You’ve set up your bluebird houses for the season and you’re all set to just sit back and enjoy the birds that will inevitably settle in – right? Wrong, unfortunately, because if you leave your bluebird house unmonitored, it might spell disaster for your backyard bluebirds. Below are some examples of what can go wrong with an unmonitored bird house, as well as some tips on how to prevent all that from happening.
Not monitoring bluebird houses is inherently risky and the things that can go wrong are mostly related to the harm other birds and animals may be able to do. For example, an unmonitored house may invite an attack from a House Sparrow that can destroy eggs and kill nestlings and incubating adults. These sparrows are then free to themselves breed in the conquered house, which can then lead to them attacking and killing again in other nesting locations in the area.
House sparrows are a large problem, but they are far from the only problem. The list of critters that pose threats to an unmonitored bluebird house includes squirrels (can enlarge entrance holes by chewing, which subsequently allows predators access to eggs and babies), fire ants (can invade boxes), butterfly larvae (can weaken baby birds by sucking their blood) and snakes and raccoons (can raid nests).
There are also natural problems as well. Unhatched eggs are liable to break, and if left unattended have the potential to rot and attract unwanted pests. The same can happen with nestlings that die and are not cleaned up.
While the frequency with which you should monitor your bluebird houses varies – anywhere from every four to five days to every week and a half – you only need to check it during nesting season in the spring and summer. The ideal time to monitor is in the afternoon during calm and dry conditions, an exception being during a period of prolonged rain to make sure that the nest is staying dry.
Now that you know how often and when to monitor bluebird houses, how best can you go about actually doing it? Beyond learning to recognize nests and eggs, you should make sure that birds are aware of your presence when you come up to check the house. While checking, that presence should be kept as minimal as possible. This means doing such things as spending less than a minute at the nest, not touching or handling the birds and eggs, cutting down on photographs and using a mirror to look around the nest to avoid disturbing it.
If there do happen to be problems when you perform your check, this is the time to deal with them. For example, if some of the aforementioned House Sparrows have made the house their nest, feel free to get rid of whatever they have in there. Additionally, if the house has sprung some kind of leak and the nest has become wet as a result, make sure to both make a new nest and repair the house as quickly as you can.
The better you take care of your bluebird houses, the more likely it is bluebirds will return again and again to nest there. With the further hours of enjoyment you’ll then enjoy, it’s a win-win situation. Happy Birding!
Written by Guest Writer Sean Peick