There have been some additions to the grounds surrounding the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility near the Rood Center in Nevada City.
Sierra Foothills Audubon Society (SFAS) was recently given permission to install bluebird nest boxes around the jail facility – this new group of nest boxes is now referred to as the “Jail Birds Trail.” As residents of Nevada County may be aware, there are “trails” of bluebird nest boxes in many locations throughout the county, such as along Jones Bar Road, Dog Bar Road, Garden Bar Road, and along Alta Sierra’s Alan Thiesen Trail, to name just a few. The Jail Birds Trail is our newest addition and includes six boxes positioned in such a way that inmates inside the jail can look out their windows and watch the activity at these nest boxes.
It had been noticed by local bluebird watchers that there was a sizeable population of bluebirds and other birds which are “cavity nesters,” including chickadees, oak titmouse, nuthatches, etc., near the Rood Center and the County Jail. So it seemed like a good location for a trail of boxes. With the Jail Birds Trail, the inmates will be able to observe, from the windows of the jail, the nest box monitor as she checks each week for the deposit of eggs, the eventual hatching of chicks, and then follow the parents’ hectic feeding schedule for the ensuing 20 days until the babies leave the nest. The typical Western Bluebird nest contains about five eggs, which all hatch within a day of each other. From the moment they hatch, that brood of new baby birds needs about 500 bugs (bits of protein) every day to grow and thrive. The two parents are kept mighty busy flying out, searching for bugs, and flying back to deliver the food to five hungry mouths. This activity will be clearly visible to the inmates in jail who happen to be looking out the windows. We hope they will be rooting for the successful fledging of the new bluebird families.
Volunteers monitor all the nest boxes along these established trails – that means that during breeding season, March through August, dedicated individuals go out weekly and check all the boxes on their trails, usually six to 12 boxes per trail. We currently have 11 trails in Nevada County and four in Placer County. They are all part of a statewide effort to increase the number of nesting sites for Western Bluebirds in order to help boost the reproduction effort of the bluebirds. Many of their “natural” nesting cavities in trees have been lost due to urban development, fire, and the increase in population of “invasive” bird species like European Starlings and English Sparrows who are more aggressive and compete with the bluebirds for nesting cavities. This effort to provide human-made nest boxes is actually happening nationwide.
The hope for the Jail Birds Trail is that being able to observe this bit of nature might instill an interest in birds and nature for some of the inmates by providing them with a ringside seat to this single example of the miracle of Mother Nature. For visitors coming to the Rood Center, the boxes should be viewed from afar as the public cannot roam around the jail grounds.
Sierra Foothills Audubon is willing to team up with other agencies or facilities in our service area, perhaps even local schools, who have a similar “campus” surrounding their buildings to install other nest box trails and possibly provide educational programs about birds as part of the SFAS mission to educate the community on the importance of maintaining a healthy bird population as part of a healthy ecosystem.
For more information about the Bluebird Trails Program, or to inquire about purchasing nest boxes, please send an email to Kate Brennan, Bluebird Trails Coordinator, at email@example.com.
About 10 days after installing the first four boxes around the jail, the monitor reported that there were nest starts in three of the four boxes. We have now installed two more boxes, and hope that they too will have nests very soon. Keep your eye out around the Rood Center and see if you can pick out the bluebird parents flying with food in their mouths for their nestlings.
— Kate Brennan