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Now is the time to get ready to welcome bluebirds

A Bluebird program workshop and information session will take place in Vernon on Saturday, April 6.
There are two species of bluebirds in B.C., the Western and Mountain species. (Contributed)

Harold Sellers- Bluebird Recovery Program of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club

Special to Morning Star

Several species of birds are harbingers of spring, including red-winged blackbirds, robins, osprey and swallows.

Probably the prettiest and most revered is the bluebird. Here in British Columbia we have both the Western and Mountain species. You might have only one of the two or you might have both, depending upon your location.

Bluebirds are closely related to the American robin as they are both members of the thrush family. Their turquoise eggs are the same colour, but bluebirds’ eggs are proportionally smaller. Whereas a robin builds a nest of grass and mud in trees and on building ledges, the bluebird is a cavity nestor, thus building their nest inside hollow trees, hollow fence posts, and now, predominantly, in human-made nest boxes. Humans have been building bluebird nest boxes for several decades which has been the primary reason for the bluebird population’s resurgence during the last 50 years.

The decline of the bluebirds was primarily due to the lack of adequate nesting sites which was due to several factors. These include traditional farms changing from old knot-holed fence posts to straight wooden and metal fence posts with no hollow cavities, apple orchards no longer having older trees with hollow trunks and branches, competition from other non-native birds, and the general practice of people removing dead and hollow trees from their yards and landscapes. Pesticides also played a role in their decline.

It there was ever a citizen-based initiative to help save an endangered species, the establishment of bluebird nest boxes all over North America is a good example. Bluebirds have been helped by so many property owners placing the nest boxes out for the benefit of the bluebird population expansion.

This is the time of year when preparations need to made to prepare for the bluebirds’ nesting season. Bluebirds are returning from the south and are pairing up and looking for their preferred nesting sites – which overwhelmingly include nesting boxes.

There are six primary species of birds that use the bluebird nesting boxes – the Western and Mountain bluebirds, tree swallow, house wren, black-capped chickadee, and unfortunately, the house sparrow (also known as the English sparrow, which isn’t really a sparrow, but an invasive species of weaver finch that was brought to the United States from Europe, an action that has been regretted ever since). The house sparrow is the number-one obstacle for the bluebirds as they compete for the nesting boxes.

If you have nesting boxes and allow the house sparrow, a non-protected nuisance bird, to be successful raising a brood of young, you are actually doing more damage than good for the bluebird population! So, if you aren’t going to keep them out, you may as well not be placing bluebird nest boxes on your property. House sparrows frequently trap bluebirds in a nest box and kill them, and then build a nest right over the dead bluebird.

There is so much to learn about bluebirds. They bring so much spring joy to our yards and farms. They are very pretty and their song is always welcome.

Coming up in Vernon, on Saturday, April 6, is a bluebird program workshop and information session.

Come along to share experiences and enjoy finding out more about bluebirds and other nesting birds that use nest boxes to raise their families.This is a presentation on the Bluebird Recovery Program of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club (NONC). The presentation will be held at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library , from 1:30 to 3:30pm. Free admittance.

For more information, contact NONC at

Harold Sellers has been watching bluebirds in Vernon for fourteen years. He and his wife care for 23 nesting boxes. Harold is also president of the B.C. Bluebird Society.

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