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Call to monitor bluebird boxes and deter sparrows from nesting

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Feathered friends: a male and female bluebird meet on a bird box. Bluebirds are under threat because of loss of habitat and competition from sparrows (Photograph by Wendy Corrado)

Owners of bluebird boxes are being reminded to monitor them regularly as the nesting season is now in full flow.

The boxes are frequently taken over by house sparrows, which are known to attack Bermuda’s native bluebirds and threaten their population.

Stuart Smith, of the Bermuda Bluebird Society, said: “It is very important to monitor your bluebird boxes, especially in March, April and May when the aggressive house sparrow is nesting. The bluebird nesting season is from March to July.

Stuart Smith, of the Bermuda Bluebird Society, with a box occupied by a sparrow’s nest (Photograph supplied)

“The society wants to put to put out the message to be vigilant in monitoring them and deterring the sparrows.

“When you look inside the bluebird box, make sure the nest is a bluebird’s. They are neat and cup-shaped whereas the sparrow’s nest is messy and is made of plastic, feathers and grasses.

A bluebird nest with eggs in a bird box (Photograph supplied)

“You need to continually remove the sparrow nests and eggs. You can also either take the box down for a few weeks or leave the box door open for a week or two to deter the sparrow from returning.

Instructions on bluebird box monitoring

To prevent rats, ants and lizards from climbing the bluebird box pole, it is advisable to grease a length of four to six inches halfway up the pole.

An unmonitored bluebird box becomes a breeding area for the enemy — the sparrow. The bluebird nest is cup-shaped and neat where a sparrow nest is very messy made of grass, feathers and plastic. Sparrow nests must be removed continually.

Mark on a calendar when you see the first egg (mothers lay an egg every consecutive day) and then you can deduce the time of hatching (13 to 14 days) and fledging (18 to 20 days).

It may be necessary, with a clean finger, to gently move the chicks around to remove eggs that have not hatched or remove dead chicks.

It is recommended not to monitor the box the few days before the chicks fledge as excess light exposure can induce them to fledge prematurely.

If you are a cat owner, it is also advisable to keep your cat indoors during the fledging times. Adult bluebirds are vulnerable to predation when they are catching worms for their chicks.

If you are unable to monitor your bluebird box at least once a week, take it down.

Finally, remember to register your bluebird boxes.

Information from www.bermudabluebirdsociety.com

“It is best to continually monitor the nest and trap and cull the sparrows. They are not protected.”

Bermuda’s bluebirds are now completely dependent on nesting boxes for their survival owing to high-density housing.

Bluebird boxes should ideally be positioned in an open grassy area and near a solid tree, fence line or wires where they can perch to look for food and watch the entrance hole.

The boxes should be monitored very week during the season and every two to three days when bluebirds are in residence, but if possible not in the last few days before fledging.

Mr Smith said he is looking for volunteers to help with the monitoring of the many bluebird boxes distributed around the island by the BBS.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact him on 777-9856 or by e-mailing smitty@ibl.bm

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Published April 27, 2022 at 7:36 am (Updated April 27, 2022 at 7:36 am)

Call to monitor bluebird boxes and deter sparrows from nesting

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