Male Mountain Bluebird Feeding A Hungry Fledgling

In the bird world fledglings of most species always seem to be starving, frantic, vocal and impatient. This young bluebird was no exception.

Five days ago in the mountains of Summit County I watched as an entire family of Mountain Bluebirds hopscotched down the gravel road in front of my pickup. The adults were harvesting insects from the road and their youngsters were tagging along in hopes of being fed. Occasionally several of the birds landed on bushes along the edge of the road and I made multiple attempts at getting close enough to them for decent photographs but without any luck, at least at first.

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Finally the adult male allowed me a fairly close approach but as with all of these images he was side-lit. In the photo of him I liked best he was looking slightly away but that did put good light on his face. A few seconds later he joined the rest of his family on the road in front of me and searched for  more “bugs”.

 

 

1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Soon one of the fledglings landed on a dead twig and also let me get close enough. I believe this bird already knew its male parent had an insect and this was the young bird’s way of making itself conspicuous to the adult as a deserving recipient of a tasty treat. Apparently it worked because…

 

 

1/3200, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

just a few seconds later it started to beg enthusiastically with typical and frantic wing-fluttering. Naturally it turned away from me when it did so but… well, you still get the picture. Apparently the youngster could now see an adult coming in with food.

 

 

1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The snack turned out to be a cricket and the fledgling acted ravenous.

 

 

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The adult male almost shoved the cricket down the throat of the youngster and then beat a quick retreat…

 

 

1/4000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

to a twig directly below the young bluebird. His posture suggests he was crouched in anticipation of takeoff but he wasn’t – I have multiple photos of him in this pose. It’s almost as if he’s “ducking” in an effort to put more distance between him and his obnoxious youngster. If so I really don’t blame him… 🙂

A couple of these photos aren’t quite as sharp as I prefer but I think they’re acceptable and I did want to tell the story. Mountain Bluebirds are a species I don’t have much luck with here in Utah (I’ve had more success with them in Montana) and their spectacular “blueness” has strong appeal for me.

Throw some interesting behavior into the mix and I couldn’t resist posting these images.

Ron

 

 

 

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54 comments to Male Mountain Bluebird Feeding A Hungry Fledgling

  • Jane Chesebrough

    Never seen the fledbes being fed, just the parents flying back and forth feeding the youngsters in tne birdhouse. This one definitely has that “feed me, feed me ” look. No wonder the parents will soon have the bedraggled look.

  • Chris Sanborn

    I absolutely love these images of parent and fledgling Mountain Bluebirds. I’m late to this party (again), but I have to say, I love blue in most all its forms (water, sky, flowers…and yes, my car is blue). But there is nothing to compare with a blue bird! A pair of Western Bluebirds visited my backyard 3 times this spring and I was thrilled beyond words. But generally, I have to be satisfied (and I am) with the family of Western Scrub Jays that visit daily for peanuts. Thanks for finding and sharing this gorgeous family with us.

  • Nicole

    Beautiful!!!

  • Susan Stone

    Yuck! Crickets?!? I’m so glad I’m not that youngster. Kind of like Patty and voles. The series is beautiful, and I’m always happy to see Mountain Bluebirds because they are a bird I don’t ever see. I do remember enjoying Eastern Bluebirds, putting out a nest box for them, and getting dive-bombed by one that was protecting its nest.

    • You and I agree about the culinary delights of crickets, Susan. As long as I could clean, skin and gut it I’d much rather crunch down on a crispy fried vole (that reminds me of a scene in Never Cry Wolf).

      • Laura Culley

        LOL…y’all aren’t looking at the cricket from the birds’/hawks’ point of view, are you? LOL!

  • Love this series. And that incredible blue. In clothing or decoration blue is NOT my favoured colour. In the natural world it is right up there. The noisy insistence of fledgling seems to be a global phenomena. As I have mentioned before, some years back a young galah was whinging. And whinging. And whinging. Until an adult bird rapped it firmly on the head. Blessed silence ensued. And inside the house we silently cheered.

    • I remember you mentioning that young galah, EC. Reminds me of the annoyance of fledgling magpies in the tree next to my house. That was a very long, and loud, spring!

      • Laura Culley

        Love that story EC! And kids just need to be thwapped upside the head every now and again 🙂 Sometimes I think parents only keep the kids alive because the kids weaponize that cute thing. But when they wander into obnoxious, a thwap is in order…LOL!

  • Laura Culley

    Oh what sheer beauty! Like you, I like reds paired with Earth colors(beyond my ubiquitous blue jeans in colder months) , but you just gotta appreciate and celebrate blue with mountain bluebirds and blue jays! I mean, seriously, how much prettier can you get? Birds decorate our lives and fascinate us with their visual beauty, their songs, their diversity and intensity and their outrageous ability to fly (among other things). What a delight…and I always love watching them parent their kids.

