By Girish Bhatt, EMGV
It’s the time of year again – the birds (and many other animals!) in our gardens are becoming much more active as they get ready to pair up and begin nesting. Durham County Extension Master Gardener Girish Bhatt took these photos last year of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds in his garden, and is excited to see who shows up this year!
From left to right in two rows: 1. Eastern Bluebird males typically select cavities first, displaying proudly to attract a female. 2. Once the female is convinced, she’ll move in to do the majority of the nest building (picture 3). 4. Once the nest is ready, the female lays her eggs which will hatch 11-19 days later (picture 5). Pair bonds between males and females typically last multiple seasons, although it’s not uncommon for genetic tests of chicks to reveal extracurricular activities . 
From left to right in two rows: 1. Even though many birds enjoy bird seed the rest of the year, the name of the game for chick rearing is caterpillars, and plenty of them. A single brood can often take 6000-9000 caterpillars to rear properly, and the vast majority of those caterpillars are found on native plants . 2. With plenty of food, the brood grows quickly. 3. Both the male and female work hard to keep up the pace on caterpillars, and soon enough (just 17-21 days) the nestlings are ready to begin testing their wings and their surroundings (picture 4). 5. Though the immature birds will receive additional support from their parents throughout their first season, they will soon leave the safety of the nest box and begin setting out on their own. 
The typical question when the kids leave home: but who’s going to clean up this mess! (While the birds can do part of it on their own, it’s always helpful to clear things out between seasons to give them a fresh start next year . 
 All About Birds: Eastern Bluebird –
 Nature’s Best Hope presentation by Dr. Doug Tallamy –
 Eastern Bluebird Nest Box Plan and Information –