Friday, March 18, 2016

Time to Dust off Those Bluebird Nestboxes!

Its time already to clean and repair nestboxes on your Bluebird trail, or to build or purchase new nestboxes and get them installed and ready for their occupants.   Bluebirds are already in our area, searching out safe nesting sites in preparation for spring.

When it comes to attracting bluebirds, offering housing is the key. Bluebirds need to nest in a cavity, relying on tree cavities and old fence posts in the wild. When natural nesting sites are scarce, bluebirds will readily use manmade bluebird houses built to correct dimensions. The hole needs to be 1.5 inches to exclude starlings.  Avoid the use of perches on the box, as they attract sparrows.  Adding a predator guard will help to foil raccoons and cats, making it harder for them to reach through the opening to snag baby birds.   Mount your bluebird boxes on a fence post or pole no higher than five feet from the ground. The opening should be facing the southeast, away from prevailing winds.  Providing nesting materials is a strong factor in attracting nesting bluebirds since collecting nesting materials can take hundreds of trips. Bluebirds like soft grasses and fragrant pine needles as nesting material. The female builds a neat, cup-shaped nest of grass.  Provide these nesting materials in an empty suet cage, or simply gather bunches of material and situate in the fork of a tree.
Bluebirds prefer to live in open grassy areas near a park, golf course, meadow, pasture, or even cemetery. Bluebirds eat large quantities of insects; in fact 60-80% of their diet is insects. They like to perch on fence posts or small trees and swoop down to eat insects in the grass. Make sure you have an open, grassy area in your yard with perching space to attract them. Limit your use of chemicals and pesticides to provide insects like beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars that bluebirds love to eat.
Have your Bluebird boxes out early in the spring, as they begin to nest as soon as the end of March.  Clean the box out after each brood fledges to encourage a second nesting that year.  Each box should be spaced 100-200 yards apart to best attract Bluebirds.  Placing the box too close to brush or shrubs will encourage its use by wrens.

Another way to make your backyard habitat more attractive is to offer water sources.  Bluebirds can be drawn to a backyard birdbath or ground level water source with lots of nearby perching space.
Bluebirds enjoy the berries and fruits of wild grapes, currants, dogwood, red cedar, sumac, bayberry, Virginia creeper, deciduous hollies, blackberry, raspberry, juniper, pokeweed, mistletoe, blueberry, hackberry, euonymus and elderberry.   Planting scattered fruit and berry trees, mixed with open lawn creates a desirable habitat for attracting Bluebirds.

The Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District is in the midst of its annual sale of quality long lasting cedar Bluebird boxes and other items of interest to bird lovers, including birdfeeders of all sizes and books on birds and other backyard wildlife.

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