Nest boxes for birds available from local woodworking club
The resident male western bluebirds are turning a brighter shade of blue as the mating and nesting season approaches. Bluebirds are one of several species of cavity nesters who would build a nest in a hole in a dead tree.
As dead trees have been removed, their natural homes have declined along with their numbers. Other cavity nesters like oak titmice, mountain and chestnut-backed chickadees, tree swallows, have suffered a similar fate.
To mitigate against this loss the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society joined with other groups in 1997 to form the California Bluebird Recovery Program (CBRP), an associate of the North American Bluebird Society. We have been setting out nest boxes every spring since then.
Bluebirds – like their cousin the robin – eat insects and worms and they are often seen together. They are mostly found in pastures and meadows where they can find food.
Mealy worms purchased from bait shops or home grown are supplied to bluebirds like sunflower seeds are to dark eyed juncos. Jacqui Platt, who installed and monitors several boxes in Condon Park, would place mealy worms on a jar lid, retreat a few paces and watch the bluebirds arrive.
The overzealous application of pesticides has also contributed to the population shrinkage.
People who do not live near an open area suitable for bluebirds can still put up nest boxes. Perhaps a titmouse or chickadee will use it for a home. It is important that the boxes be monitored.
The bluebirds seem not to mind. Monitoring the boxes will inform you of the occurrence of predators as well as the number of fledglings. To prepare for the next family, the nest should be removed when the birds have fledged. Some boxes have seen as many as three successful nests in a single season.
A call came in from Milt Schmidt, who represents the Woodworkers Club, stating the group is volunteering to construct 20 bluebird boxes from scrap material taken from building sites in Morgan Ranch.
He said they could do more as the demand grows. Contact Jim Groeser 639-2025
Bill Covington and Alan Klahn monitor 33 bluebird boxes at Traylor Ranch, a Placer County park in Penryn. Bill showed some of them as we birded the ranch on the first of February.
He mentioned that they had some raccoon problems and are planning on adding some collars to the entrance holes. These collars are a piece of inch-thick wood with a 19/16-inch hole for the birds.
They make the raccoon’s task a bit more difficult when they attempt to reach into the nest and extract an egg for breakfast.
Another technique recommended in the CBRP’s newsletter “Bluebirds Fly” is to install a hardware cloth tunnel about four inches deep around the entrance hole.
Bill said that they are also getting set to clean out their boxes in preparation for this year’s nesting season.
Every bluebird monitor should be getting ready to do the same thing, clean out and repair as necessary their bluebird boxes.
Individual nest box records are available on the Web site for downloading (www.oro. net/~walt/SFAS/cons/bbird/form.gif) and printing or contact Jim Groeser 639-2025
If you wish to add more boxes the recommendation is for 100 yards between individual boxes as bluebirds are quite territorial.
There are a couple of new ones going into the Nevada County wastewater lab at Lake Wildwood. A monitor is needed to cover the 16 boxes already in place at the Woolman School off Jones Bar Road.
Walt Carnahan is president of the Sierra Foothills Audubon
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