  • Jean Haley

    They are real beauties. I think your pictures are great!

  • Alice Beckcom

    I opened your blog and the photo of that beautiful Mountain Blue Bird almost took my breath away. The colors are spectacular and I don’t mind the side-lit pose as it shows off the tail feathers and the beautiful chest.

    The fledgling sure was making its presence known. If the fledglings keep their ‘begging’ going on incessantly, I certainly sympathize with the parents.

    Thank you for the beautiful and interesting photos, Ron.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Great Sunday morning post! What beautiful birds! I get a kick out of fledglings. They are all over the place now as I take walks through the woods… but alas no mountain bluebirds here. So it is excellent that you could capture these moments so well and share with us.

  • Nancy Blake

    Gorgeous photos! I continue to be impressed and inspired by your work. The young fledglings around here (Massachusetts) are acting the same way – crazy frantic to be fed. My favorite is a Blue Jay who begs at the peanut feeder but has yet to figure out that he can help himself.

    • Thanks, Nancy. I think many young birds go through a stage where they won’t take any food on their own without having it stuffed down their throats by a parent.

  • Barby Anderson

    How lovely Ron, thank you! I have never seen a bluebird before in person. They are so beautiful!

  • Marty K

    Bright, beautiful birds on a grey June gloom morning. Doesn’t get much better than this! 😀 I love the way the lighter edges provide an outline of each feather in the fledgling. So pretty!

  • Dick Harlow

    I agree with Frank, made me smile! However, that male, if he isn’t going to move is in a precarious position relative to the rear of the youngster! VBG!

  • Exquisite! Makes that cricket look awfully good! 🙂

  • Patty Chadwick

    I love blue…blue water, blue sky, blue flowers–Morning Glories, Blue Flax, Asters, Salvia, Chickory…to name a few…and, of course, Blue Birds…these are a real treat…I remember the first time I saw Mountain Blue Birds…I was on Indian land and saw a whole bush full of them…their colors so intense and beautiful it made me catch my breath….

    • Patty, My reactions to blue are… illogical.

      I typically avoid that color in my home and surroundings (for example I’ve made it a point to NEVER have any blue in a vehicle for my entire adult life and I’ve owned a ridiculous number of pickup trucks). Give me red (my favorite color) any ol’ day.

      But blue in a natural body of water, a flower or especially a bird just sucks me in, in a good way. Go figure…

      • Patty Chadwick

        I have a problem/reaction with a several colors…pea green, pink, certain yellows and oranges…and dull purples (love vibrant ones)…husband was in Air Force, feels same way as you about blue..less bothered by it now……

  • I found your first image fascinating in that it showed the mature coloration “creeping up” the back of the young bird; I guess I’ve always imagined it coming into an animal’s coat sort of like
    gray hair onto a human’s head ( either spread out evenly or in patches )…..have you noticed other birds gaining their adult feathers in a growth pattern like this one ?

    • Kris, Not sure I’ve noticed that pattern in other species but perhaps that’s just because those bright blues are so obvious in maturing bluebirds.

  • CaJ

    Beautiful! Once again… “Thank You!” for sharing with us ALL.

  • frank sheets

    Made me smile this AM. Thank you.

  • Charlotte Norton

    An amazing series of behavioral shots Ron! Thanks for 6!

    Charlotte

  • Judy Gusick

    Cute! Yes, obnoxious fledglings are everywhere right now and Robins are on second setting. 🙂 The “blue” really is attractive. Of course, the bull snakes are coming in for the 2nd round of Robins. One startled me yesterday – at least it wasn’t a “buzz tail”….

    • Bull (Gopher) Snakes can really get your attention – especially the big ones because both their markings and their behaviors can mimic those of rattlers. Where I often shoot I see them much too often as road kill which I think is very sad.

      • Judy Gusick

        This was about 4′ and saw it head clearing so I caught it and flung it across the creek – I know – it will be back! 🙂 Don’t appreciate them raiding Robin and other birds nests tho……………….:)

        • Judy, You might be interested in one of the segments in this PBS documentary about Snake Island in China. Perhaps it’s just a bit too much for some who love birds but I was absolutely fascinated by it.

          The portion on Snake Island begins at about 15:05 in the timeline (you’ll have to sit through a commercial first though…).

          http://www.pbs.org/video/3001578267/

          • Bill Lindner

            I saw the PBS documentary on Snake Island and am still wondering how those snakes can survive on only two feeding periods a year during the Spring and Fall migrations. IIRC the commentator said that the island did not have any other food for them.

          • I remember that, Bill. And it doesn’t make sense to me that there’s no other food for them on an island like that…

          • Dick Harlow

            Many thanks for this PBS video. Excellent video!
            One can only imagine the violence that existed on this planet before man.

          • Judy Gusick

            I’ve seen it previously and it is good even if not a favorite topic for me! 🙂