Western Bluebird Communal Roost, Finkbeiner Forest

Observers: Chris and Rosie Howard
Email: rosiebeach@yahoo.com
Date: 02/27/2008
Time: 01:14 AM -0500

The mild weather and beautiful sunset drew us to Finkbeiner Forest this evening, 27 Feb 2008. Singing Bewick's Wrens, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Wilson's Snipe, Black-billed Magpies, Song Sparrows, Towhees, White Crowneds, and Robins greeted us on our way. Reaching the far western end of F. Forest we saw 3 Western Bluebirds just to the right of the dirt road. Immediately two more joined them from right over our heads. Looking up, we saw no more birds and figured that was the extent of the flock. But immediately, a few more flew in from above us. Scanning the trees overhead we saw nothing and I made a mental note to make an appointment with Stuart Hiroyashu to get my eyes checked. Darn it, if two more didn't fly in after that! So we watched the nine little cuties with their blushing breasts against the blushing sky, searching for a few more bites before calling it a day. Then a pair flew back to above us, landing on a branch not far from an old Flicker hole. We noticed another flicker hole about a foot below the first one. The two bluebirds hovered below the openings, and then one landed on the lip of the top opening and hopped in. The second bird followed. In the next five minutes, eight of the nine bluebirds entered the two cavities, four in one and four in the other. Quite cozy, indeed! We were delighted because we had never observed this behavior before and couldn't wait to get home and see what the books had to say. Well, our books didn't say anything about communal roosting that we could find, but some internet articles did. Try: http://php.democratandchronicle.com/blog/birds/?p=405 for an account of this behavior in Eastern Bluebirds during cold weather. We wondered if these Westerns were part of the same large flock Debbie Parker saw mid-January in the same area and if they've been bunking in the flicker's condo ever since. Viva la body heat!