Conservation

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

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.

                                                                                           Photo courtesy of Leslie Clapp

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.

Over the last three years board members of Downeast Audubon have placed 73 nest boxes (bird houses for cavity nesters) at 12 different locations throughout our area. Volunteers monitor them during the nesting season and below are the results from this year. The group of houses at each location is known as a “bluebird trail.”

                                                                                                                                                              Photos courtesy of Leslie Clapp              


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.