Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dr. Zinn on Bluebirds

I consulted my Indiana bird banding expert, Dr. Lisa Zinn, on the bluebird dilemma of March 9 post. Here's what she had to say.

"Bluebird populations used to be in trouble. The population had gone down considerably on the east coast. It turned out that when farmers switched from wooden fence posts (which are perfect for bluebird nests) to metal, a lot of potential bluebird nesting locations were lost. This combined with reforestation of much of the east coast was seeing a huge reduction in bluebird numbers. People rallied around the idea of putting up nesting boxes and bluebirds have come back in good numbers. I say this to emphasize that bluebirds are no longer in trouble and whether or not they successfully nest in your back yard has more to do with your personal pleasure than whether or not you are helping the survival of their species.

English sparrows are now called House sparrows in the U.S. and if you don't have them around, that makes things easier. Wrens are tricky. House wrens are very hardy and well adapted to all kinds of nesting locations. It really is fine, if you see a wren starting to use your bluebird box, to just brush out the first sticks. Your wren will have no trouble finding another spot to nest but the bluebird has very specific needs. Again, if you enjoy watching the wrens, then you can just let the bluebird go elsewhere. At Merry Lea we have maybe 40 nesting boxes. We don't clear out wrens. Probably a quarter of them will have bluebirds nesting, the rest will have nesting tree swallows or house wrens. I think that is fine and I don't interfere with whatever bird is nesting. We do spread a cayenne pepper mixture on the nest box poles to try and keep the racoons, squirrels and snakes from predating the nests. Have fun watching your birds. I look forward to having you come and help with bird banding in June."

Sounds like Bluebird Bob's book may be a bit outdated. I'm relieved to have permission to go back to just watching, which is the original intent of this blog---simply to observe and record what I see.

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