Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Blue Tit Nestbox Diary 2010

This is third time we have had Blue Tit family to follow in our nestbox with a camera. Sadly we have seen two families fail in 2008 and in 2007. Throughout this blog, the one aspect of gardenwatching that I’ve been so very keen to share has been that of a successful family in our nestbox. This year, I have been thrilled to finally do this. If you scroll down this post you’ll find a series of links to the postings on our family with both video and photos.


2010 Blue Tit pair with six chicks, day two.
Male (left) has just given caterpillar to female for the chicks.


For 2010 we have had two parent Blue tits that worked very well as a team. Both collected food with the male being an excellent provider of caterpillars. He also discovered and took the live mealworms I provided for rainy days when caterpillars could get washed to the ground. We didn’t get too many rainy days.

It got a bit warm in the nestbox at one point and the six chicks were seen with open mouths trying to cool down and they would try and get as far up and out of the nest cup as they could. They were small then though so that was tricky. On these days the female would stay outside the nestcup.

Parasites are a problem in a nest and our female did a sterling job in keeping the nest and her chicks as clean as Blue tit possible. She was a tad too house proud on many occasions and practically wrecked the nest digging below it as the chicks tumbled out of her way.

It has been fascinating watching this family grow and on the last day we were practically glued to the monitor watching them. Although we had never seen chicks get to this stage before it was pretty obvious by the behaviour of the chicks that day something was about to happen! Only one went late that evening and the rest early the next morning. We only saw the first one fledge but we also saw it hatch too... both captured on video :-)

The table below shows some stats from our families with comparison between the years. Grey bars highlight the the most significant differences. Note how quickly the 2010 female builds her nest. First impressions suggested she wasn’t a first time Mum. After following the whole story I'd say the male wasn't a first time Dad either. That has to help the odds of a brood surviving.




For those not familiar with the size of this tiny bird, the Blue Tit (Parus caeuleus) has a length of 11cm (4½in) and a wingspan of 17-20cm (6½-8in). However, looking into the nestbox at the tiny eggs it is their size that really interested us. Exactly how small were they?

An internet search during our Nestbox Diary for 2008 led me to an image by a Primary school in England. They had a nestbox with an egg that didn’t hatch and photographed it alongside a rular. I mailed the school and asked their permission to use this. I matched that image with a coin and a hen’s egg which you can see in the montage below.


Image from 2008 Nestbox Diary blog post


You can see that the Blue Tit egg is just slightly smaller that the five pence coin in length. Of course, I am aware that doesn’t really help anyone outside the UK. Today I racked my brains for everyday items for that would relate to every visitor to my blog.

For gardeners, I wandered around my garden looking at plants and I settled on a pretty universal flower... the daisy almost fully out. For birders, I went to a hanging bird feeder and tipped out a few peanuts. Back inside, I opened my desk drawer and the rubber end of a pencil instantly made me smile. The paper clip may not be exactly a universal measure but it also gives a good idea of scale.


The length of a Blue Tit egg is just smaller than the coin in the image above.


Our nestbox with camera gives excellent colour images when there is enough natural daylight. During January we added a second colour infra red camera so we could see into the nestbox during lower light levels. We are also able to get black and white view when its dark which is the biggest bonus. Image wise the original camera gives better results as you will see.

So finally, I'd now like to invite you to read the diary and enjoy the images of a nesting pair of Blue tits in a small garden in Perthshire, Scotland. Perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa...


  • Photos & video, outside nestbox, chicks at entrance - Jun 12th, 2010

  • Photos, chicks prepare to fledge - Jun 12-13th, 2010

  • Photos, chicks thinking about fledging - Jun 11th, 2010

  • 2 videos plus photos showing the chicks looking like mini Blue tits. Feeding and nest tidy footage - Jun 6th, 2010

  • 4 videos showing progress of chicks, parents feeding and female keeping chicks and nest clean. Days 1-11 - May 24-June 3rd, 2010

  • 8 videos including chicks hatch and get fed - May 24-26, 2010

  • First three chicks hatch - May 24th, 2010

  • The nest build and 1st egg - May 1st-6th, 2010

  • Surprise discovery of moss in nestbox - May 1st, 2010
  • 7 comments:

    Southern Lady said...

    I never knew that their eggs were so small. How wonderful that they all hatched. Carla

    Lisa at Greenbow said...

    It is such fun to see the young family together. Their eggs are as small as a wren's egg.

    I was saddened today when I went to see what was going on with our House Wren box. I knew the adults abandoned it for some reason. I took the lid off and there was a big wasp nest stuck to the lid. I threw the wasp nest out. Six little eggs that won't hatch. I don't know where the wrens will try to nest next. Sigh~~

    shirl said...

    Hi again Carla, I have to say neither did I. It is great they all hatched :-D

    I was worried about the last one for a while. It seems to be getting feeds. It’s always hard when the bigger ones get higher up the nestcup and open their much bigger mouths. You find yourself talking to the screen ;-)

    shirl said...

    Hi there Lisa, I agree the family pics are a treat. I guess the wren’s egg would need to be tiny. I would say it’s great that you’ve had a chance to see their eggs but that’s not a good thing really.

    How sad to discover not just one but a whole clutch left in the nestbox. I wonder if the parents tried to remove any of the wasps nest when they started to build it. Wasps do seem keen on nestboxes aren’t they? I’ve heard of this a number of times although in most cases there is no nest. That is sad for your family.

    Derek said...

    Sad to see two previous broods failed. What killed them? Did the parents desert them, or were they predated? We have Blue Tits in our box for the first time this year, but there's a lot of disturbance from the neighbours cats.

    shirl said...

    Hi there Derek, thanks it was very hard to watch them all slowly slip away. Sorry, I’ve taken so long with my reply :-)

    The first nest had both a male and female. The male was good at feeding the female when she was nest building. He was around to see the first chicks hatch and then something must have happened to him. There was a shortage of caterpillars this year and our single Mum just couldn’t find enough food. Pests then took over the nest as she wasn’t able to spend as long keeping it clean.

    In the case of the second nest a male was never spotted. Once again it was another year for a shortage of caterpillars at this time and our single Mum couldn’t find enough food for her chicks. Nest cleanliness suffered again and pests could be seen bothering the chicks.

    I can’t comment at all on cats disturbing a nestbox. Don’t know if you’ll pop by again to see this reply. If so, how did your Blue tit family get on? Did any fledge safely?

    Anonymous said...

    Hi, my name's Carol.

    We have a bluetit nestbox which has been used successfully for three years.

    We've been unlucky to find a dead baby left in the box for each of the past two years; seemingly full grown (certainly fully feathered) we don't know if there just wasn't enough food/too many babies or whether they weren't brave enough to leap out of the box. We have the box very high up on the side of our house, well out of the reach of our cats and squirrels.

    This year ours have just fledged and we're hoping they've all made it.

    We're planning on getting a cambox next year!