Article submitted by the California Bluebird Recovery Program.
Sign up to become a Bluebird Nest Box Volunteer today: https://www.cbrp.org/nestbox-monitor-training/
In 1994, Don Yoder established the California Bluebird Recovery Program (CBRP) to help Western and Mountain Bluebirds. After 25 years, this nest box program has proven to be extremely effective. An annual reported average of 16,271 secondary-cavity nesting birds have been successfully fledged by CBRP nest box monitors each nesting season from 1996 through 2020.
Humans have destroyed habitats that often include the very places birds need to raise their young. Bluebird populations plummeted by the 1970’s and the birds desperately needed help.
Even before the American Revolution, farmers made birdhouses for bluebirds to nest on their land and control insects that damaged their crops. Habitat loss, competition with the introduced House Sparrow, and pesticide use contributed to the severe decline of bluebirds.
Groups of kind folks who wanted to save the bluebirds established nest box trails in almost every state to help them and subsequently other cavity nesters as well. Tree Swallows, Titmice, Ash-throated Flycatchers and Chickadees, and other cavity-nesting birds can take advantage of properly placed nest boxes, not only bluebirds!
County Coordinators and nest box monitors manage nest box trails throughout California. Some California Audubon Society Chapters have their own nest box programs as well, including Sierra Foothills, Yosemite, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Wintu.
Bluebird Monitors to the Rescue
Time was of the essence to save the nine tiny Western Bluebird hatchlings. A nest box monitor was making a weekly check of her boxes along the Putah Creek Nestbox Highway and found three boxes on the ground. The trees to which they had been attached were mistakenly cut down the day before. All three trees had active nests in them, and nine baby birds were alive but fading fast.
The nest box monitor acted quickly to rescue the young birds. They were brought to Native Songbird Care and Conservation (www.nativesongbirdcare.org) in Sebastopol. Veronica Bowers, the organization’s director, contacted the California Bluebird Recovery Program to find out if the birds could be fostered.
Nest box monitor Lee Pauser in San Jose manages hundreds of nest boxes. As of the 2021 nesting season’s end, Lee's nest boxes have fledged over 16,858 birds (including 6,670 Western Bluebirds). Lee keeps meticulous records of each box and the broods of birds in them. Lee knew exactly which Western Bluebird nests could foster the nestlings. He advised Veronica he could place the orphaned baby birds in active nests with nestlings about the same age.
Samantha Dustin and Ariana Nahidi, both interns from Native Songbird Care and Conservation, drove the baby birds 100 miles all the way from Sebastopol to San Jose. One of them fed and tended to the hungry, gaping hatchlings in a cloth-lined basket in the backseat, while the other focused on driving.
The nestlings were safely delivered to Lee. He placed them in nest boxes with other baby bluebirds. The 9 nestlings were spread across 4 nest boxes. Those 4 boxes already had 12 nestlings in them and with the added young, there were 21. To assist the parent birds, mealworms were provided twice a week until the nestlings fledged. Of the 21 baby bluebirds, all but one fledged!
Training and Individual Coaching for Nest Box Volunteers
Are you interested in installing your own nest box or nest box trail? Have you wondered if your backyard was a good place to put up a nest box? Would you like to know where and how to place your boxes, to learn the skill of safely monitoring, how to handle challenges, keep data, and report at the end of the season? Are you interested in observing young families of birds as they grow?
Join us and become a nest box volunteer! For more information, visit www.cbrp.org. Training forms can be accessed directly at https://www.cbrp.org/nestbox-monitor-training/. You will be contacted once training sessions in January 2022 are scheduled.