Bluebirds steal chickadee nest

Gilbertson PVC Nest box

Those of us who love bluebirds tend to think of them as loving, noble creatures spreading joy to the whole world.  While this may be mostly true, they are not above a bit of bullying and theft now and again.   The nest box above was the site of one such incident.    This is a Gilbertson PVC nest box.    I’ve added a stiff rubber flap to the underside of the roof and some corrugated plastic to the top of the roof to provide a bit more protection and shade.     The birds don’t seem to mind.    All of my boxes have Kingston Stovepipe predator guards.    The box is in an opening in a cedar glade near my house.    For what ever reason this seems to be a preferred nesting site.

Chickadee nest 4-6-11

I am certain that a black-capped chickadee built this nest.     It started with moss then some fur and other fibers were added.   I witnessed the chickadee coming in and out of the box.    At this point I was waiting for chickadee eggs.

Bluebird eggs 4-12-11

These are obviously not chickadee eggs.    It looks as if the bluebirds kicked the chickadees out, perhaps added a bit of course grass to the nest and started laying.

About this time, a chickadee nest started in the nest box in the next clearing over.    I will try to put up a separate post on that nest.

5 bluebird eggs. April 19th, 2011

By April 19th there was a full set of 5 eggs.

Bluebird Hatchlings 4-28-11

The bluebirds started hatching April 28th.

This box is along my driveway and I made an effort to get pictures almost every day to track their growth.

April 29th, 2011

May 1st, 2011

May 4th, 2011

May 5th, 2011

May 6th, 2011

For the first week or so after hatching the birds would open their mouths expecting food when I would monitor the nest.    After about a week they seemed to know that I was not one of their parents and would remain very still.

May 9th, 2011

May 10th, 2011

May 11th, 2011

May 12th, 2011

May 14th, 2011

May 15th, 2011

Notice the stray mealworm in the bottom of the image.    I was feeding mealworms at my house which is not far from this box and apparently one managed to avoid these five hungry youngsters.

They will probably fledge in the next few days.    I will update the post.

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6 Responses to Bluebirds steal chickadee nest

  1. Bill Davis says:

    We are now viewing a bluebird couple taking over a fresh chickadee nest. The two fend off the hapless chickadees for hours, staying within several feet of, or on top of or within, the house. We will keep you informed as to whether bluebirds lay eggs. We are amazed but happy since chickadee nest in our yard every year but bluebirds visit but have not nested for 5 or more years. Sorry little chickadees.

  2. Paula says:

    I put up a cedar bluebird nest box and a stovepipe baffle on the pole to keep away predators. I waited and watched for 2 weeks. Then I observed a black-capped chickadee going in and out of my bluebird box. Later that week I looked in the box and saw the beginning of a chickadee nest (green moss in a circular pattern). Days later I looked and saw a larger nest with bits of white fur. After another week, I saw a ‘plug’ of fur on top of the nest cavity. I didn’t disturb the plug to see if there were eggs. Then a few days later I witnessed a male bluebird perched on the nest box roof. I got my binoculars and watched something amazing for approximately 3 hours. In a few minutes, the female bluebird flew inside the nest box hole and came out with something white in her beak and she flew away. The male flew away a few minutes later. Then in about 20 minutes, the female came back with pine straw in her beak and went inside the nest. What was strange and amazing was a chickadee flew out of the nest box!!! I didn’t understand what I witnessed!! I kept watching for another hour and it looked like the male and female blue birds were destroying the chickadee nest! The male would come back and stand on the roof for a long time while the female was in the box. I was so amazed. I had no clue that a bluebird pair would destroy a chickadee nest and then occupy the box after building their own nest!!!! I watched the entire thing with my binoculars. I live in North Florida and according to my Audubon bird books, this pair is an Eastern Bluebird. I will keep watching and later check the box for eggs. I am writing this because I saw your message about bluebirds taking over chickadee nests.

  3. Bill Davis says:

    I glad that I do not have the only home breaker bluebirds. In 2013, chickadees had already laid their eggs which the bluebirds removed along with the entire nest and raised 4 babies. The chickadees fought for days before giving up on their nest.

  4. Johnny and Kay Jones says:

    Today I noticed bluebirds on my nesting box which had a chickadee nest with one baby bird that had hatched. It seems the bluebirds have taken over. As of this afternoon we looked & the baby was ok but since then we noticed the bluebirds were actually going inside the house. I saw the male go in & im wondering if they are trying to kill the baby. Does anyone know if bluebirds do that? It seems so sad since the male or female chickadee can’t seem to get to its baby.

  5. Crystal Foley says:

    This scene is being played out at my house right now. This past week, a pair of Chickadees began building a nest in an abandoned nesting box that I had placed (for decorative purposes) under an arbor three springs ago and this morning a Bluebird pair has begun trying to take over the nest. Thus far, at least 3 hours in, the Chickadees have prevailed though I presume that in they’ll likely lose out in the end. This contest has created quite a stir in the resident bird community. A pair of Eastern Wood PeeWees, who have a nest a few yards away under the lower eaves of my house, are flitting around and watching the to-do with concern, and Goldfinches, Redpolls, a very curious Nuthatch, a migrating Kentucky Warbler, and a Gray Catbird have all flown in to see what the hullabaloo is all about. I was able to video record a couple of minutes of this, though the quality isn’t the best due to it being shot through a window. I’ve always had nesting Bluebirds and would get groups of 9+ adults and juveniles all crowded into one birdbath together but this is the first time that I’ve seen them take any interest in nesting so close to the house – the arbor is only feet away from the house, it covers the main gate, and the drive is just on the other side. Beautiful birds but I feel for the Chickadees.

  6. Angela Cochran says:

    Will the bluebirds try to take over a nest with hatchlings inside? I have never seen bluebirds on my property until the chickadees built a nest in a house that isn’t even typical of a bluebird house. I don’t know what to do. There are babies inside and the chickadees now seem afraid to feed their young, as every time they do, the bluebirds swarm at them?😥

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