A Bidding War

IMG_8748George and I have sold five houses and, every time, we go through the same dance.  We work like mad to make it more attractive to the (likely not as quirky as us) buyer.  Once we put it on the market, we obsessively track every development.  Each time someone looks at the house we gauge their interest.  A quick look or long?  Was there any feedback?  What can we do to attract more buyers?  When will we get an offer?  And on and on.

Selling a house to a bird is much the same.  We put up three birdhouses in during the third week in March.  They sat empty and unwanted.  Not even a nibble.  We thought that perhaps we had put them up too late and missed the prime spring house rush

Until a week ago when all hell broke loose.  Tree swallows showed the first interest.  After much flying around (they are lovely acrobats) and musical gurgling conversations, they appeared to settle right in. IMG_8745 It’s a largish house, so big enough for the swallows.  Apparently another swallow thought so too, because once the first pair established itself, he started to show an interest.IMG_8787  IMG_8788After an afternoon of warding off the dive-bombing interloper, the swallow pair left. IMG_8796And who should appear but a bluebird?  IMG_9061He checked the box in and out and staked a claim. After some wing flapping atop the house, a female joined him. IMG_9087IMG_9128IMG_9131I put out mealworms hoping to entice them to stay.  They were dried worms, not live ones, and the bluebirds were decidedly unimpressed.  Fortunately, they overlooked my gaffe and after lots of going in and coming out, the female started gathering nest material.  IMG_9085IMG_9080.jpgThe male stood guard.  IMG_9588He needed to, because the tree swallows still had an eye on the place, watching from a nearby dead tree. IMG_9135And so began the bidding war.  The bluebirds and swallows have been squabbling for days.IMG_9108IMG_9111First one pair takes up residence, then the other.  IMG_9226IMG_9210IMG_9586As of today, the bluebirds seem to have won. IMG_9546 IMG_9548All this fuss and there’s a perfectly good empty nest box in our front yard.  Apparently the neighborhood isn’t as attractive as the back yard.


The tree swallow even checked out the wren box. 


I swear the goldfinches were egging on the house hunters.

In the meantime, our fox family absconded last week.  Watching them had been such a treat.  Fox stuff-127.jpgIt turns out there were six kits and they had expanded their territory to include our yard.

Fox stuff-121

Playing keepaway with a piece of surveyor’s tape.

The little alpha kit dragged a gray squirrel outside our front door one morning and enjoyed a good meal of squirrel head before exploring the other side of the house.  IMG_8482We may have prompted their leaving by our nearby tractor activity, although it didn’t seem to faze them.  Fox stuff-132Apparently, they often leave the birth den at this age and move to a different den with more territory.  We miss them.  I hope we’ll have a new litter there next year.Fox stuff-107



46 thoughts on “A Bidding War

    • Our lot is bird central these days. We just sit back and watch the mating dances, spring songs, and nesting activity. We didn’t expect to get bluebirds this year, so feel very lucky. Although I have to say I love the tree swallows also. Such beautiful birds, but they have a tendency to eat bees, so I was a little concerned that they wanted to move in for some tasty bees from our hive.

      • I am definitely not an expertise on birds, but love both bluebirds and swallows, though have never had any in birdhouses…(I am trying) We have lots of swallows out here, but not many bluebirds that I know of though they are around this area. The other night some friends were visiting who are, indeed, birders. They heard a woodpecker, towhees, mourning doves, jays (of course!) and saw a great blue heron (we live off a body of water called Laguna de Santa Rosa). Like you, we love it when we get to see foxes and deer, but can do without the skunks, raccoons, possums (not indigenous here) and now squirrels. We are both very fortunate.

      • Fortunate yes. This time of year, when birds are in full mating mode, always makes me feel very alive. You know, possums are considered desirable here these days (they are moving into Maine) because they eat an incredible amount of ticks. We haven’t seen any though. We’ve smelled skunks but haven’t seen any yet. They are fond of bees, so I’m keeping my eye out.

    • Oh, I love hummingbirds. We only have Ruby-Throated hummers here and I’ll be putting out the feeders soon. Our little hummers get pretty territorial, so I have to put feeders on each side of the house. I’m also trying to attract Baltimore Orioles this year with orange halves and grape jelly. We’ll see.

      • I couldn’t leave this message on your other post, but yes, I have heard that possums eat ticks! Who would have known? Hey, they are good for something besides stews…hahaha. Yes, they moved here also, around oh, 20 years ago. Weird things…they go into the trees even. And hiss!

