Western Bluebirds are dependent on the open grasslands and oak savannas found in the South Puget Sound. Their beautiful plumage attracts attention, with the males sporting a blue and rust coloring, much brighter than the gray-brown, blue-tinged females. Bluebirds are social and usually feed in flocks during the non-breeding season. Western Bluebirds feed primarily from perches, dropping to the ground to feed on grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, bugs, and spiders. Insects make up about 80 percent of their diet; the rest is fruit, which is consumed from late summer to early spring. In a good year, the parents can rear two broods, with four to six eggs per clutch. The eggs are pale and smooth, usually pale blue to bluish white. The nestlings stay in the nest about 19 to 22 days before fledging. As their habitat has dwindled, so too have their numbers. Though not listed as an endangered species, the Western Bluebird is an uncommon bird in Puget Sound, due to habitat loss and nesting competition by other native species such as Tree Swallows and House Wrens, as well as introduced European Starlings and House Sparrows. Anne Schuster, our Americorps prairie management staff and observer, has seen a number of Swallows so far, but no Bluebirds. We are hopeful that our Western Bluebirds will come back to us next year and provide a look at their beauty and way of life.
It looks as though we've got a pair of Tree Swallows setting up a nest again this year. They've really kept us guessing—but by now there's no doubt of it. Often at this time of year, Tree Swallows can still be seen squabbling over who is going to occupy which accommodation! Tree Swallows also occupied the Bluebird nest box last year.
Even though the Tree Swallows will raise a family in the box this year, the cam will still be well worth watching. Tree Swallows are beautiful, fascinating birds. This species is well-known for its aerial acrobatics as it snatches tiny insects out of the air, and its beautiful feather pattern as well. Tree Swallows have iridescent blue-green upper bodies with snow-white underparts and a slightly forked tail. When you see the birds through the camera, the sun will shine down on them and you will be able to enjoy their beauty. As they grow, the young can be quite endearing to watch as they struggle to poke their heads out of the box hole to be the first in line when Mom or Dad brings back dinner.
There are a number of websites demonstrating that if boxes are built 15' to 30' within each other or on the same pole, Bluebirds and Tree Swallows will often share the "neighborhood". Here's a link that will give you an example, and a Tree Swallow information site link. There are many sites online that will explain how to build boxes allowing both species plenty of room to raise their broods.