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  • Carol Millar

Disappointing and Concerning Season

July 2022 Bluebird Updates

Carol Millar

The bluebird season at Black Mountain - sntsk'il'ntən Park was disappointing and concerning. Ultimately, only five Western Bluebirds fledged. It seems only a single Tree Swallow fledged and there is currently a House Wren tending to a new nest, which may have some luck.

 

The lack of success this year could be in part due to the weather. One box of Western Bluebirds that hatched early during the dry and cool spring all died close to their fledging time after a heavy rainfall. One nest of Tree Swallows laid eggs later and seemed never to have hatched. 

So we need to ask ourselves, what else could be the explanation for the deaths and the very poor turnout of hatchlings? 

Could it be excessive noise from the heavy equipment in the vineyard next door? Could it be due to fewer birds migrating to the area due to environmental factors such as the heat dome and fires last year? Could it be due to predators? (Although, if the birds are dead in the nest, then it seems they weren’t eaten.) Could it be due to decreased insect populations at the time the birds were growing? Could it be due to Avian Flu? (Although I understand it has not yet been found in songbirds.) 

The big question is, what can we do to improve our Bluebird Trails?

One idea might be to again move some of our nest boxes. Bluebirds like open grassland spaces, but if they are not getting insects when needed, berries are a food that can supplement their diet through hard times, according to the Cornell Lab, as described in the summer issue of the North American Bluebird Society’s magazine. Elderberry, which grows in some places in the park, is one type of food bluebirds feed on. Others are sumac, mountain ash and red cedar. 

 

Although grasslands are important to bluebirds, being closer to open Ponderosa Pine forests can also be advantageous to them. I was so gratified this year to see a pair of Western Bluebirds nesting in a tree cavity in an open forested area close to the park’s grasslands.

I hope through reading and talking to others who have bluebird trails that we might have more success next year. 

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