BRRR … winter has finally arrived. Although winter is a time for nature to sleep and recharge, to me, it is the season to prepare … to prepare for Spring.
One item on my springtime prep list is maintaining bluebird nest boxes. We all have our favorite birds; bluebirds are among my picks … just seeing one in its bright blue plumage brings joy … they are known as harbingers of happiness. They are great birds to have around gardens, too, since they eat crawling insects on the crops but do not peck the produce; thus, these guys make organic gardening easier.
Bluebirds were once headed towards extinction. This was mostly due to loss of habitat (including loss of tree cavities) and competition from other cavity dwellers. This trend was reversed by the construction and proper placement of bluebird nest boxes, i.e., man-made cavities. They need people to provide them with a place to live. So, to help them, for more smiles, and better gardens, it’s a great idea to put and maintain a bluebird nest box in your yard or help them in any way you can.
The bluebird is a small thrush native to North America. There are three species. The Eastern Bluebird is the species that we see in our state; its range includes the eastern half of the US and parts of Canada and Mexico. It’s a year-round resident here. In the summer they eat crawling insects, such as, caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. In the winter, when insects are not available, they switch to a diet of berries. Given that they eat crawling bugs in the warm months, the ideal bluebird habitat is a large, open grassy area with scattered trees and sparse ground cover. The availability of high and open tree branches to perch helps them spot those bugs. They can see them from 60 feet away! These perches also provide handy places for their fledglings to land.
A small corps of our county’s Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists have been building and
maintaining bluebird trails since 2019. This work started with the encouragement and help from UGA Extension and with the permissions and materials provided by Cherokee County and the cities of Canton and Ball Ground. The nest boxes have been built by volunteers and the project has been funded by the sale of bluebird nest boxes to individuals.
Currently, the Cherokee County Bluebird Trail System includes nearly 50 bluebird nest boxes located in Heritage, Etowah River, and Brown parks, on the Reinhart University campus, in several Ball Ground parks, in Veterans Park, on the Cherokee High School campus, and on the CORE Community School campus. This system will be further expanded in 2024, including three more in Ball Ground parks and two on the Ball Ground STEM Academy campus. These trails have helped increase the bluebird population in our county, which, in turn, has added to the quality of life of those who live in or visit our county.
Monitoring the bluebird nest boxes on our bluebird trails is an integral part of the trail maintenance. It involves peeking into the nest boxes weekly during the nesting period and documenting what is going on inside … observing nest building, counting eggs, counting young, and counting fledglings. Since bluebirds are people-friendly, they don’t mind having someone peeking into their homes.
This article is a call for volunteers to monitor a nest box on one of our park bluebird trails during the upcoming bluebird nesting season (March – July). It is an extremely rewarding way to learn about these beautiful birds and a fun way to share a truly educational experience with your children and/or grandchildren. The nest boxes in parks are all near walking paths, so it is very convenient to participate.
If you’re interested in volunteering on any trail, and I hope you are, simply send an email to me at Mike.BallGround.GA@gmail.com with the subject “Make Me A Bluebird Monitor in 2024”. I will give you all the training that you need and will assign you to a nest box or two in the park of your choice.