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
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.