Bluebird Box Monitoring
Mountain Bluebirds occur fairly commonly, but according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, populations have declined. They benefited from the spread of logging and grazing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when these practices created open habitat for foraging. The waning of these industries, coupled with the deliberate suppression of wildfires, led to a dwindling of open acreage in the West and the decline of the species.
More recently, as land-use practices have stabilized, so have Mountain Bluebird populations. However, in areas where trees are too small to provide natural nesting cavities, and where forest and agricultural management practices have reduced the availability of suitable nest sites, bluebird populations are still declining. Among birds that nest in cavities but can’t excavate them on their own, competition is high for nest sites. House Sparrows, European Starlings and House Wrens also compete fiercely with bluebirds for nest cavities. Construction of nest boxes in suitable habitat can provide a population boost.
Background and Objectives
To this end, the Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is undertaking a Mountain and Western Bluebird nest box monitoring program in Merritt, BC. Originally established by citizen science individuals, VARC took over the program in 2018 when box numbers in the project area totaled over 400 boxes.
The ultimate objectives of this project include:
- To establish long-term monitoring and research to provide invaluable data for regional conservation initiatives and international migration monitoring efforts;
- To initiate community outreach by involving citizen science individuals and groups as well as schools to ultimately provide conservation education by way of monitoring boxes;
- To color band bluebird (Mountain Bluebird as well as Western Bluebird) nestlings using nest boxes in order to document dispersal, site fidelity and population dynamics.