Lakeside Nature Center
Backyard Wildlife Habitat
I finally got my act together and got my bluebird houses cleaned, altered for easy opening, repaired, and hung before nesting season—my first bluebird sighting lit my fire. In past years, the horses have used them for scratching posts (once knocking down the entire dead tree the box was attached to), sparrows have nested, storms have blown them off…In short, I’ve never had bluebirds nest at my place, despite a nice open pasture, pond, and plenty of bugs.
After hanging both houses in late March, I kept a close eye on them. I knew sparrows had an interest, and after a couple of weeks I decided I needed to clean the half-built sparrow nests out of them. On April 4, I finally got that done. About an hour later I was working in the yard and looked up to see a male bluebird sitting near the house furthest from my home. As I watched, he checked the house out, perching at the hole and looking inside. He then flew to a nearby fencepost and waited. Along came his wife. She, too, perched at the hole and peered in, then finally entered the house. Much rejoicing on my part. She was in there quite a while; I imagine deciding on wall color, where to put the piano, and that sort of thing. At one point her guy popped his head in, then left shortly after, no doubt with his ears ringing with “don’t rush me, I haven’t decided yet!” While he grabbed a quick snack (isn’t that just like a man!) she continued her perusal.
Finally, she came out and flew to a nearby tree, apparently inviting him to offer his opinion. He flew to the house, and again poked his head inside. He was there barely long enough for her to grab her own buggy bite to eat, and apparently said “whatever you want is fine, dear.” At that point she began shopping for furniture and carrying it inside. Mostly he sat and watched, but did earn his keep when the aforementioned sparrow stopped by to protest the new residents. Apparently, the bluebird was convincing, as the lovely pair kept coming and going carrying bits of grass and hay.
My job will now be to keep watch that the sparrows don’t try to take over again, and make sure I don’t use chemicals on my yard that could make the baby bluebirds sick. It’s easy to see where the phrase “bluebird of happiness” arose, when you feel your heart leap for joy at the sight of that “too blue to be true” flash in the sky. It’s probably too much to hope that a second pair will take over the house overlooking my vegetable garden, but maybe the martin house nearby will also attract a few winged bug control devices. Now that I’m attracting my own native cavity nesters, I will no longer have sympathy for the starlings and sparrows who try to occupy those handy spaces. Down with invaders! If you have a suitable location, why not begin building, assembling, or just buying your own bluebird houses? Let’s help the little guys make their comeback!
(Story by Lakeside Volunteer Sandi Leonard, DVM. Photo credits: Portrait of blue bird, photographer Carla Farris, www.mo.gov; Blue bird on nest box, New York Power Authority)