All About Baby Bluebirds from A to Z

You’ve got an eastern bluebird nest and eggs in your yard and want to know how long before they hatch into adorable baby bluebirds. Who wouldn’t? You want to be ready for when the magical day comes and maybe even experience the amazing miracle of a bluebird egg hatching in real-time.

Experiencing, observing, enjoying, and researching backyard birds is what I do. I’ve been hosting them in my backyard for over 20 years. Plus I have many bird friends with even more experience to fill in the gaps. Additionally, I have an extensive library of expert books to refer to including The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide, a Cornell Bird Library Guide, and The Bluebird Book by Donald & Lillian Stokes.

If you’re like me you want to know the facts about eastern bluebird eggs and babies. Keep reading – I’ve got answers to all your burning questions.

Baby Bluebird Development Stages from Egg to Adult

According to the Mass Audubon, baby birds go through three stages of development – hatchling, nestling, and fledgling until they reach the juvenile stage. Adulthood is just around the corner.

Hatchling0 – 3 days old. Completely dependent on parents.
Nestling4 – 13 days old. Still dependent on parents.
Fledgling13+ days old. Has left the nest but still dependent on parents.
JuvenileOnce the bird is able to gather food on its own but retains juvenile plumage.
Adult1st fall after hatching. Juvenile feathers have molted and adult feathers have grown in.

What do eastern bluebird eggs look like?

Eastern bluebird eggs. Photo by D'Bee Photography by Debbie McCaleb.
Eastern bluebird eggs. Photo by D’Bee Photography by Debbie McCaleb.

Eastern bluebird eggs are usually sky blue in color, but occasionally white. They’re about .8″ x .7″ in size and each brood is usually between 3-5 eggs.

How long does it take for bluebird eggs to hatch?

It takes about 12-14 days for bluebird eggs to hatch. The female may take several days to lay each of the eggs during which time they are in a pending state. The 12-14 day incubation timer begins the day she starts to incubate the eggs as the heat of her body is required for the eggs to develop.

What do baby bluebirds look like?

Baby bluebirds grow dramatically fast and take on a different appearance at each stage (hatchling, nestling, fledgling, and juvenile). Let’s take a look at each baby bluebird stage.

Baby bluebird hatchlings

Bluebird babies in a nest
Bluebird hatchlings.Photo by Robert Heyer.

Right after baby birds hatch they are called “hatchlings”. At this stage, bluebird hatchlings are naked with just a few patches of light down. Their eyes are closed and they’re balled up in fetal positions. There are also noticeable dark “lines” throughout its body which are essentially wet down and soon to be feathers stuck together.

With no feathers and barely any down the babies are dependent on mom to keep them warm.

There are no words to describe the miracle of baby birds hatching. Check out the amazing video below of baby eastern bluebirds as they’re hatching.

As you can see, they begin to eat immediately (literally) and the momma bluebird eats the eggshell soon after. It’s a great source of calcium for the next brood.

Baby bluebird nestlings

Baby bluebird nestlings
Baby bluebird nestlings. Photo by Beth Teller.

After about 4 days post-hatch the babies become “nestlings” and have already grown feathers and more down. Eyes may be slits but not yet open. The dark lines are now actual feathers that have become unstuck and more feathers preparing to emerge from beneath the skin.

At day 6 the nestlings’ feathers start to make their way through the skin on the head and wings. Eyes are preparing to open if not already.

Day 9 brings open eyes and feathers breaking through.

Check out the sweet video below showing the animated bluebird nestlings…so adorable!

In a few short days the nestlings will begin preparing to fledge. During this time they are very active – exercising and preening their wings/ You should notice the white ring around the eye at this stage – it will disappear once grown to adults.

eastern bluebird fledglings

Eastern bluebird fledglings on a shepherd hook
Eastern bluebird fledglings. Photo by John Holland Jr of JEHJR Photography

Baby bluebirds officially become fledglings when they leave the nest – between 13 and 21 days of age. They look like real birds at this stage with fluffy brown spotted bodies and blue wings.

In my opinion, they are really pretty fledglings. Some wild birds are downright ugly at this age.

The birds instinctively know when it’s time to fledge. Also, mom and dad will be calling for them outside the nest.

Once they escape the nest it’s time to practice their flying skills. They can flutter around and hop on the ground but are still dependent on mom and dad for food.

Here’s a sweet video of an eastern bluebird as it fledges. If you listen closely you can hear mom or dad in the background calling them.

Juvenile eastern bluebirds

Baby bluebird - juvenile
Bluebird juvenile. Photo by Robert Heyer.

Juvenile bluebirds are essentially fledglings that can now find their own food. They will primarily hang around the parents and siblings but could support themselves if necessary. They remain juveniles until they’ve molted (lost feathers and grown new ones) in the fall and taken the appearance of an adult.

What to do if a baby bluebird egg doesn’t hatch?

According to the book The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide (2001), between 10-15% of bluebird eggs will not hatch. They are infertile. There’s really nothing you can do if the egg is infertile – it’s part of nature.

Keith Kridler, co-author of The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide says it’s ok to remove the egg from the nest if it’s been 5 or more days since the last egg hatched. Another sure sign the egg is not viable and won’t hatch is fly specs on the shell (flies can smell the odor of a bad egg) and/or flies clustered around the nestbox.

Keith goes on to say these rotten eggs have been known to explode resulting in a messy and unhealthy situation (viruses and bacteria on the chicks). Seems to me all the more reason to remove an egg that won’t hatch.


Eastern bluebird nesting overview

Number of Broods1-3 per season
Number of Eggs3-5 eggs 1st brood of the season
2-4 eggs, subsequent broods of the season
Egg DescriptionSky blue color (sometimes white)
Approximately .8″ x .7″ in size
Incubation Period12 – 14 days
Appearance Upon HatchingNaked, patchy areas of down
FledgingLeaves the nest after about 21 days.

Save to Pinterest for later ->


Who wouldn’t want to host baby eastern bluebirds in their yard? It’s a fascinating part of nature to watch mom lay her eggs, babies hatch, and nestlings fledge to become the next generation of eastern bluebirds. Plus, young bluebirds are the cutest of all wild birds (in my opinion).

Interested in learning how to attract eastern bluebirds to your yard? Check out my article 9 Proven Ways to Attract Eastern Bluebirds to Your Yard!


Sources
Berger, C; Kridler, K; Griggs, J. 2001. The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide. Harper Collins Publishers Inc. New York, NY
Stokes, Donald and Lillian. The Bluebird Book. Boston: Little, Brown Company, 1991.


Photo of author

Tammy Poppie

More than 20 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her back yard (and repel others). In her free time, she can be found in nature kayaking, hiking, and biking always hoping to see a bird in the wild.

2 thoughts on “All About Baby Bluebirds from A to Z”

Comments are closed.