Over the last several decades, many species of cavity nesting birds have faced population declines due to habitat loss and competition with non-native bird species (European starlings and house sparrows) – eastern bluebirds in particular.
These birds have specific requirements for nesting; when changes to land use occur and dead trees are cleared, not only do they lose their places to live and raise young, but starling and house sparrow populations are more likely to be present.
Since the advent of putting out man-made nest boxes began as early as 1934, and with a more national, concerted effort starting in about the mid-1950s, bluebird populations have been rising - but they still need our help!
So, since 2015, WVWA has been installing nest boxes at many of our preserves in an effort to increase wildlife habitat and provide nesting sites – a primary goal of our land management. We now have a total of 15 boxes, and are hoping to increase that number each year!
Monitoring the boxes provides us with an excellent opportunity to collect valuable data on our resident birds and track their population trends. We can also monitor for things like blowfly infestations and events of predation, which can help us keep nests safe and increase the chance that they will be successful.
While they are meant to be used by bluebirds, many other secondary cavity nesters have taken up residence in our boxes, including Carolina chickadees, tree swallows, and house wrens. Collecting data on these birds is valuable, too! Boxes are monitored at least once per week from April through August by our team of trusty, dedicated volunteers.
For each box, we record observational data, such as:
- Species using box
- The state and timing of nest construction
- Number of eggs
- Number of nestlings
- Nestling age
- Approximate age at fledging
- Nest success or failure
- Interesting observations
In 2016, WVWA added to the program by banding nestlings. Click here to learn more about bird banding. All data collected will be entered online through NestWatch, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen science project.