May 7, 2004  




A Bird in the Nesting Box is Worth Two in the Bush

By Mason Inman

SLAC’s trees are about to bear strange fruit. Hanging nesting boxes to house bluebirds will soon be installed around the site. Bluebirds like to set up housekeeping in tree cavities but their numbers have been declining in recent years due to a lack of suitable trees.

Bluebirds are adapting to new homes. (Photo Courtesy of Max Grandfield)

The Western bluebird has been hit by a double whammy—development has eliminated many trees and aggressive non-native species of birds hog the remaining nesting sites. As part of a nationwide project, a non-profit group called the California Bluebird Recovery Project (CBRP) has installed nesting boxes at the Stanford Golf Course and other local sites and birds have moved in.

“They’re in trouble because of urban development and because there aren’t too many backyard orchards anymore,” said Howard Rathlesberger, CBRP county coordinator. He added that the English sparrow and the Starling, both originally from across the Atlantic, tend to beat out the bluebirds for nesting sites.

CBRP will supply the plywood nesting boxes. Each box is about one foot tall on a five inch square base with a flat, overhanging roof. They are topped with a metal hook for hanging from a tree branch. The door drilled in the side is just the right size for the Western bluebird, Sialia mexicana, the regional species of bluebird. The boxes will be hung about 10-12 feet off the ground—high enough to be out of harm’s way, but low enough that volunteers can easily check on the boxes, count any eggs inside and band the birds so they can be tracked.

“Actually, any of the native cavity nesters are welcome, since they all face a common problem,” said Kirk Stoddard (EP), who is helping to select a dozen or so suitable locations.

With the installation of the nesting boxes, bluebirds could become a bigger part of SLAC’s menagerie. The program welcomes volunteers, especially those already on-site. If you are interested in helping monitor the boxes and taking data, please contact Stoddard at Ext. 3801 or Neil Calder (COM) at Ext. 8707.


The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Tuesday May 04, 2004 by Emily Ball