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Bluebirds And Their Survival

Bluebirds And Their Survival

Wayne H. Davis
Philippe Roca
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Bluebirds And Their Survival
    Book Description:

    A fascinating guide which tells you what you need to know to bring more bluebirds into your life In this detailed how-to book, bluebird expert Wayne H. Davis tells how to attract and care for this beautiful and gentle bird and offers solutions to the most common bluebird problems. Since bluebirds are almost entirely dependent on people for providing nesting sites, the book contains plans for erecting a structure that will attract bluebirds to a safe habitat. Instructions for building and maintaining a "bluebirds trail," complete with drawings of various bluebirds houses and guards against predators, are also included. Davis shares his plans for his specially designed Kentucky Bluebird Box -- a unique bird house attractive to the Eastern Bluebird but unsuitable for the bluebird's rivals -- as well an a variety of other plans for using materials as inexpensive as milk cartons and scavenged pipes. A chapter by professional photographer Philippe Roca offers tips on photographing bluebirds. Lavishly illustrated and written in an accessible style, this book will aid in the conservation of tone of America's most beloved birds. Whether you are a beginning birder or an expert, Davis will help ensure your success in attracting and raising bluebirds.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5993-5
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    When I was a boy in Morgantown, West Virginia, in the 1930s, a pair of eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) nested beside my elementary school. The nest site was a cavity in a small dead branch that had been excavated by a downy woodpecker in the backyard of a home. The foraging territory for the bluebirds was the school playground, a small area suitable only for a single pair. They nested there for two seasons and were never seen again. They may have been the last pair to nest at the site. Bluebirds have abandoned the cities and suburbs, leaving these...

  6. 1 Bluebird Habitat
    (pp. 6-8)

    Bluebirds feed on the ground and must have access to insects that they can see from a perch or by hovering. They must have open land; they will not nest in the forest or in dense brushy areas.

    A parklike stand of trees is satisfactory if the ground is covered with grass that is mowed or grazed. Most pastureland makes excellent habitat. Golf courses, lawns, and orchards are suitable. The right-of-ways along interstate highways, freeways, and toll roads provide excellent habitat; boxes mounted on right-of-way fence posts attract bluebirds.

    Land surface-mined for coal or other minerals provides some of the...

  7. 2 Boxes and Other Nest Structures
    (pp. 9-13)

    In recent years, bluebirds have become ever more dependent upon people to provide nest sites; today probably the majority are raised in boxes built and erected for them by interested people. Zeleny’s (1976) book on the plight of the bluebird and the establishment of the North American Bluebird Society in 1979 led to widespread interest in providing satisfactory homes for the bluebirds and thus a resurgence of the much diminished population.

    Bluebirds, like purple martins, are nearly domestic. Several times I have had a pair watch me erect a nest box and come down to inspect it as I was...

  8. 3 Choosing Sites
    (pp. 14-19)

    The choice of sites depends upon your circumstances. If you are developing a bluebird trail along a highway, at a state park, a military installation, or a ranch, you can be pretty particular about choosing ideal sites for your boxes. If you have a country home with a few acres or less, however, your choice of sites will be restricted. In any case,sitesmust be plural; you should either put up two or more boxes or have a second box ready to put up as needed.

    The worst thing that can happen is to have a pair of bluebirds...

  9. 4 When to Erect Boxes
    (pp. 20-21)

    When should you put up bluebird houses? Whenever you buy them or build them. They will not attract bluebirds if they are stored in your garage.

    The generally recommended time is in late winter just before the bluebirds return from their winter home. Bluebirds are among our earliest migrants. Some are seeking nest sites in Kentucky in early March; in the northern states and Canada it may be a month later. You will have the largest percentage of your boxes used if you have them in place when the bluebirds arrive.

    Boxes erected later in the season, however, will often...

  10. 5 Through the Seasons
    (pp. 22-32)

    If you live from the Ohio River Valley southward or in the coastal states as far north as Connecticut, bluebirds will be with you throughout the winter. Although some of these birds may be migrants from farther north with no intention of nesting, they will appreciate the protection of your boxes as roosting sites on cold winter nights. Even as far north as Michigan some bluebirds are permanent residents and use the boxes in winter (Pinkowski 1974, 1977a). Some people plug the ventilation holes in autumn to provide their bluebirds with a snug winter home. Tuttle (1987b) found higher survival...

