I'm so thrilled to have 3 active Black-capped Chickadee nests in my yard. Each of those nestboxes has 7 eggs in them, for a total of 21 eggs!
While I love having 21 future chickadees in my boxes, and would LOVE to brag about them here, and on Facebook and Twitter, I'm always cautious because there are many things that could happen to those 21 chickadees before they leave the box (not to mention the dangers AFTER they fledge! But that's another post.) A few of those things are out of my control, but many are within my control.
I know there are some specific actions I can choose to do that will increase the likelihood that the nestboxes in my yard will successfully fledge their young. And I think I've done most if not all the things that I can. Here's what I've done:
- My nestboxes are mounted on poles placed outside the jumping distance of squirrels and protected with squirrel baffles.
- My nestboxes have port hole protectors so the holes can't be chewed or pecked larger and allow larger birds or predators inside.
- All nestboxes are in areas with little human disturbance. There are trees and shrubs nearby to provide shelter if needed.
- My nestboxes have drainage holes as well as ventilation slots to help keep the in-house environment safe for mom and babies.
- I provided an easy source of safe nesting material to help parent birds conserve energy during nest construction.
- I don't use chemicals on my yard or in my gardens.
- My cat is kept indoors.
- I provide a wide range of fresh, quality birdfood, especially those high in protein and fat, to help parent birds easily supplement their nutritional needs. I also maintain 4 birdbaths for an easy source of water to drink and bathe in.
- I will add live mealworms to my food offerings once the eggs have hatched, providing an easy source of supplemental protein for parent birds to feed the young nestlings.
- When conducting nestbox checks for NestWatch, I check in the middle of the day, I avoid attracting predators, and I make my visits quick.
But things can happen that are out of my control that could make one or more of these nests fail:
- A parent bird could die, from predation, injury, or from natural causes.
- Loss of the mother bird during incubation or in the first week or so after hatching could prove fatal to the eggs/nestlings since only the female will incubate and brood the naked nestlings.
- Loss of the father would force the mother to spend more time off the nest which would endanger the eggs/nestlings.
- A loss of either parent during the nestling stage could put the young birds at risk of starvation if the surviving parent can't provide enough food.
- One or more eggs could just not be viable, for whatever reason.
- Weather could turn cold and/or wet, which could make it difficult to keep the eggs or nestlings warm and dry. It might also reduce the availability of insects to feed the young.
- Insects could infest the nestbox.
- Weather could turn extremely hot, making it difficult for mom chickadee to keep eggs or nestlings at the proper temperature.
So while I'm very excited at the thought of seeing 21 chickadees fledge, I'll keep my expectations in check. I've done all the things I can do to ensure success, but it is a tough world out there and even my best laid plans could be set off course by bad weather or a skilled hawk. But I will keep you posted!