Bluebird eggs hatching in one of the houses on the Phelps’ property. Inset: A beautiful shot of a mountain bluebird, photographed by the Phelps’ nephew. It was featured in a national bluebird magazine.
By Steve Whitlock; photos courtesy of the Phelps family
Susanne and Kerry Phelps don’t just like bluebirds, they love bluebirds. So much so, they have 15 bluebird houses placed around their 48 acres in Happy Canyon. “We got in the habit of checking the houses each week and keeping a journal, starting with when the nest was started, first egg, hatched, to when they fledge.”
They’re also dedicated and organized. “We have the houses named... ie: Pikes Peak. Some houses have two clutches during the season. It’s been a nice reason to walk our property. We lose some now and then. Snakes and last year a bear totally destroyed one of the houses with babies.”
The Phelpses say there are two species of bluebirds in Colorado. “The western bluebird is quite brilliant blue with a red breast; the boys are always prettier than the girls,” Suzanne said. “The mountain bluebird is blue with a paler gray breast. They are slimmer than the western. Both are smaller than a robin but larger than a finch or sparrow. In the earlier years when we were just getting to know them, the mountain was more prevalent up here, but now it seems the western are in bigger numbers.”
Their birds are even connected to Wi-Fi. “Our favorite [bird] house is near our house and wired to a TV! So we get live reception from early April when they would start building the nests to when they leave. It has sound, so we leave it on all day and can run in to watch when we hear activity.”
“The birds lay one egg each day (4 to 6) and then start sitting (incubating) them almost 24/7 for about 15 days. Then it’s another 21 days or so before they fledge. The dad does his duty with feeding them and her. The number of babies from our 15 houses varies widely from year to year; always around 50. Our best year was 103! Since this has been such a cold spring, we guess there will not be so many this year.”
Bluebirds aren’t endangered, but they are an endearing bird. If you are interested in putting up bluebird houses, they can be purchased from Rampart Range Supply in Castle Rock and the Audubon Society near Chatfield Reservoir. The best way to start would be to put up one or two houses, 100 yards apart.