Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The bluebirds are back...

We have two bluebird boxes on our property.  One faces east and is in our backyard, one faces south and is on the north side of our property.  The north box is outside my craft room window so I see the activity.  There's always a lot of it in the spring.  The birds that typically check it out are the downy woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and the occasional carolina wren.  The house sparrows are usually the first to claim the box and a male will give chase to anything that shows an interest in the box.  The house sparrows are a real problem because once a male focuses on a box, he will not leave it alone even if he makes a nest elsewhere and raises young.  He will go so far as to kill a sitting female bluebird or chickadee and/or destroy the eggs and young.  People who encourage bluebirds to nest on their property or monitor boxes on bluebird trails have tried lots of tricks to keep the sparrows away even going so far as to trap and dispose of them.  A new technique is to trap and clip the wings of male sparrows.  They can still fly but scientists discovered it takes away their sex drive - go figure. 

Our bluebirds have been to the north box a dozen times since late February, today they spent quite some time at the box.  We tried a trick this year that's been tested other places - boxing the hole with hooks and wrapping fishing line around the hooks in a square pattern.  House sparrows fly to the hole with wings outspread and the fishing line upsets them when it hits their wings.  Bluebirds fly straight into the hole so the line doesn't affect them.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed but so far the house sparrows have kept away from the house.  We aren't into true nesting season yet, it's still a little cold, but so far so good.

The wrens have not arrived from the south yet.  They will be another impediment to successful bluebird nesting.  They will claim all the nest spots, fill them all up with twigs and introduce the female wren when she arrives to all the wonderful nest spots he's found.  She will pick one and fill in the nest hole with soft grasses before she lays eggs.  But he will keep up all the other sites.  That includes the bluebird box.  In order to claim that box, the male will carry the bluebird eggs out of the box and drop them on the ground.  Often we don't know that's happened until we see the eggs.  The wren is a protected bird, we can't harass it in any way so we grit out teeth and hope the bluebirds will re-nest.  Our only recourse for the wrens is to make sure no boxes they can use are close to our house.  We've put up wren boxes in the trees in the back of our property to encourage them away.  We've done all we can do so we just wait for our female bluebird to make a nest and lay some eggs.  Stay posted....

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