Interesting Western Bluebird Facts
1. Did you know that western bluebirds are capable of extra pair copulations? This is true despite the fact that they are monogamous birds. After laying eggs, the male may sometimes visit other nests and mate with another female or the female that just laid eggs may mate with a male intruder especially an older one.
2. Tight mate guarding though has helped reduce the occurrence of extra pair copulation. This happens when a pair develops a close bond and the male will usually follow his mate when she leaves the nest. Females are known to be receptive to mating even before egg laying. A pair is also said to be closer when there’s more vegetation around the nest. The male wants to keep the female in view most of the time.
3. Western bluebirds are responsible parents. Both share in duties of feeding their offspring even after fledging.
4. Males have been observed to perform unusual displays distinct only during the extra pair copulatory interactions when they are about one meter from the female. The display involves the rapid shivering or flipping of wings while tilting forward. They also make a “mew” call similar to the sound of kittens. This extra pair mating display is somewhat the same as the action of adult females when begging. The only difference is that begging females sit in an upright position and emit a high “chittering” sound.
5. When a female western bluebird approves of a male suitor, she inspects the nest and if it’s okay with her, she starts to add more materials like soft and dry grasses. Their nest is normally a deep cup.
6. A Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project has helped save the western bluebirds. The project that began in the 1970s was the brainchild of Hubert Prescott who built the first nest boxes for the bluebirds. The project aims to provide nests, preserve habitats of bluebirds and control predators. The birds are banded and monitored by volunteers.
7. As of 2006, the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project noted positive developments. Western bluebirds laid 3,400 eggs with 76 percent of them (2,577) able to hatch and 58 percent (1,958) nestlings successfully fledged.
8. Researchers from The Birdhouse Network (TBN) have listed the western bluebird as one of the Top 10 cavity-nesting birds. TBN is a citizen-science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
9. Western bluebirds, notably the females, are also known as helpers because they raise the young of other birds. Genetic studies have shown that 45 percent of their nests accommodated young birds that were not the offspring of their male mate. This trait is also reciprocated to them by other birds belonging to a different species.