Bluebird and Small Cavity Nester Conservation
Sialis - Bluebirds and other small cavity nesters


Dead Tree Swallow Nestling


When I opened a nestbox to monitor it, the Tree Swallow adult inside would not leave. While I was checking the second box in the pair of boxes, the first adult departed. I found a dead chick underneath four live chicks that looked like they were about 1-2 days old.

The dead chick had some blood on its beak, and the head looked hypoxic (pale vs. pink like the live chicks). Initially I thought the hatchling might have been attacked by Tree Swallows adults nesting in other paired box, which is only an estimated 9 feet 10 inches away. However, I saw a dark hard item area on one side of the throat. I looked inside the mouth, and saw blood. I extracted a large black bug from the dead chick's throat (see photo below.) I am assuming that the chick choked to death on the bug. Perhaps the blood was from the parent trying to remove the bug? Bet Zimmerman, 06/17/07.

Dead nestling choked on bug.  Photo by E. Zimmerman.  

This chick apparently choked to death on the bug lodged in its throat.

Note the dark bulging area on the side of the bird's throat.

    Bug.   On the left is the insect I removed from the chicks' throat. It was covered with blood.
    Dead nestling.

    As a first-time bluebird monitor, I am alternately mesmerized, mystified, and petrified. Until now, I never gave much thought about how the day-to-day existence of wildlife is so perilous and fragile. What an education!
    - Donna Spray, Bluebird_L, 2006

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