Eastern Bluebird

Bluebird photo by William H. Majoros

Have you seen an Eastern bluebird this season? We have and they’re absolutely beautiful, which is one reason CLC is working hard to protect and create habitat for the state bird of NY. Named for its brilliant royal blue feathers, bluebirds nest in the cavities of decayed trees and stumps at the edges of grasslands where they feed on insects. But in recent years, the loss of open land and the introduction of invasive species have caused bluebird populations to dwindle.

This problem is compounded by massive populations of European starlings, a species introduced to NY in the 1890’s. These birds are more confrontational than bluebirds, claiming tree cavities as their own. This causes a housing crisis for the peaceful bluebirds and has contributed to their population decline.

Andreas Stresemann at Hand Hollow
Volunteer Andreas Stresemann preparing a bluebird box for the spring nesting season

One way to help our beloved bluebirds bounce back is to build and maintain bluebird boxes, which take the place of a tree stump. These structures are constructed with small doorways that prevent starlings from entering. CLC continues to build and post bluebird boxes at several of our Public Conservation Areas, and our staff works with volunteers to ensure that the boxes are cleaned and maintained so bluebirds are happy to nest in them. CLC recently hosted workshops, where participants built bluebird boxes they can post on their property.

CLC’s work in conserving land and providing guidance on land stewardship also helps protect bluebird habitat. To date, CLC has permanently protected over 29,400 acres of land, much of which includes woodlands where bluebirds make their home, and open fields where they hunt for insects. The opportunity to see such a beautiful bird is just one of the many rewards of land conservation.


17 Responses to Eastern Bluebird

  1. Stephen Shapiro says:

    Have not updated recently; however we had a third nesting this summer which produced two eggs, both of which hatched. We are hoping that this prolific pair will be back with us next spring.

  2. Stephen Shapiro says:

    We checked the plexi side of the box several times during the month of May. Very deep nest inside the box (roughly 6″); but we saw 4 distinct mouths. Sometime during the week beginning on the Monday of Memorial Day they fledged. Last weekend I did not see any action around the box at all. We will be cleaning out the box this coming weekend, in the hopes that a second brood will be produced this summer. Last year we had two.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Thanks for the update. I hope you get a second one.

      • Stephen Shapiro says:

        On Saturday, my wife and I, armed with masks and latex gloves, went to clean out the box. Looking in the Plexi side first we found three new eggs. The nest was so well constructed, we guess that the EB’s decided that they did not need to wait to build a new one. Over the weekend, both male and female were observed many times entering and leaving the box

  3. Stephen Shapiro says:

    As an update: On Sunday (May 5), the nest had 4 eggs.

  4. Stephen Shapiro says:

    The essential problem with the pictured box is that it seems to be open on one side. Great feasting for raptors and others. We have a house in Canaan and have had Eastern Bluebirds for the past two seasons (ever since we put up a wonderful bird house from Lee Valley). Your readers should look into these: made of red cedar; raised grate; copper-clad entry hole; ventilation and water run-off holes; one side opens for cleaning; the other, when you open the cedar panel there is a sheet of plexi for viewing. Last year the EB’s produced two broods. To a large degree they exhibit same-site fidelity and we first saw them (male and female) this year on Saturday, March 30. Last year the male arrived un-accompanied, but found a mate quickly. This year the male and female arrived together. We checked on Sunday (April 14), and the nest was already in place.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Stephen, it’s great to hear that your birdbox is providing a home for bluebirds.

      The bluebird box in the photograph above has had its front removed while the volunteer is cleaning it and preparing it for the season.

  5. Anne Connor says:

    Saw a beautiful bluebird last Sunday 3/31 on the yellow trail at the Greenport Conservation Area.

  6. Deb Cohen says:

    A bluebird box mounted on a wooden pole, such as the one pictured in this article, is a bluebird death trap. A wide variety of predators can easily climb the pole, reach into the nest and remove eggs. A predator guard around a 8 foot tall, 3/4″ galvanized pipe is an essential addition to any bluebird box installation. Further, the European starling is not nearly as much a threat to bluebirds as the house sparrow. Bluebird boxes mounted with no mind to the local house sparrow population are guaranteed death traps. And last but not least, once installed, monitoring the box is crucial. From my favorite guidebook: “a bluebird box put up and never monitored is like a letter never sent. At best, bluebirds may get a brood out of it before a house sparrow takes over. At worst, it may fledge broods of house sparrows which outs and kill bluebirds wherever they find them.”

    We like to think we are helping by putting up boxes as you describe. But to do so without a proper understanding of the many threats to the eastern bluebird does much more harm than good. Before installing a bluebird next box, I strongly recommend referencig two indispensable guides: the pamphlet entitled “Enjoying Bluebirds More” by Julie Zickefoose, and the website http://www.Sialis.org.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Deb, thanks for your comment and your commitment to bluebirds. You make some great recommendations and at our bluebird box workshops we go over the best practices you describe for how to install and monitor a box. We have had many bluebirds make their home in the boxes and there are populations in the Public Conservation Areas where the boxes are located.

  7. Peggy Gould says:

    Would it be possible to post the plans for building the bluebird boxes?

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