. If there is a shortage of insects and the adults have to fly more miles to catch insects then when they are beginning to starve themselves they will not be able to feed their young and they will allow their young to starve in order to save the species.

Same goes for night flying birds like the Goat Sucker family or the flying mammals we call bats. Dead Tree Swallows would be an indicator for trouble with all other species in your region that feed on flying insects!

Texas had a far colder spring and we had a late freeze the first week of April. Ground temperatures were far colder for far longer into spring than normal this year. This has affected the timing of insect growth. For example the large orb weaver night spiders and the large Garden Spider that weaves a large orb web normally are in their final molt and quite large by this time.
A friend that has tracked the Garden Spiders growth for 20 years in my area says that this is the first time that they have not found one in the final stage of molt this late in the summer. Is this due to a late spring freeze or lack of flying food in summer?

Many insects have evolved to "swarm" all across a region at the same time to provide so much food to predators that some of the insects will survive!
Fire Ants and termites will swarm after warm spring rains followed by sunshine and warm air temperatures. Two months ago I watched Barn Swallows, Bank Swallows and Chimney Swifts feed on a large swarm of termites coming out of one of the log piles I built to protect rabbits. Flying near the ground a large flock of Dragon Flies were dashing around feeding on the termites while above them the swallows were feeding, then higher up the swifts were getting the termites that the others were missing. On the ground the mockingbirds were picking up the termites as they crawled out of the wood. I have watched Bluebirds and House Sparrows and MANY other ground feeding birds feast on termite swarms before they leave the ground. These "flocks" appeared when the termites emerged and were gone minutes after termite swarming ceased.

Today many areas are treating standing water with strains of BT to kill mosquito type insects in the water before they can "swarm". They control Buffalo knat larva in rivers before they can "swarm." Many areas in the North East still spray for the Gypsy moth with BT (bacterium thurengenisis) sp? This type BT only kills the protozoa in the caterpillars guts but will kill all types of baby moths and butterflies who happen to eat this by starving them to death since the caterpillars actually feed off of the excrement of the protozoa that feed off of what the caterpillars eat! The dreaded Cotton Boll Weevil is just about to become extinct in cotton fields in the USA thanks to BT engineered for this tiny beetle.

New Zealand has released a BT engineered yellow pine (radiata) that kills off tip moths and other species of caterpillar type moths that feed on pine tree limbs, needles or roots protecting these pines from insects.They have BT that will kill pine bark beetle larva. They have released a type of BT that kills termites. They have millions of acres of BT corn that protect this grass species from all types of cutworms, silk worms, root borers and stem borers.

There are more than 360 species of Grasshoppers in Texas. I think there are over 100 species of dragonflies in Texas. If we could not find the Ivory Billed Woodpeckers for more than 40 years how long would it take the average person to miss a few species of insects?

Humans track sales of EVERYTHING we use from pesticides to windshield washer fluid. Ask your friendly neighborhood store how many gallons of windshield washer fluid they sold this year and during the same time period the last couple of years. This should give you a rough indication of trends in flying insect numbers. Do your Wal-Mart stores have more running feet of shelves holding insecticides or bird houses? What is the ratio of pounds of pesticides to pounds of bird seed on the shelves?

Humans will soon have the capability to exterminate the most damaging insects that feed on the species of plants that produce the food and fiber that we need to continue domination of the earth. KK


From: agriffee [mailto:agriffee"at"adelphia.net]
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2005 2:38 PM
Subject: Tree Swallows

Bad news today , the three Swallows that were alive and well on Sunday afternoon were all dead this AM. Nest was quite high, maybe 6 inches, made from pine needles with feather lining. Maybe Golf crew didn't clean out the box? Don't know. Don't know if Swallows build nest that high all the time or if that had any thing to do with death. Babies were about four to five days old. Parents still flying aroung and checking box. I put up a new box this AM.
Arnold, Kentucky


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 1:13 PM
Subject: dead tree swallows in nestbox

Bluebirding is not all fun, that’s for sure. It’s devastating to open up a box expecting to see eggs or nestlings and instead finding corpses.

I always want to understand what happened to see if I can avoid a repeat. I scoured the Bluebird_L archives and got info from folks on the list earlier this year as to all the possible causes of tree swallows adults or nestlings dying in the nestbox. See http://www.sialis.org/tresdead.htm for a summary.

