Are you a bluebird enthusiast; if so, you will want to start watching your houses. I am sure you have already spotted those flits of blue in your yard and garden.
Over the years, land has been cleared for housing developments, shopping malls, highways, and cropland, and many old trees have been cut for firewood. Wooden fence posts have been replaced with metal ones. Natural nesting spots for blues have been greatly reduced from all of the above projects.
Compounding the problem has been the introduction of house sparrows and starlings from Europe. Both of these birds are very aggressive, and along with the tree swallow, they will easily chase away a timid bluebird. Starlings won’t so much use the nest boxes, but will take over all the natural woodpecker cavities in dead trees that bluebirds sometimes use.
During the summer, bluebirds feed mainly on insects. In the winter, bluebird depend on many kinds of wild berries for food supply. Berries have also decreased, and what berries are left will be eaten by large flocks of starlings.
The most important step we can take in helping along the blues are providing nesting sites such as bluebird boxes and homemade nesting implements such as can houses, and other types of houses that facilitate them. I have such a hard time, as I have said before with Tree Swallows, House Wrens, and House Sparrows. I have already had a house with bluebird eggs in it, taken over by Tree Swallows. They messed in the neat nesting material and broke all the eggs, dumping them on the ground. I do go ahead and cover these houses with plastic grocery sacks for at least two days. Possibly, then after this time, blues will return. So far, I do have two to three houses with eggs being laid. I hope for their survival from predators and the weather.
Bluebirding is a great environmental, hands-on project that people of all ages can enjoy. I am sure if you have a nest box in your yard, you will get a lot of enjoyment from watching and feeding them. A good bluebird house should be well ventilated, watertight, have drainage holes, be easy to monitor and easy to clean. Cedar and redwood are ideal, although plywood and other types of wood can be used. Plywood does not take moisture well, and will separate. Do not ever place a perch on the house, as this will encourage sparrows. Entrance holes should be 1 1/2 in diameter.
Until next time, good birdwatching.