The Bluebird Trail
Get Involved with Bluebirds:
It's Easy and Rewarding 

2024 DEA Nestwatch Data Sheet (fillable)


2023 DEA Bluebird Trail Results


Bluebirds are now spending the winters in Hancock County, and I got countless messages from people saying the birds were checking out houses, eating from suet feeders and coming in regularly for mealworm handouts. A brand new nest was discovered in a monitored house in Blue Hill on March 16. A female in Eliot (York County) laid her first egg on March 11 and started incubating on March 16! As of press time, there was no word yet on hatching date. Eastern Bluebirds are doing very well in Maine, no doubt due to of all the bird houses that caring people put up and monitor.




2023 was the 16th year for our county-wide bluebird trail, starting with just 20 houses in two locations in 2009. The project has grown exponentially, and last year the total number of houses was 480! Dozens of volunteers monitored anywhere from 1 to 18 houses from late April to early September at 134 different locations which range from cemeteries, land trusts, schools, fish hatcheries, and a skating rink to private properties. We received nesting data for 428 houses, but unfortunately did not receive any information (or it was incomplete and unusable) for 52.  Out of those 428, we SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGED 1,186 CHICKS of 4 different species of cavity nesters; 14 fewer chicks than the previous year, but from 85 more houses!  Why? We had 139 houses go unused in ’23 compared to 91, AND 74 houses failed compared to 31 in ’22. A failed nest is considered one that had at least a single egg laid but never hatched, the nest was abandoned or taken over by another species, or all chicks died. The weather was less than ideal during the middle of the nesting season. Cold, wet snaps led to a fair number of chicks dying from a lack of available food—flying insects; this hit swallows particularly hard. If a house goes unused for two years or more, it is probably time to move it to another location. On the other hand, 44 houses were used for two different broods and two were used three times!  It’s all about preferred real estate! Even though this conservation project is called a “Bluebird Trail,” we welcome all species that nest in cavities—except House Sparrows!  Luckily we’ve never had trouble with these pesky introduced birds. Fingers crossed. The total number of Eastern Bluebirds fledged—533; Tree Swallows—514; Black-capped Chickadees—133; Tufted Titmice—6.


Our data continues to be uploaded to NestWatch, a program at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, thanks to James Longo, Blaise deSibour and other volunteers. To view our Bluebird Trail Map, go to the bottom of the Conservation tab on our website-


Please, if you have bird houses, monitor them! It definitely increases the chances of nesting success. The North American Bluebird Society says that a house that is not monitored may do more harm to birds than good. Putting up a house is a commitment to provide as safe a place as possible for birds to raise their young. Clean them out in early spring, check them often for activity, keep tabs on what happens, and send us your data!  If you need pointers how to do this, don’t hesitate to ask. 2024 data sheets are now available. Thank you to all the volunteers who take time out of their busy day to help the birds! 

You too can share in the joy of having birds nest on your property by purchasing a DEA-built bird house next spring for $45, ready to install.  Or if you have existing bird houses on your property, why not monitor them weekly and submit your findings?  Be a part of our expanding Bluebird Trail—it’s a great conservation project to get involved with! 


Monitoring Information Packet

More often than not, bluebirds go unnoticed because at a distance their beautiful blue and orange colors aren’t that noticeable to the naked eye. Found in open countryside and meadows, bluebirds primarily feed on insects throughout the spring and summer, but eat mostly berries in fall and winter. They nest in cavities, yet lack the ability to create a cavity, relying on old woodpecker holes and nest boxes.



In the middle of the 1900’s bluebirds were in decline, even raising fears of extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides and competition from non native birds like starlings and house sparrows, two aggressive species that will evict bluebirds from a nest hole. A big component of habitat loss was the tendency for humans to cut the old dead snags where woodpecker holes were the main homes for bluebirds. Fortunately, volunteer nest box programs have helped bluebirds to recover, particularly where correct hole sizes helped eliminate aggressive competitors and predators. Their ongoing recovery depends on nest boxes.


Instructional video by James Longo



Because bluebirds are dependent on nest box programs, Downeast Audubon plans to increase the number of houses each year on properties with public access. In order to do this we need your help as volunteers to help monitor them. It is a very rewarding project and lots of fun! From mid-May to early August the houses need to be checked in the morning once every week or so and data recorded. To see baby bluebirds and swallows about to fledge is a real treat! Downeast Audubon can train interested volunteers—please call or e-mail us today to let us know if you are interested.

 Locations and quantity of Audubon bluebird boxes.

Nestbox plans are available on the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) web page Bluebird Nestbox Plans. It is important to have a 1.5 inch opening for the door, and a way to open the box and monitor the nest. Also there should be no perch on the box-- bluebirds do not need perches and perches just make it easier for predators!

Downeast Audubon assembles boxes from reasonably priced kits available from FEDCO seeds in Waterville. We mount them on poles into the ground with a stake driver and a sledge hammer.

Boxes should be put up as early as possible in the spring, or preferably in the fall. Migrating birds may use the houses for roosting and take note of their locations for the upcoming breeding season!

For information on where to place boxes, how to mount them, and protection from House Sparrows and predators, please see the excellent fact sheet on the NABS web site.