Bluebirds Compete with Swallows for Nest Boxes !

Bluebirds and Swallows will compete for shelter!

It was a cool and misty morning in Dundee when I arrived to band a brood of nestlings in the countryside outside town.

Bluebirds and Swallows compete for nests

At least six Violet-green Swallows were swooping around the box, including going inside. Both bluebird adults were involved in the fray. Swallows were attacking each other, chasing the bluebirds off, and the lone bluebird pair was trying to keep the swallows away and still tend to their nestlings.

Betty and John, PBRP route monitors, arrived shortly to participate in the banding.
We took my transport basket to the box and prepared to move the nestlings safely to my car for banding.

Swoop! When I tapped and partially opened the box to slide my hand up to prevent them from tumbling out, a bird zoomed straight out of the box. It was so fast and unexpected that none of us could observe the bird closely enough to determine the species. I reassured Betty and John that it was not a bluebird nestling,; they were only 11 days from hatch, incompletely feathered and not capable of the strong, rapid, straight out flight we had just seen. The nestlings will spend another 10 days or more in the box being fed by the adults, growing not just feathers but in size until they are as large as their parents. Then and only then will they be coaxed to leave the box. Even with the parent birds’ care, birds that fledge from the box too early have little chance to survive.

Every bluebird monitor’s nightmare is a neighboring property to their route that unwittingly fosters huge populations of swallows. The burgeoning swallow population is hard pressed to find adequate shelter, and resorts to a powerful display of determination to secure a nestbox, even if it is already occupied by a family of bluebirds.


Installation of the new empty box on the left.

Swallow desperation to find a nest site and their interference with the adult bluebirds’ feeding their young could result in starvation of the nestlings. I suggested we put up an additional empty box to give the swallows an opportunity to build their nest and lay their eggs. Neither of us had an extra box in the car.

We put our heads together and determined where on the two Dundee routes there were boxes as yet unoccupied by native birds. Betty and John did all the scouting and found a box on property that had two boxes, one not in use. They moved it to this location and we all crossed fingers and wished the bluebirds well (including the landowner where the required empty box was found and borrowed for the purpose).

While we wait to see how successful this attempt to salvage the bluebird family will be, we volunteers are changing our behavior. Added to each of our vehicles: an extra nest box and a power drill with batteries charged and ready to go!


You can Help! It’s Fun. Click for more info.


Thank you to Nancy Frazer for this post! Nancy emigrated to Portland from Chicago after college, taking a position managing in the Pathology department at what is now Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital. Her love of nature dates back to her childhood, where she experienced the out of doors running wild with her cousins in Indiana. Two years after coming to Portland, she began an ongoing role as a volunteer at the Audubon Society of Portland, at the wildlife rehab center… close up and personal with injured and orphaned native animals. Ten years ago she was recruited to join PBRP and has contributed as a bander, board member, past president, and newsletter editor. She very much enjoys the fellow volunteers and landowners, the bluebirds and the opportunity to teach and coach in a natural volunteer setting. All these are the perks of volunteering with the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project

Unexpected Sightings while watching Bluebirds !

Red-Tailed Hawk Sighting

The 2017 bluebird nesting season has started like the proverbial “lion” even though it’s a bit later than March. For monitors, it means we’ve been slogging through wind, rain, and mud to visit nest boxes on our routes, hoping the weather will soon be warmer and drier—for us as well as the birds!

Red-Tailed Hawk
I’m reminded that each season I am treated to unexpected sightings of birds or animals; I think of these as bonuses that come in addition to watching delightful bluebirds. Recently I was checking a nest box that had an open field next to the fence line. As I returned to my vehicle, I saw a red-tailed hawk overhead, clearly intent on the field. The bird found its prey and, like a missile locked on its target, dove to the ground and then swooped up with wings outstretched and its prey clutched in its talons. It lasted just seconds, about 25 yards from where I stood. Just another meal for the hawk, but amazing luck for me to be there at just the right moment.


You can Help! It’s Fun. Click for more info.


Thank you to Gwen Martin for this post. Gwen is a retired Human Resources professional. Her love of outdoors started in the mountains and back country of Montana, where she spent most of her adult life. She still has a thirst for knowledge of bluebirds and all other birds in our area, and especially enjoys the contact with her property owners who share their knowledge of tress, plants, and vineyards.

It’s Spring – Time to Watch Bluebirds in Portland Oregon!

Can we believe it? Is it finally spring on Chehalem Ridge? The answer is a definite yes. While we’ve been hearing bluebirds and occasionally sighting a few, the definite yes comes because our local Birdman, Greg La Haie, is and has been on his weekly runs, cleaning nests and finding real signs of spring. We’ve lived up here for almost 31 years and love to hear the first blue birds, then see them and then begin to feed them. Over the years I’ve learned to call them to dinner. We’ve lived through good and bad years and the damn swallows, but there is nothing like the first sight of momma and poppa on the railing of the deck.


We’re originally from the Midwest. In Missouri we had bright red birds, Cardinals, yes and a baseball team by that name. We had very bright blue Eastern Bluebirds and they were in such abundance we just got used to them. We moved to Oregon in 1960, lived in the Sylvan area for about 25 years then headed back toward space and country side.

 
But…….no blue birds or cardinals we thought. Then one day a person visited who saw a bird box we’d taken from a falling down fence near our “barn”. She said it was a bluebird box and she knew who made it, she did! Told us there were bluebirds in Oregon and we, who had never thought about it got excited. Tried the box and learned how to tempt them. OK, they aren’t bright blue, but at least the male’s colorful and not so shy, especially if you are between them and meal worms. Three days ago I saw and heard them in the trees and when I whistled they came to eat. It is spring!


You can Help! It’s Fun. Click for more info.


Thank you to Morgan Pope for this Post. Morgan Pope has lived in western Washington County on rural acreage in a 100+ year old farmhouse. Morgan became aware of the PBRP effort in 1986 when he moved to the Oregon Countryside. He is a retired physicist, and has worked for Portland State University as Vice President. He learned of the Prescott program in 1986 from Kit Whittaker. Both Morgan and Kit are still involved with the recovery project to this day.