In some cases, there are apparent explanations like cold rainy weather resulting in starvation. But I’m thinking there is something else, more mysterious going on with tree swallows, because I don’t have these kinds of issues with other native cavity nesters. (But not something like tent caterpillars accumulating cyanide, because TRES get their food on the fly.) I’d be interested in knowing if the same thing happens with violet green swallows or purple martins which have similar habits.

I wonder about West Nile (see http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/wnv_birds.htm The USGS has confirmed West Nile Virus in dead tree swallows. It may be possible to have dead birds (freshly dead [less than 48 hours], eyes not sunken) tested for West Nile. Contact your local Health Department for requirements. Some health departments will only test corvids (crow, grackle, jay, magpie, raven) for West Nile.

As I think Keith posted earlier, don’t handle dead birds with your bare hands – use gloves or a plastic bag, and sanitize your hands after, especially before touching pet birds.

And don’t forget about those SUCCESSFUL fledgings….

Bet from CT

PS I was trying to send Messages in plain text but a friend said they came through weird, all broken up. I’m trying rich text on this one.



From: Lawrence, Miriam [mailto:mlawrence"at"horsesmouth.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 1:32 PM
Subject: RE: dead tree swallows in nestbox

Thanks, Bet.

In our case, West Nile is not a realistic factor to consider. Vermont has had an extremely low incidence of the virus -- only 9 birds tested positive last year statewide. Plus, there's no way that we would lose 20 nestlings across 4 different boxes at the same time as a result of West Nile (clearly the birds all died within a day of each other -- they were all in similar states of decay when I found them). My neighbor lost a clutch too, by the way.

All of the evidence points very clearly to hypothermia and/or starvation brought on by the weather. Three boxes survived -- in one case there were only eggs, which have since hatched successfully, and the other two boxes containted nestlings much younger than the ones that died. As many have pointed out, younger birds need less food, and the mother is still brooding them.

Were this event pesticide related, there should have been no such pattern -- and one would expect the bluebirds would also have suffered in that case.
Also, while there are farms within a few miles that grow corn, they do not engage in any sort of cropdusting or spraying that I've ever seen, and on top of that, the weather was very wet, and I would think that no farmer in his right mind would apply a pesticide in the rain or with rain in the immediate forecast, since it would just wash away.

It is an interesting question, though, and perhaps one that someone will research more thoroughly someday.

Meanwhile, I've got apparent renesting activity in at least one box and still holding out hope for the remaining three.Thanks again!

Miriam Lawrence
Monkton, VT


From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 1:38 PMt
Subject: RE: dead tree swallows in nestbox

I wouldn’t really believe it was West Nile either, unless there were lots of other birds dropping in the area, but did want to provide info on how to get birds tested since some folks mentioned it.
It’s weird how some nestlings die during foul weather and others nearby don’t. Could be a difference in age (Keith posted earlier on how nestlings <6-9 days old are like cold-blooded creatures), parental hunting ability, one parent dying….
Tree swallows tend to nest synchronously with their neighbors, but may try again if nesting fails. I just got a new tree swallow egg yesterday (from a failed nesting) so I think it’s maybe not too late, although I’m further south than you are. There is another potential problem with late nesting though – a friend thinks one year she ended up with abandoned nestlings when the swallows migrated off together.
Bet from CT


From: agriffee [mailto:agriffee"at"adelphia.net]
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 3:17 PM
Subject: re:Tree Swallows dead in nest

Had no bad weather here. Weather had cooled a little Sunday through Tues, about 70 night and low 80's days. The babies were about one , maybe two days old on Sunday afternoon, 19th. Looked very healthy, raised head for food when I opened top. Dead on Tues morning.
Arnold, Kentucky


From: Lynn Emerich [mailto:lemerich"at"epix.net]
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 3:52 PM
Subject: Re: dead tree swallows in nestbox

In my area of SE Pa, unless you have a crow or a jay, they won't even consider testing for the virus. It doesn't matter if you have a bag full of anything else.

