Back Yard Bird Watcher-Install a blue bird Trail

Our backyards can be home to many types of birds and this year I am installing eastern bluebird nesting boxes along a trail on our property which has a lot of habitat that they love. This spring I observed several males munching on Michigan holly berries while on a walk. This prompted me to start looking into making a bluebird trail of my own.

Only cavity-nesting birds or those that nest in tree hollows, use bird houses. This group includes bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, and wrens. The entry hole is key when deciding what kind of birds you want to attract. Nestboxes for Eastern Bluebirds should have a round entrance hole measuring 1½” to 19/16″ in diameter and some say they prefer oval holes.

A bluebird trail consists of a number of nesting boxes spaced 100 yards or more apart and so located that they can be conveniently monitored by going from box to box by car, bicycle or on foot.

When placing the boxes choose a location for the birdhouses that birds will find appealing and secure, usually away from a lot of human activity. Habitat is the key factor when setting up a bluebird trail. Open rural country with scattered trees and low or sparse ground cover is best. Suitable habitat should include a fence line, wires, tree branches, or other sites where bluebirds can perch to search for food. They prefer pasturelands, parks, cemeteries, meadows and golf courses.

Consider predators when constructing the trail. Look for places that will be harder for raccoons to access. If a raccoon destroys a nest take down the box and move it to a new location because raccoons are repeat offenders. Just like in nature it will not be possible to completely stop predators.

For convenience, mount nest boxes so the entrance hole is approximately five feet (eye level) above the ground. This will make monitoring the box easier.

When setting up a blue bird trail for the Eastern Bluebird, nest boxes should be placed 100 to 150 yards apart, Western and Mountain Bluebird boxes should be place at least 300 yards apart.

House sparrows and swallows compete with bluebirds nesting boxes. By placing two boxes about 20 feet from each other will give both species a place to nest.

Face the nest box away from prevailing winds.

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Bluebird facts:

  • Male bluebirds return first to begin looking for a nesting site in late February.
  • Bluebirds nest in late March or early April. In the south nesting may occur earlier.
  • Bluebirds usually raise two broods each season, but three broods are possible.
  • Bluebirds prefer pasturelands, parks, cemeteries, meadows and golf courses.
  • Bluebirds eat small fruits and hunt insects, spiders, and other creatures from above
  • Eastern bluebirds are primarily found east of the Rockies, and Western bluebirds are found west of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Females lay four or five eggs and incubate them for about two weeks. Young remain in the nest, cared for by both parents, for an additional 15 to 20 days.
  • Eggs are a pale blue color.
  • Nests are made of grass, pine needles, fur, and twigs.
  • Nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds should have a round entrance hole measuring 1½” to 19/16″ in diameter, or a 1⅜” x 2¼” vertical oval hole, or a 1⅛” to 13/16″ horizontal slot entrance. Western and Mountain Bluebirds use a 19/16″ round opening or 13/16″ slot entrance.

 

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Birds are welcome here!

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