Blue Tit nesting behaviour and dead babies

Hi Everyone, 

Im new here and to looking after birds, have always had feeders in the garden though and need some advice.

I got a nest box with a camera in it back in March and immediately had a Blue Tit move in.

7 eggs were laid and all hatched by the 5th May but on the 16th I was down top 3 babies left, all within a day roughly. I assume the bodies got buried or removed since they were still small and pretty much featherless.

The 3 remaining seemed to be doing alright but the last few nights, the mother has not stayed in the nest overnight. I have still seen 2 adults feeding though but maybe not as frequent, hard to tell that though. 

Then yesterday another died and a second this morning. They are almost fully feathered and whilst I think an adult might have tried to remove a body, it didn't seem able to.

Very sad that my first brood seems to have been a bit of a failure and keeping my fingers crossed for this last chick, who does seem a touch bigger than the others, but I have some questions. 

  1. Is it normal for the mother to stop staying in the nest overnight when the chicks are larger? Space doesn't look like an issue.
  2. Should I help to remove the bodies? I know you are not meant top disturb nests whilst in use though but the 2 larger bodies are just sitting on top of the nesting material at the moment and assume it would be more hygienic.
  3. If not now, would it make sense to clean out once the last chick has hopefully fledged, rather than wait for autumn?

For reference, the box is on a north facing wall, just under the eaves but there is a flat roof below it. I've seen a cat on the roof once so may need top put a deterrent but as I've still seen 2 adults at the same time, I don't think this is due to loss of a parent.

Thanks for any advice.

Paul

  • The recent heat ( i think it was this) killed all 7 babies in the bluetit nest in my garden. Both were still feeding and even came back with insects although they were all dead. I didnt hear them on sat and was worried. Could it have been dehydration? I checked cam and squirrel and a magpie approached the nest but think this was because they could smell them
    I did remove them in hope they have another brood but hope i havent made a mistake..sorry you have lost some too.
  • In reply to Mazza:

    Mazza, You aren't meant to touch nests during the breeding season. Re heat, where is the nestbox sited?
  • Paul,

    If a cat can jump up at the nestbox, it needs moving. Sounds right location otherwise, re north facing and in shade.

    Unfortunately, the marketing and clamour for getting the public to put up nestboxes means lots of nest failures. Weather plays a big part (both heat extremes in Spring and cold ones, incl frosts a week or so ago in many areas). However, some new nest box sites aren't suitable in terms of natural food sources. Chicks need moisture containing natural food. In blue tit case, caterpillar and aphids. Supplementary feeding only gets birds so far.

    I don't know what the specific issue is in your case. Could be unrelated to anything mentioned so far, and as you reckon there are still both parents about, and the chicks were still in the nest, that rules out the other most common reason for nest failure. i.e. predation of adult or young/eggs.
  • In reply to Robbo:

    Thanks Robbo, I'll have a think about other locations but the only other place I think I can do is a gable wall that is east southeast, so I believe that is less suitable.
    Even then that's above a sideway though with no shade until the sun is round and the building shades it.

    I assume your answer for removing the dead, is not to then, based on response to Mazza.
    I believe the law states not to disturb a nest while in use or being built but if it is deserted, is that OK to clean out or should you wait till autumn?

    After 2 hours of struggling last night, one of the adults did manage to remove one body, still have one to go though, so hopefully they can manage themselves.

    Mazza, sorry to hear you lost yours as well.
  • Best practice is to wait til Autumn to clean the nestbox. Some of that is down to some species having second broods, though you're probably aware blue tits don't normally.

    I agree with the SE alternative not being as suitable. I don't know how practical it would be, re stopping a cat jumping up at the nest box where it is. I've also had a magpie doing effectively the same, but with a bit of flapping, to snatch a house martin from the nest entrance over the garage. Can't think of any way of stopping that happening again if I ever get house martins nesting there in future. Got terrible trouble with house sparrows attacking martins and their nests each year.

    Something that could be related to these posts about failed blue tit nests, which seem to be high this year, the house sparrows have all failed in their breeding attempts here so far, and at this moment in time, there's left conflict with the most persistent house martins. No idea why house sparrow breeding has failed.
  • I had meant to reply and say thanks.
    I do think it sounds like it was probably related to the extended heat and lack of food or something.

    The last one was able to fledge fine and the parents were able to clear out the nest, so I will just wait for autumn to do the full clean.

    Will keep my fingers crossed for next year.