If you are blue and looking for love, you might be an eastern bluebird.
February is when bluebirds begin to look for a mate and a nesting spot.
Richmond County’s Coordinator for the NC Bluebird Society, Matthew Grant, said, “The male’s actually looking now. Both female and male take care of the young.”
He put up a bluebird house a few years ago without knowing that it was specifically for one kind of songbird.
“Before long, there was a family in there,” Grant said. He became interested in the birds, and their houses. The first house he purchased didn’t suite his needs.
“It was just cheap wood and nails. It wasn’t put together well and was coming apart,” Grant said. He decided to build his own bluebird house.
“I used a higher quality wood, and used screws instead of nails.”
Grant said he went to Wild Birds Unlimited in Southern Pines to get ideas for houses and feeders.
Before people built these birdhouses, bluebirds, like Chickadees and Titmice, nested in cavities left behind by woodpeckers. The need for birdhouses has arisen due to a dwindling bluebird population.
According to the NC Bluebird Society, there are several reasons for the decline of the bluebird. DDT killed the insects bluebirds fed on, and softened their eggshells. Small farms have been combined to form larger operations with huge fields, breaking up the mixed habitat the birds require. Cities have spread into rural areas, reducing habitat. European Starlings and English Sparrows were also introduced in the 1800s with settlers.
“These birds were so adaptable and aggressive that they spread across the continent taking nesting sites and even killing the native birds and destroying their eggs,” said the NC Bluebird Society.
Those birds still pose a threat to the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that we see in our backyard.
“House sparrows and wrens will get in those boxes and lay eggs on top of the bluebirds’,” Grant said. He knows of a few other threats.
“You have to be careful when putting (bluebird houses) on trees or black snakes will get in and eat eggs and babies,” warned Grant. “Squirrels can’t fit in, but will chip away at it till they can.”
Grant once had a surprise guest in one of his bluebird houses.
“I’ve actually had a flying squirrel move into one of my houses,” Grant said with a laugh. “When I found it, she had three or four babies in there. I couldn’t even tell what it was, it was so small. I didn’t know we had them. They are nocturnal, you know.”
To prevent your bluebirds from having unwelcome roommates, you can cover the hole with a special cover called a home protector that will keep out other birds and animals. When placing the house, find a location out in the open where the birds can watch for predators before returning to their home.
Chickadees and Titmice are difficult to keep out of bluebird nesting boxes because bluebirds like an opening of an inch and a half to slip through, and Chickadees and Titmice like an opening to be about an inch and one-eighth wide. These are some of the things Grant takes into account when he’s making bluebird houses.
“I’ve been building boxes and given them to everyone,” Grant said. He means his family. He’s been selling decorative houses to those interested.
“I’ve given away more than I’ve sold,” he admits. He has made Richmond Raider themed houses, Florida Gators houses, Dallas Cowboys houses and other themes. A regular box with no stain would cost about $35 and a themed box would cost $60.
Grant said he has just recently become involved with bluebird conservation, and hopes to learn more. If you have any bluebird questions or would like to help in the conservation effort, contact Matthew Grant at (910) 582-1351.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910)997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.