Lynn near Bernville, PA



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2005 10:24 AM
Subject: Testing for west nile virus


Yes, some websites I saw said they only accept corvids for testing - e.g., crow, grackle, jay,
magpie, raven

Bet from CT



From: Jeanette Stamm [mailto:jeanettefromks"at"webtv.net]
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2005 9:24 AM
Subject: Re: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

HI Everybody, I thought I would share the awful thing that happened or rather two awful things. I was checking boxes and we had made a number of pvc boxes several years ago that worked fine for the bluebirds.
However, as someone so kindly mentioned in their Message a while back, TRES are climbers, not capable of flying out of a hole, I started worrying about that fact. Well I have now found two separate dead adult female TRES in pvc boxes. It has made me about sick; evidently we did not rough up the inside enough for them to be able to get out. We are thinking we will tke down the pvc boxes. Just thoght you might like to know about our tragedy! Thanks for all the good info.



From: Bruce Burdett [mailto:blueburd"at"verizon.net]
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2005 10:18 AM
Subject: Re: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

Jeannette, et al,
I have never used these PVC boxes because of the the very thing you describe. Wood is a natural substance, and a good wooden house, properly roughed up inside and out, is a lot more like a natural cavity than any section of plastic pipe. There's not much PVC in nature.
This question of dead Tree Swallows in nestboxes comes up all the time. I gather that there are lots of possible
reasons:
1. exhausted birds after migration
2. lack of flying insects in rainy weather (starvation) 3. puny, short, almost vestigial legs and feet 4. lack of clawholds inside box

- and probably other reasons.

The interesting thing is that even with all this mortality there are still droves and droves of Tree Swallows in many areas. Notice how large their egg-clutches are, on average, - 7 to 9 where we are.
Large clutches suggest high average attrition. Hummingbirds, on the other hand usually lay just 2 eggs, and that seems to be plenty to sustain strong populations.

Bruce Burdett, SW NH



From: John Schuster [mailto:wildwingco"at"earthlink.net]
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2005 11:18 AMet
Subject: Re: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

Dear Jeannette, Bruce and Friends,

Not to besmirch those that like to use PVC tubing for cavity nest sites, but I agree with Bruce that there's not much plastic being grown by mother nature. Some plastic products are wonderful (i.e. the Super Gourd a great product for PM colonies), but these plastic products are specially engineered for a specific function, where as PVC pipe is meant for something else entirely.

Wild Wing Company does use 4" PVC tubing as a "Deadfall" component to our Starling Hotel traps (see our web site and scroll down products page to view Starling Hotel.) Note the key word "Deadfall", as the inner walls of the 4" PVC tubing is far to slippery for European Starlings and House Sparrows to claim up and escape the holding cage at the base of the Starling Hotel trap.

Again, I agree with Bruce that the slippery inner walls of PVC piping could be to challenging for birds inside making these PVC cavity nests sites a miniature version of a "Deadfall" similar to the aforementioned. For those that want to continue using PVC for cavity nest sites, the "Deadfall" could be easily eliminated by simply scratching horizontal lines under the entry hole with a box cutting knife (on the inside and outside of the PVC nest tubing), so the birds can enter and exit with little difficulty.

However, wood products are more natural for building nesting boxes, and if you use 3/4" or 1" thick planking, wood is a better insulator during winter months and breaths during the summer months (unlike plastics) making wood a better and safer investment for the preservation of our native cavity nesters.

...

John Schuster


From: RBALTRUNAS"at"cs.com [mailto:RBALTRUNAS"at"cs.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2005 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

Hi

I have two experimental PVC boxes (6"diameter). I put little ladders inside: one inch by four inches with cuts running like ladder steps. No nesters yet but I think anything inside can just climb out.

Ron
Brooksville, FL



From: Bet Zimmerman [mailto:ezdz"at"charter.net]
Sent: Monday, June 27, 2005 11:26 AM
Subject: RE: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

So sorry to hear about this Jeanette. Unfortunately it happens all too often, but it's a good argument for monitoring boxes so you can learn this kind of thing. Of course the adults could have died from other causes, but just in case, it makes sense to ensure that it's not a factor. I have read that some folks using "liquid nail" beads of caulk below the entrance hole to create a sort of ladder in PVC boxes.

Bet from CT
http://www.sialis.org/tresdead.htm


From: elizabeth.young"at"spotplus.com [mailto:elizabeth.young"at"spotplus.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 12:04 PM
Subject: RE: BLUEBIRD-L digest 1218

The PVC boxes I bought from Steve Gilbertson have some type of ruffing on the unside under the hole but I have wondered if that would be enough. I like the "liquid nails" idea. A variation could be to "nail" in a small section of hardware clothe (with the sharp ends taken care of, of course). Any thoughts?


Continued at Dead Tree Swallows in the Nestbox, Part 2


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