    • Funny, I thought of you and your wonderful flying bird photos when I put this post together. My thoughts actually were, “I don’t have the tootlepedal touch,” but I’m soldiering on and gaining experience. Thanks for the compliment.

  1. I’m so envious of your lovely little birds. It makes a delightful story. I once sold real estate in NZ so I was chuckling all the way through. Sorry to see the foxes move on but I’m sure they will be back next year you made them so welcome. I had the first tomatoe of my plant yesterday. 🙂

    • You have your own lovely birds in Australia. I’m looking forward to seeing (and hearing) a kookaburra someday. We couldn’t believe how much we felt like we were selling a house with the whole birds selecting a house process.
      The first tomato is especially delectable. An advantage to staying at home.

  2. Gorgeous birds and what a nice real estate selection for them. Of course, some neighborhoods ar emote fashionable than others! I love the little green house!

    • We tried to locate the houses based on bird preferences, but the birds showed little interest in the front yard house while fighting over the back yard one. There’s no accounting for taste. Ha. No mind of their own, those birds. If another bird wants it, it must be good you know.

  3. Awesome neighbors, Brenda. 🙂 Our neighbor’s field has lots of birdhouses and many seem occupied. May is going to be a great month for birding. The warblers are just starting to arrive, hurrah!
    The foxes were such a treat, I hope they are successful in their new home.

    • Our neighbors, human and otherwise, have been an unexpectedly pleasant bonus here. We have seen the mother fox twice since they relocated so they can’t be too far off. We have lots of wonderful woods all up and down our road so I’m assuming they are doing well. I hope they work their way around for some visits.
      We are getting lots of birds back from down south this week. I’m not very good at identifying warblers, but love having them back.

      • I love warblers for their enthusiastic and beautiful songs – we get lots in the thickets by the river. Every year I have to relearn them. I came to it too late in life to retain them I guess! 😉

    • They are captivating little things. I hope they settle in too. The female continues her nest building and the swallows seem to have backed off. But nothing will surprise me.

    • Thanks Sam. My days are comprised of a little wildlife watching, a little work, a little wildlife watching, a little work … you get the idea. The animals are a major and wonderful distraction.

  4. What a lovely story about the different birds after the same nest box. It’s obviously very desirable! It’s great to see the foxes grown up and leaving the den as well.
    When a new queen bee disappears on her mating flight I think sometimes she’s been taken by a swallow. I love to see the swallows here but I wish they’d find something else to snack on!

    • Thank you Wendy. The nest box is directly across our yard from the hive, so when the swallows showed interest, my first thought was that they were looking for some easy bee pickings. I love the swallows, too, but was a little relieved when the bluebirds came along. I’m feeling protective of my bees!

  5. Gosh, you had me spellbound and glued to my seat with this post….and I have to say I gave it a fair few viewings before leaving a comment. Just loved all the different birds and the foxes…..and do hope you follow on with who actually acquired the property! Brilliant post!I did enjoy it!!!xxx

    • The bluebirds seem to have won the bidding war. But the swallows swoop around the bird house a few times a day. Nest building continues, but cold and rain may be slowing things up. I’ll keep you posted. There’s been a little interest in our other boxes, but no takers yet.

  6. Great photos of both the birds and the foxes! Our foxes are still around. I saw one of the adults cutting through my yard one morning earlier this week, and my neighbor saw the kits back at the old den. Your alpha kit was ambitious to take on a gray squirrel. Did one of the adults kill it and then present it to the kit? (I’ve seen the adults do that as part of hunting education.)

    • Thank you Jean. I’m happy to hear your foxes are still there. We have seen the vixen nearby but the kits definitely have moved from this den. Perhaps our tractor work spooked them. I don’t think that the alpha kit killed the squirrel. Whenever the vixen brought back a kill, little alpha would chase the others off to have first dibs.

    • We were rooting for the bluebirds too. The swallows continue with occasional bombing runs. Chickadees checked out the front bird house, and I would have loved them as tenants, but they didn’t take it.

  7. It isn’t very peaceful in your garden! It’s lovely however to see the wildlife the birds are obviously very taken with that particular bird house you might have to find another version! Sarah x

    • Nature’s not very peaceful, is it? I’m not sure what is so attractive about the back yard birdhouse, but the other sits empty. Sometimes swallows and bluebirds will nest side-by-side if you provide two houses right next to each other. I suspect these fellows would have none of that, however.

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