Bringing out the bluebirds

The New York State Bluebird Society actively maintains the U.S. Route 11 and State Route 22 Bluebird Trails in Clinton County. Perhaps you have noticed pairs of bright yellow-orange birdhouses, or nest boxes as they are sometimes referred to, along those highways as you travel. These boxes are paired due to the abundance of tree swallows in our area. Bluebirds and tree swallows make good neighbors and will defend their territories from others of their species.

Bluebirds belong to the thrush family - as do robins. Like robins, eastern bluebirds lay blue eggs and have a russet colored breast. Bluebirds, however, are secondary cavity nesters and are therefore limited in where they can nest. In nature they will occupy tree holes that have been excavated by woodpeckers or other primary cavity nesters. There is much competition from other cavity nesters for these nest sites, hence the need for the NYSBS boxes.

Once a bluebird lays an egg in a nest box, a sparrow spooker is put on top of the box to scare house sparrows away. While this unsightly contraption (we use a wire frame with mylar strips) devalues the bird house, the bluebird's egg investment ensures the box will not be abandoned. House sparrows are fierce competitors and will kill bluebird young and adults when coveting an occupied nest box.

Satellite Route 11 Bluebird Trails include the North Country Golf Course in Champlain, the Barracks and Bluff Point Golf Courses in Plattsburgh, the Glenwood Cemetery in Champlain and the Maple Hill Cemetery in Rouses Point. A new addition is the Clinton Community College overlooking Lake Champlain in South Plattsburgh.

While all of these trail locations have had bluebirds, Clinton Community College attracted two pairs of bluebirds just two weeks after the boxes were put out. They now have eight healthy young bluebirds awaiting fledging (first flight).

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