Well, it is the middle of February and soon time for the Eastern Bluebirds to return for nesting. We spent a part of this morning cleaning out all of our nesting boxes in preparation for their arrival. Old, dilapidated boxes were replaced with freshly painted new ones, and the rest were swept clean and checked for stability.
Over the years we have created a bluebird trail on our farm to encourage the repopulation of this lovely species. The bluebird used to be quite a common species, but loss of habitat, insecticide use and predators have decreased their numbers significantly. Their chief predators are the sparrow and the starling. The sparrow will move into a bluebird house and break the eggs or peck the chicks. They have even been known to peck the adult birds to death.
Bluebird boxes should be hung 3 to 5 feet from the ground and placed no less than 100 yards apart as these birds are territorial. We have hung our boxes on our fence posts and also have had extra fence posts placed at intervals along our woods. It is a good idea to have other housing available close by for tree swallows. Tree swallows can keep other competing birds from inhabiting the bluebird houses. It is especially good to have plenty of berry producing growth closeby as this will serve as a source of food in addition to the insects that these birds consume.
Besides being a beautiful bird to observe, the bluebird can help decrease the flying insect population in your yard.