HOP Blue Bird Program
There are 3 species of bluebirds in North America: Eastern, Mountain and Western Bluebirds. Western Bluebirds live in the western and southern US. Bluebirds live in conifer forests and along agricultural grassy areas.
The diet of the Western Bluebird is primarily insects and they depend on wild berries including winter juniper, toyon, mistletoe and even poison oak berries.
The Western Bluebird is 5.5” in length. The male has a brilliant blue head, back and outer wing feathers and the female has the same yet duller feathers and a white eye ring. They live on the edges of wooded areas. The female lays 4 to 6 eggs. In one year the female may lay eggs twice.
Bluebirds benefit humans by eating insects (grasshoppers, katydids, beetles, caterpillars, ants, etc. ), thus they are a beneficial predator.
The Western Bluebird uses natural tree cavities for nesting. In the US the population has been declining due to the lack of tree cavities. Where a lack of natural tree cavities exists, bluebird nest boxes have been successful.
How can you help?
Do not use herbicides or pesticides and encourage your neighbors not to use these toxic items.
Install a bluebird nest box in a location 200 feet away from woods or brush areas to protect them from House Sparrows, European Starlings, or Raccoons. Keep cats indoors. The box should face away from the wind and toward bushes or a wooded area. If you are installing more than one nest box, they should be spaced 100-300 feet apart.
The Hungry Owl Project offers bluebird boxes for sale in Marin County. Nest boxes alone are $20. For a nest box, pole and instructions the cost is $40. We offer a sliding scale fee structure for school projects. Bluebird boxes and monitoring is a great science/environmental projectfor students. A number of Marin schools have already set up bluebird trails, including: Nicasio School, San Geronimo School, Dixie School, and Novato Charter.
Your credit card will show a charge from WildCare - Hungry Owl Project is a partnership with WildCare.
Monitoring & Maintenance
Check the box once a week during the nesting season. A nest will be cup shaped and consist of woven grass and may contain pine needles. Eggs are light blue, some may be white. Nests from other birds should be removed.
Western Bluebirds will reuse the same nest material but it is recommended that you clean it out after chicks fledge (fly away). This requires removing the nesting material and clearing the drainage holes.
If parasites appear, they should be removed. Parasites also tend to show up if the nest box is in a moist location.
Mealworms are Darkling beetles in larvae stage. Some people use mealworms to entice bluebirds to a nest box or during severe weather while there are chicks in the nest box. For best results, place these on a hopper style feeder if there are already bluebirds in the area.
How HOP has been Helping Bluebirds
Since Mari (our Blue Bird expert) started volunteering in 2008, she has helped over 10 Marin schools establish bluebird trails. Activities have included working with classroom teachers to teach about monitoring boxes, Bluebird life cycle education, egg and nest identifications. Additionally, Mari has been monitoring 3 sites and recording blue bird activities: between 2008 to 2011 she observed an increase in Blue Birds correlating to the increased availability of boxes:
|Number of Boxes||Number of Blue Birds|
|Box 1||5 increased to 9||3 increased to 19|
|Box 2||6 increased to 15||8 increased to 20|
|Box 3||6 increased to 8||0 increased to 11|
We thank Mari for her wonderful work on behalf of HOP and the Blue Birds
For more information, contact Mari at: firstname.lastname@example.orgFor additional information on Blue Birds: North American Bluebird Society.