Bluebirds are returning to Connecticut, ready to nest. The Bluebird Guardians at Duncaster Retirement Community in Bloomfield, who have bluebird boxes throughout the facility’s 87 acres, have some tips — and free bluebird boxes — for the rest of us:
>> Select good habitat. Put the boxes in an open space with low or sparse ground cover and scattered trees. “Here at Duncaster seven boxes have been moved over the years in order to try to develop better location,” he says.
>> Avoid brushy and heavily wooded areas. These are the places that other invasive species like to nest. These birds drive out the bluebirds and take over their nesting boxes.
>> Avoid areas where house sparrows are abundant. These birds especially like to nest building so stay away from them when choosing a spot for your bluebird box. House sparrows will kill bluebirds and destroy eggs and young.
>> Avoid areas where pesticides are being used.
>> Face boxes toward open areas with some foliage nearby. Ideally, the entrance hole of a bluebird box should face away from prevailing winds for protection. In addition, a good spot also has a tree or suitable perch 40 to 100 feet from the box. These are good spots for hatchlings to stop on their first flight.
>> Keep boxes at least 50 yards apart. This allows the bluebirds to establish a territory around the nest box.
>> Protect boxes against predators. Snakes, raccoons, housecats, and other predators will raid nest boxes. If they do it often enough, the bluebirds will abandon them. The Duncaster boxes are mounted on metal poles to prevent these predators from accessing them.
>> Monitor the boxes. Like the Duncaster volunteers, make sure to check the boxes at least once a week during the nesting season to record progress of the nestlings and to control house sparrows.
>> Always remove unused or foreign birds’ nests. To encourage second or third broods, remove bluebird and other nests as soon as young birds leave home.
>> Inspect boxes in early fall and late winter; clean and repair if necessary. Bluebirds are less likely to nest in a box that has an old nest in them, so make sure to remove them. In addition, old nests increase the numbers of parasites in the box which can cause future nests to fail.
Duncaster has bluebird boxes available for anyone who would like to try their hand at attracting them for their second nesting of this season. There is still time to put them up this year since bluebirds have more than one brood a year.
To set a time to pick up your free bluebird box at Duncaster, contact Fran Kent at fKent@duncaster.org or call her at 860-380-5006. The boxes are free and available for anyone who would like them.