How Long do Bluebirds Live? Wild vs. Captivity!
Averages & Records

Wondering how long do bluebirds live? You'll be surprised to know that they have a concise life. Read to learn more about it!

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Iñigo Navarro

September 15, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

The bluebird is a visual and auditory delight. Because of their pleasant demeanor, beautiful voice, and attractiveness, many bird enthusiasts appreciate their companionship. The best part about them is that they are easily identifiable. The color and the voice are so distinct that you will undoubtedly be able to spot one resting on a perch nearby.

The blue color does help it stand out, but you will be wondering why you still cannot catch these birds. Is it because they hide well, or because they can’t survive long enough to hover around in the world? You will be fascinated to know that the latter is actually true!

As per the record, the most extended lifespan of a bluebird is 10 years. This, however, is a rarity, as most bluebirds tend to die within the first year of their birth. This is courtesy of climate, predation, and diseases. This naturally shows that a bluebird will be able to survive better in captivity than in the wild.

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What Is Bluebird’s Longest Life Record?

Bluebirds have a lifespan of six to ten years. A maximum of a 10-year-and-five-month lifetime has been documented for an eastern bluebird. The oldest mountain Bluebird ever lived to be is nine years old, whereas the longest a Western Bluebird has survived is 8 years and 8 months.

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It is vital to consider that these are the longest life records and not averages. Each bluebird may not be able to survive for 10 years. In fact, it is quite the opposite. These magnificent bluebirds tend to stay for much less.

How Long Do Bluebirds Live on Average?

70% of all bluebirds would most probably die before they turn one year old.

As you may already know, the oldest known wild bluebird survived for a total of ten years and five months. However, because most deaths occur in the first year of life, average lifespans are significantly shorter. Multiple variables impact how long the bird will survive, but 70% die very early on.

DID YOU KNOW?

The annual survival rate of young bluebirds is presumably about 50%.

Birds that have newly fledged are more susceptible since their survival capabilities are less developed than those of more experienced adults.

Only 50% of any brood would remain at the end of the first year; 25% would live after two years, and just around 3% of the original flock would remain at the end of the fifth year.

Why Do Bluebirds Die?

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The lifespan of each bird is determined by a variety of variables. Food supply, good water access, and housing can all have an impact on their health. They may succumb to adverse weather, accidents, sickness, or predation before reaching their maximum life span.

Housing

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This is one of the primary causes why bluebirds had disappeared in the last several decades. Lack of housing and proper refuge contributed to the almost extinction of these gorgeous birds.

There are two primary explanations offered to explain the reduction of homes available.

  • Habitat Degradation: Much of the range of the eastern bluebird has been converted to agriculture or business property, drastically decreasing shelter options.
  • Competition: House sparrows and European starlings fight for food and breeding places with eastern bluebirds. Both these competitors are fierce, violent, and invasive. The more subtle bluebirds are certainly not a match.

Food Supply

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A bluebird’s diet mainly consists of insects. This is why they choose homes in open spaces overlooking vast fields. It allows them to spot insects quickly and feed themselves and their brood. Naturally, when bluebirds cannot find places to build a nest, they do not have access to food.

Food supply is so important to these birds that they only migrate when there aren’t adequate resources. If the territory they seek abode in has abundant food to last them through the winter, they do not fly away.

Climate

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Unfortunately, lack of housing leads to a plethora of difficulties that the birds have to face. In addition to the shortage of food supplies, they also become susceptible to extreme weather. Finding a good breeding territory is so important that they risk their health in exchange for a prime spot.

USEFUL TIP

Do not take down nesting houses during winter, as bluebirds tend to seek refuge in them.

The bluebirds are aware that they have too much competition within their own species and other birds for nesting sites. Their logic for sticking around through harsh climates is that there is no guarantee of a home if they migrate and return for breeding. So it is better that they try to survive through the cold weather.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bluebirds were amongst the few species that completely disappeared after 1977 severe winters.

