Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Getting Ready for Bluebird Season

 Bluebirds at a nest box in Tarrant Park, Summer 2009

The Durand area has the largest concentration (more than 25%) of remnant prairie habitat in the badger state - perfect habitat for Eastern Bluebirds.

I can't seem to go anywhere without seeing bluebirds these days.  They're on the utility wires along the roadsides.  They're singing in the trees.  And they're flying along the roadsides.

I've been seeing bluebird nest boxes everywhere too.  That's good news, and unfortunately, sometimes, bad news.

It's good that landowners want to see bluebirds nesting on their property.  The bad news comes when well-meaning people don't do it "right,"  unaware that they may be contributing to bluebird nesting failures.

How's that?

Too many boxes are not properly designed and installed in the "wrong" places, the "wrong" way.  Many are never monitored and seldom maintained.

There actually is a "right" way to do it in Wisconsin.  It's not a matter of personal opinion, the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin has the scientific data to prove it.  For up-to-date advice on how to be a good bluebird landlord, take a look at their brochures - click here.

The following are some photos of "problem" bluebird boxes:

On a tree in the woods, 10-feet off the ground, in the woods at Silver Birch Park.  Wrong habitat (bluebirds prefer open, prairie-like habitat, ie lawns), easy access for predators (snakes and raccoons climb trees) and too high up to monitor.

Here's one of the bluebird boxes at the entrance to Silver Birch Park - on a 4x4 pole (easy access for predators).  The box design is not "current" - the hole is too high and the vents are too big.   It faces the wrong direction (west) and it hasn't been maintained or monitored.

This "Peterson" box is a good one.  The roadside location is fine.  The problem with this scenario is installation.  The utility pole provides easy access for predators, and it's too low to the ground.

I found this white box out on the prairie high up on a tree.  The box design (dimensions, hole size, color and construction material -  1/4" plywood) and installation will likely result in nesting failure.   And it doesn't open for monitoring and cleaning. 

I found a number of these paired boxes on RR107 on the way to Meridean.  Years ago, bluebird experts experimented with this new strategy (pairing boxes) to increase nesting success.  It didn't work.  Even if had, these boxes need design improvements, metal poles and maintenance.

And here's a cute little critter I found in a nest box over by the cemetery: 

It's important to clean out the nests after each brood has fledged, and before the new season begins.  I found this box full of bird droppings - an indication that the birds have been using the box as an overnight roost this winter.

For more information on how to select, construct, install, maintain and monitor a nest box appropriate for your property, take a look at Homes for Birds and The Expert's Guide to Backyard Birdfeeding.

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