  11. 6 Bluebirds at Your Feeder
    (pp. 33-38)

    Bluebirds do not ordinarily come to a feeder. They are not seed eaters and are not attracted to the fare in the ordinary backyard bird feeder. Bluebirds are insectivorous when bugs are available. During winter, they eat various small fruit such as dogwood, rosehips, poke, honeysuckle, sumac, and hawthorn.

    There are numerous things that are readily available to people that bluebirds will eat. This includes raisins, currants, or other dried fruit cut into small bits; shelled sunflower seed; peanut butter, peanut hearts, or peanut bits; chopped nuts; combread; suet; and mealworms. A mixture called miracle meal, development by Carol Harmon,...

  12. 7 Guests and Pests
    (pp. 39-61)

    If you have the proper kind of boxes in good locations you will probably attract more bluebirds than any other creature. However, your box provides excellent shelter—a quality that may be scarce in the areas you have chosen—and many types of animals are potential tenants. Some are delightful guests that we are glad to have, others are interesting but may sometimes be pests, and a few may cause serious problems. If you have an extensive bluebird trail and run it for several years you will have the opportunity to see many interesting creatures. The following are some of...

  13. 8 Foiling House Sparrows
    (pp. 62-68)

    House sparrows (Passer domesticus) are generally considered the most serious problem for people trying to establish bluebirds. Sparrows can enter any cavity accessible to bluebirds and these ubiquitous pests may take over all of your boxes if you don’t plan properly. Sparrows will evict bluebirds, sometimes killing an adult in a box (Gowaty 1984). They will fill the box with trash, building their nest on the eggs or small young of the bluebirds. Larger young are often pecked to death by the sparrows before the nest is built over them. Kridler (1991) reported that one year sparrows killed twenty-six adult...

  14. 9 Predators
    (pp. 69-82)

    People are likely to be upset and angry when checking up on a family of bluebirds whose progress they have followed for weeks only to discover the nest destroyed and feathers and parts of young and adult bluebirds scattered beneath the box. Nearly everyone who has had much experience with bluebird boxes has occasionally encountered this sad situation. People have devised a wide variety of tactics to try to decrease or eliminate the predation problem. Nearly all the literature on the numerous ideas for deterring predators consists of simple anecdotes; somebody tries something and says it works. There is a...

  15. 10 A Bluebird Trail
    (pp. 83-91)

    The idea of a trail of boxes designed to provide nesting opportunities for bluebirds apparently originated with T.E. Musselman of Quincy, Illinois. Dr. Musselman, a bird bander, combined his interest in bird migration with his concern about a decrease in the number of bluebirds. In 1934, he built twenty-five boxes, which he placed along the roads near his home in western Illinois. In the same year, he published an article entitled “Help the Bluebirds” inBird Lore,as the magazine of the National Audubon Society was called at that time.

    Musselman expanded his trail and wrote several papers on his...

  16. 11 Building Your Own
    (pp. 92-124)

    Nearly all people who operate bluebird trails build their own boxes. They are easy to make and require a minimum of skill and few tools. With the following designs and instructions, you’ll be able to construct boxes, feeders, and predator guards sturdier and more favorable to bluebirds than any you can purchase.

    A good slot entrance box can be built with standard soft pine lumber using only a saw, a hammer, a ruler, and a few galvanized nails. If this is the limit of your tool chest and you plan to make only a couple of boxes, go to it....

  17. 12 Photographing Birds
    (pp. 125-134)

    Bluebirds are ideal subjects for bird photography, for beginners as well as experienced photographers. They are beautiful, and the colorful male assists in feeding the young, so he will be available to pose for you.

    Boxes can be placed with photography in mind. Consider the position of the sun, the time of day you will be working, and the background you want. If feasible, plan to have several bluebird families available. Because of individual variation in behavior, some birds are shy and others are bold. If one pair doesn’t cooperate readily, try another.

    Bluebirds are remarkably tolerant of disturbance. If...

  18. 13 Troubleshooting
    (pp. 135-141)

    Q; I have had a box up throughout the spring and nothing is using it. What is wrong?

    A: Check the site and habitat. Bluebirds prefer boxes on posts or poles to those on trees. The box must be in the open and not obstructed by vines or leaves. There must be some open habitat where the birds can forage.

    Keep checking your box regularly and keep it free of ants and wasps. Some bluebirds are shy and seldom seen; there may be a nest in the box and you didn’t realize it. Consider putting up more boxes.

    If your...

  19. Appendix: Organizations and Suppliers
    (pp. 142-144)
  20. Literature Cited
    (pp. 145-149)
  21. Index
    (pp. 150-156)