My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Food that helps the bluebirds during the storm

We have another storm moving up the east coast this weekend and I believe this storm will continue to put pressure on our insect eating migrants. I wanted to check all of the bluebird boxes but decided not to disturb the boxes until after the storm has moves through. I believe it is possible that the substances inside the box could help the surviving swallows stay insulated and I do not want to stress any swallows more than they could possibly be already. I did settle on checking the two boxes back behind the house where the Eastern Bluebirds were showing some interest in nesting. It was only a week ago when these two boxes were completely empty. With a closer inspection it appears the bluebirds have left numerous clues of how they are able to survive the snow storm that we had last week.

Bluebirds at Night

What I found interesting was the fact that the seeds were perfectly shaped without having been chewed up (as how the Purple Finch chew their seeds, see previous post). My guess is that the Eastern Bluebirds were swallowing the seeds/shell whole and since they have a fast digestive system that the seeds are quickly passing through their body. You can see a few shell casings of the Sumac (not sure why they didn’t get digested??) and without knowing for sure, I would guess many of these seeds are that of the Sumac. This is a perfect natural advantage in the Sumac to be spread around by the birds and probably one of the main reasons the birds leave these seeds as a last resort food. Without knowing much about the Sumac fruit, the seeds “could” have coating on it that “could” keep the seeds from being digested when eaten whole. I also will “guess” that when this coating is removed by the stomach of the bird that it helps the seeds germinate into a tree when fallen to the ground (via its droppings). But if the bird (or animal) chews the seeds that the coating will then be broken and the meat of the seed can be digested. Another option is that the seeds “could” give the birds the runs and then everything it eats will then runs through its body?? Your guess is as good as mine on why all these seeds were here and not digested. If anyone knows for “sure” please leave a comment!!

Bluebirds at Night

Besides the sumac seeds that I found; there were two insect casings and another unidentified seed in the scat of this bird (supporting that the seeds give the birds the runs). Obviously, it is only my SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) that this scat is really from the Eastern Bluebird and these seeds are that from the Sumac. Finding things can always get you asking more questions than answers!! But, checking the box was a wonderful way to learned more about the Eastern Bluebird’s spring feeding behaviors and it should be interesting in what I might find in all the other boxes I monitor.

13 responses

  1. You go Mon@rch, study that bird poop. Woohoo! You really know how to have fun. 🙂

    13 April 2007 at 11:00 pm

  2. Or maybe right now I have nothing better to blog than bird poop!! LOL Thanks Barb!

    13 April 2007 at 11:57 pm

  3. This man knows how to party.

    14 April 2007 at 1:03 am

  4. Well, I know for a fact that tea made from boiling the seeds/fruit of Staghorn Sumac is a natural laxative… so my guess is that you’re probably right with the “runs” theory! 🙂

    14 April 2007 at 10:34 am

  5. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that some seeds could give birds the runs. I look at coyote and bobcat scat quite often, but I’ve never checked bird-droppings for clues to their diets. Very interesting. A whole new world of poo to discover. SWAG is my new favorite acronym.

    14 April 2007 at 11:06 am

  6. Grace

    Well, I know for sure that bluebirds eat sumac. I’ve seen them do it. Their beaks might not be strong enough to break the seeds open, but the gravel in their gizzard should take care of that. You may have the right theory about the runs. Stuff goes through too fast for the gizzard to do its job.

    14 April 2007 at 6:42 pm

  7. Well now I know where to get the scoop on poop! This post reminds me of that hideously expensive coffee that comes from beans that have been eaten by some kind of South American cat and then pooped. Apparently having been eaten and then pooped give the coffee that “something special”.

    14 April 2007 at 7:04 pm

  8. @ Susan – You know it!
    @ Luis – Never had Sumac Tea, thats for the info!
    @ Robin – Scat is all good from all animals! SWAG method is used by me from time to time!
    @ Grace – Thanks for the info! They are always fun to watch!
    @ Lynne – I am the hotline for the poop scoop! I remember the bean blog posting!

    14 April 2007 at 8:46 pm

  9. Rick

    you make me laugh with your post

    14 April 2007 at 9:09 pm

  10. Interesting Monarch-You are likethe Columbo birder .-Do you ever look for owl pellets?

    14 April 2007 at 11:08 pm

  11. You are the hotline for the poop scoop? Too funny, Mon@rch. We all learned something, though :o) Thank you.

    14 April 2007 at 11:18 pm

  12. Man, you spent more time analyzing that poop than I spend … well, on pretty much anything. LOL – but it sounds like a sound analysis. From what I read quickly, birds are the primary vector of distribution of sumac seeds, so my guess is that they get something out of it, however little that may be.

    16 April 2007 at 7:34 pm

  13. @ Rick – thanks
    @ Larry – I have found some before and but the purchased pellets are more fun to take apart.
    @ Mary – always trying to entertain everyone! I almost took some pictures of hairy coyotee scat I saw on Saturday!
    @ Marty – LOL – Nothing like having a post talking about the birds with the runs!

    16 April 2007 at 9:18 pm

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