Juvenile Bluebird Helper

Later still in the morning, the Eastern Bluebird pair were making frequent trips to the nest box. They each came and went quickly, not staying long inside, and in between visits perched in nearby branches with bill parted – looking the part of harried parents with demanding kids.

Meanwhile, a young bluebird – heavily streaked, but with blue in the wings and some blue in the tail – came to a low branch of a water oak in the yard, and from there I watched as it flew to the top of the nest box and sat there, staying as one of the parents flew in and came back out – and then I was amazed to see the juvenile bluebird fly into the nest box itself. It stayed inside while the parents made two or three more trips in and out.

A few minutes later, it was out again, perching in nearby branches, then it flew again to the top of the nest box – and back into the box again.

At first I wondered if this was one of the young birds fledging – but it did not look like a newly-fledged bird. So I think this was a young bluebird from earlier in the season that was helping to care for the nestlings in this later brood. Eastern Bluebirds here often raise two or three broods in a season – and this one seems especially late to me. In doing a little research, I found several mentions of juvenile bluebirds like this one, staying with parents later in the season and helping to feed later broods.

This seems even more likely today – because the parents are still going in and out of the nest box, so the young have not yet fledged. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to watch for the juvenile helper today and learn more about it.

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