They often survive by huddling up together inside a nesting box. While this provides them temporary warmth, it often leads to other problems. One or more dead bluebirds have been discovered in nest boxes, especially after long durations of severely cooler temperatures. Researchers claim that they may have suffocated.

USEFUL TIP

If suffocation is a problem, drainage openings in the edges of the box bottom might give additional access to fresh air.

Bluebirds consume fruits and plants such as berries, honeysuckle, dogwood, red cedar, and wild grapes during winters when insects are scarce. Even though they generally prefer flowing water rather than standing, they will eat snow during winters as an alternative.

DID YOU KNOW?

During the winter of 1960-61, 44% of bluebirds in one region died.

Predation

One of the reasons why bluebirds die as juveniles is because of widespread predation. Several predators feed on bluebirds, notably cats, snakes, raccoons, squirrels, and larger birds.

Cats are harmful at any time of year, but they are most destructive during the breeding season, when they may kill parents in the box and harm complete broods of chicks.

The House Sparrow is a prevalent and aggravating pest. Bluebird eggs have been reported to be pierced and forcibly removed from the nest by House Sparrows.

They’ll even build their nest on top of the birds they’ve slaughtered. They will battle the adult bluebirds in many situations, putting them under so much stress that they often opt to fly.

Male bluebirds emit a song-like warning call when they are chased by a predator. If there isn’t a male around, a female will start singing in the hopes of luring a protective male back to the area. When attackers are close by, both males and females will flap their wings and screech.

Even if the house sparrows don’t kill the birds, they will not be able to develop without their parents. In situations that the eggs have already hatched, they are still incapable of surviving without parental supervision. They cannot fly, feed or fight, resulting in numerous deaths within months of their birth.

PRO-TIP

If a bluebird had evident injuries, particularly on its forehead, it might have been attacked by a House Sparrow or European Starling attempting to take over the nest. Most of the time, though, these competitors chuck the birds out after killing them.

Diseases

Diseases among bluebirds mainly spread in winters because they hurdle up to generate warmth instead of migrating. This results in overcrowding and suffocation that may lead to infections.

They also use nesting material leftover from prior seasons, which may also be carrying diseases and can infect the birds.

Most of the causes of death for bluebirds arise because they give priority to shelter first. However, considering the competition and land degradation, you cannot blame the birds either. This is why it is crucial to construct nest boxes all around their regions. This will eventually provide them comfort that housing is available, and they can finally prioritize their health.

Parents Abandon the Young

During the mating season, both sexes of Bluebirds have distinct responsibilities, and losing one pair at regular intervals may result in nest desertion. Other causes include the egg’s failure to hatch, being exposed to too much heat, or a predator attacking the nest or babies.

In all of the scenarios above, either the egg becomes unviable, or the single parent cannot care for them on their own. As a result, the parents depart their nest and begin the breeding process over. In addition, Bluebirds have been known to construct nests on top of old eggs that are no longer viable.

Co-dependence In Parental Duties

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One of the reasons why bluebirds have a low survival rate is their dependence on both parents. Therefore, even if one of the parents dies, there is a significant risk that the entire brood will be abandoned.

The time is crucial if one of the parents goes missing. During different phases of breeding, both parents have distinct responsibilities to perform. Consider the following situations:

  • Assume that the male goes missing during the incubation phase. At that time, the female needs a mate to feed and guard the family. In the absence of the father, the female may be forced to fulfill multiple roles.
  • Assume that the female goes missing during the incubation phase, and since the male bluebird is incompetent of nurturing the eggs, the brood may be abandoned.
  • If one of the spouses dies and the other finds a new companion, the new pair will most likely wish to start over and will discard the old clutch of eggs.

There are few instances in which a single parent’s absence is unimportant. This, too, is contingent on timing. If the female goes missing after the fledging have grown up, they may live if the father continues to feed them.

Bluebirds Kill Each Other

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Apart from climate, housing, diseases, bluebirds themselves can also be why their life averages are poor. There are situations where the parents may kill the child, or the adults may fight, resulting in injuries or death.

