In the US and Canada, bluebirds need help from humans to restore their populations. Continuing habitat destruction, insecticide use, and predation by the English sparrow caused dramatic bluebird decline. Through human dedication, education, and monitoring, bluebirds are enjoying a comeback. Here are a few photos showing my backyard efforts this nesting season.
six day old bluebird chicks
In 1939, Judy Garland sang “somewhere over the rainbow” in the Wizard of Oz and numerous poems and songs were scribed during the nineteenth century, celebrating the timid yet well-loved “bluebird of happiness.”
When the English Sparrow was imported to the US in 1851 for an exhibition, some escaped and rapidly competed with the eastern bluebird for cavity nesting spots. Therefore, nest boxes are now provided on Bluebird Monitoring Trails and in back yard gardens throughout the US. These houses are designed specifically for bluebird requirements, restricting some predation, yet additional assistance must come from humans in order to insure successful fledges.
Despite careful monitoring in May, only two out of six eggs survived. Three nestlings lived to fledge, yet one vanished in the wild. Dramatic spring temperature swings contributed to this diminished cycle. The adult pair returned for a second cycle, producing these three hatchlings—leaving one egg, presumed infertile.
bluebird box with four predator guards
Providing two bird boxes within my half-acre yard, I collect a small pile of pine needles and place them on the ground under the box. The female gratefully uses these to construct her nest. This chore takes me merely ten minutes, where if the female collects needles—a few at a time—this would take her days and dozens of flights.
Since blowfly is another killer of bluebird nestlings, I monitor daily for signs of infestation. Since the chosen box is in full sun, I also place my 8′ patio umbrella over the box during these oppressive summer temperatures. I remove this every evening, as a persistent raccoon attempts to breach the box. The green wire on the front of the box is called a Noel Guard, and was instrumental in saving this brood last week.
deluxe bluebird accommodations during very hot weather
The flat wire is something that I rigged up with bamboo stakes. This rests above the stovepipe guard, designed to discourage cats and snakes. Without the help of three local bluebird experts and naturalist, I would not be the monitor that I am today. Thanks to Ron, Priscilla, and Ann—the effort continues.
I hope that this blog gives readers a small glimpse of what bluebirds must contend with when nesting. If you want to learn more or care to become a bluebird monitor, please read The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide by Cynthia Berger, et al, a Cornell Bird Library Guide. This is essential reading.
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Copyright © 2012 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved