IF YOU BUILD IT, BLUEBIRDS WILL COME

This spring we purchased an officially sanctioned bluebird house to support the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW),  and we placed it according to their directions.  As with all real estate, location is key.

A pair of bluebirds are looking for 1-3 acres of predominantly open land to call home.  They like short, sparse grass interspersed with trees.  They want an enclosure that is exposed to sunlight from at least sunrise till noon.

Trees at least 10 feet tall should be very near the nest box because they hunt for insects in the grass while perched there.  Nearby perches are also VITAL for baby bluebirds testing their wings.

We found such a spot in an open area on the edge of our evergreens and mounted the box in late March.  Checking the bluebird house has become our first act every time we arrive at our land.  We were assured by our BRAW guide that we should not put up a bluebird box unless we were prepared to monitor it at least once a week.

Bluebirds were severely threatened in the early 1900s after European Starlings and House Sparrow stow-aways arrived in the U.S..  The tough newcomers appropriated the Bluebirds nests, and it looked like the end.  Luckily next box campaigns using boxes too small for starlings and monitoring to evict sparrows have turned the Bluebird’s nose dive around.  In Wisconsin 28,814 fledging bluebirds were reported by BRAW monitors in 2009. This is 7,435 more fledglings than last year and slightly better than the previous all-time record two years ago.

May 3, we saw a pair of brilliant blue birds frequenting the box and building a nest within!  We had never seen a Bluebird on our land before.  How did they find it?

By May 6 there were 5 turquoise eggs nestled in the grassy bowl.  We couldn’t have been more thrilled if they were actual turquoise.  (And having spent part of my 20s in Tucson, I have a deep and abiding appreciation of turquoise.)

Our BRAW guide said eggs hatch after 13-14 days of incubation, but it also said this may be delayed by cold weather.  Cold and wet weather was what our intrepid feathered neighbors got.  Still, we worried when day 14 passed.  Then Day 15.  Then Day 16.

Finally on May 22, there they were.  Those wide-open, oversized beaks that must haunt their parents brief and restless dreams.  What an icon for the responsibilities of family life!

We have checked them again this Monday and Wednesday, and are again a bit worried.  The weather has gone from chilly to sweltering, and both times when we pulled out the nail and pivoted the north wall open for a peak, the chicks seemed listless.  Their parents are still on the job.  They perch nearby as we monitor. They have definitely been growing, so perhaps we have just caught them during their siesta.  I hope so.

I want to see them speckling the nearby young pines with flashes of blue before they do as all young birds do — leave the nest for the wide world.

This is a great site on Bluebirds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

If you don’t have time for the whole site,

at least take a moment to listen to the Bluebird song . It was almost silenced.

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