PERU — Help safeguard the future of the eastern bluebird by putting a bluebird nestbox, preferably two, on your property.Learn more Tuesday evening about the state's official bird at a "Bluebird Workshop" presented by Ron Howe at the Peru Free Library."There's a fairly good population here in most areas of the two counties, including some areas of the Adirondacks where the ecology is right," said Howe, coordinator for the New York State Bluebird Society for Clinton and Franklin Counties. "They have to have open spaces and a supply of insects. They are cavity nesters."During the pioneer days, bluebirds were prevalent. Their population went into decline from 1900 until the 1940s."You could hardly find a bluebird in the area. There was a concerted effort of homeowners. They had to put up 100,000 nestboxes if the bluebird was to come back. At one time, it was close to being extinct in the state."
Loss of farmlands during the Industrial Revolution, loss of nesting cavities such as old apple orchards and wooden fence posts, the foreign invasion of house sparrows and European starlings, two invasive species, and pesticide use wreaked havoc on bluebird populations.Since 1978, bluebirds have rebounded and are found in virtually every part of the state."The biggest threat to their habitat are house sparrows, which were imported in the country in 1851. They are the most prevalent song bird, 400 million of them, in North America."Territorial to the max, the house sparrows, if given a chance, destroy the nests of bluebirds as well as their eggs, fledglings and adult birds."The other major problem is weather. In the last three years, we had two major incidents with ice storms in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina in late February. This is migrating territory for the bluebirds who live here. They live there and exist on tree fruits such as bittersweet and sumac berries. If you get an ice storm that covers the fruit, you starve to death a lot of birds. It had a major impact on bluebirds in this state."
Last spring's cold snap killed many first-brood young."On the trail I monitor, I lost 25 nests to hypothermia. Because of those situations, we think it's important to keep promoting the bluebird.The standard eastern bluebird nestbox's inside dimensions measure 4-by-4 inches. The entrance hole is 1.5 inches. The entrance hole's bottom should be around six inches above the floor.There is no perch. The box should open from top or side to allow for monitoring. There is ventilation at the top of sides and drainage holes in the bottom."We recommend an extra-long roof because their major predators are four-footed — cats and raccoons," Howe said.
"All boxes should be mounted on steel poles 5 ft. above the ground. Nestboxes should not be mounted on trees, fences or wooden posts. They provide a highway for predators to get to the box."