Posted by: Sandy Morrissey | May 27, 2014

Home invasion turns deadly

Nestlings are under dead male bluebird. They were healthy and well-fed.

Nestlings are under dead male bluebird. They were healthy and well-fed.

Monitor Clare Gorman and I opened a nestbox on Bonnie Briar Country Club today to band nestlings. We were  sadden to see a dead male bluebird in the nestbox. Fortunately, the nestlings seemed healthy and well fed, despite sharing the nestbox with what we assumed was their dead Dad (who had begun to stink). After removing the dead bluebird, we proceeded with the banding. We decided not to stress the female by capturing her, as we assumed she was now the sole provider for the family.

As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed that another male showed up.

So!  The nestlings had two parents after all.

I was going to have the dead bluebird tested at Cornell to determine if it died of pesticide poisoning, since it was living on a golf course. Now, we determined that the dead bird was most likely killed by the other male.

The big unanswered question: was the dead male killed by an invading new male seeking the territory, or did the original male kill an invading new male? We will never know unless we do DNA testing. Not sure that’s in the budget.

All the adults involved had been banded. We proceeded to recapture the female, and she had raised a family on Bonnie Briar in a different box the previous year. The dead male bluebird had been a nestling last year at Bonnie Briar, but from a different box than the female (thank heavens – no incest). We did not capture the living male, but he was banded. Perhaps we will get him if they have another brood. It will be most interesting to see his history.

In all my years on the bluebird trail, I’ve never seen this happen. Turns out our gentle bluebirds of happiness can have a mean streak.





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