The bluebird will murder its young as a kind of defense rather than hostility. If the egg becomes contaminated or infertile, the parents will have no choice except to abort the child. They don’t want freshly born fledglings to trample on the egg or become affected by germs from the rotting egg.

In some instances, parents are forced to attack their children. During the breeding season, these usually peaceful birds might become hostile towards their young. This is because children frequently return to their parents when they are caring for their new brood.

Although bluebirds appear to be calm, they are highly protective of their mates, territory, and young. Bluebirds, as previously noted, may attack their own species in specific conditions. Males, on the other hand, fight males, while females fight females.

Bluebirds can become hostile in certain conditions, such as:

  1. When the male catches the gaze of a female wander, they are then more likely to defend their spouses from fooling around. However, in the process, the likelihood is high that one of the male bluebirds might get injured and die in the battle.

  2. During the nesting season, females might become hostile. This is because many birds end up depositing their eggs into their nests.

Wild vs. Captivity

Bluebirds can live for 6 years in the wild and may survive up to ten years in captivity.

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The reasons why bluebirds fail to survive are enough to realize that bluebirds will have a better chance at living if kept in captivity.

It is known that they use nest boxes for breeding and saving themselves from the climate. This naturally means that they are birds that will allow confinement and be comfortable in a man-made abode.

Apart from their comfort, captivity will rescue them from wild hazards like animals and climate. They will also not have to look for food supply. However, depending upon the owner, they will have to keep a continuous check and clean the house, saving the birds from potential infections and diseases.

A captive bird will also not be able to abandon the brood. If the male somehow goes missing or dies, the female will still continue nurturing its family. This is because it is the male that protects and provides food. Both of these duties can be taken care of by the owner.

How To Save Bluebirds?

Bluebird species declined by as much as 90% in specific locations due to competition and lack of refuge.

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The recent rise in population has been promising as bluebirds gained protection over their entire territory. First, however, we must provide shelter to these magnificent creatures and contribute to conserving them.

The installation of nest boxes in suitable bluebird nesting habitats has shown to be the most successful strategy taken to conserve eastern bluebirds. These boxes are simple to construct and maintain, and they have shown to be highly beneficial in locations where they have been installed.

While bluebird boxes are simple to set up and maybe placed practically in any place, some caution should be exercised while selecting a location. For example, a Bluebird nesting house should preferably be placed in an expansive, grassy meadow with trees not too far away.

PRO-TIP

Place your nesting boxes at least 150 feet apart to avoid conflict between bluebird couples.

Protection From Predators

In addition to constructing nest boxes, you will also have to ensure that the bluebirds are safe from predators. There are a few measures that you can take:

  • The entry hole should not be big enough to fit larger birds like sparrows.
  • The nest house should be the minimum size required by bluebirds. Smaller spaces seem less appealing to sparrows.
  • Because house sparrows gather around homes and barns, you may increase the odds of your bluebirds safely breeding by placing your nesting box at least 100 feet away from the nearest man-made building.
  • Housecats and hawks are the primary predators of adult Bluebirds. Make sure your yard has many stubby little trees and bushes for the bluebirds to hide in if they get too close.
  • Keep the area surrounding your birdbath and dwellings from becoming too overgrown. Cats will reap the benefits of the shelter and wait for birds to come by.

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Keep Reading!

The bluebird population has recently increased again due to conservation societies setting up houses around their native land. Given access to proper food, housing, and shelter from climate, bluebirds can survive 6 to 10 years.

Since the provision of these facilities and protection from predators is more accessible in captivity, their survival rate tends to be more. You can, however, play your role in aiding these birds to live easily in the wild as well. For example, place nest boxes, set up feeders, build birdbaths and keep a lookout for predators.

If you’re curious about bluebirds in particular, here’s an interesting post to explore detailing what do baby bluebirds eat and how to take care of them.

What Do Baby Bluebirds Eat? How to Take Care of Baby Bluebirds

Bluebirds are exotic little creatures that require care and attention. To know exciting facts about baby bluebirds, read below.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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