Watch the birdies: help count bluebirds
A charity set up to protect Bermuda's bluebirds has appealed to the public to help them save the species.
Stuart Smith, of the Bermuda Bluebird Society, said the group hoped to collect information about eastern bluebird nests island-wide so they could better understand their numbers.
Mr Smith explained: “Right now we don't really know if we are winning or losing the war to save the bluebirds.
“We have boxes on the golf courses and a lot of the parks that are monitored, so that is easy to record, but we don't know how many nesting pairs are in private boxes.
“It's not scientific, in the sense that we are relying on people to fill out a form, but it will help us gauge where we are.”
Mr Smith added that eastern bluebirds once thrived in Bermuda and nested in cliff faces, the eaves of houses and holes in cedar trees.
But the introduction of sparrows in the 1880s forced bluebirds out of many nesting areas and the 1940s cedar blight removed even more sites.
Mr Smith said the species was now almost entirely reliant on man-made bluebird boxes and remained in fierce competition with sparrows for nesting sites.
He added: “Bluebirds used to have three broods a season, but now they are really down to two, or even just one later in the season.
“June is a big month because sparrows are voracious nesters.
“Sparrows nest in March, April and May, but they tend to back off in June when it's hot and there's not a lot of water.”
He added: “It's really just how many nesting bluebirds do you have and what parish are you from, but we may expand that.
“We hope to do this on an annual basis so we can see how things like hurricanes affect them.”
Mr Smith said the bluebird society maintained a lot of bluebird boxes around the island, but estimated about 80 per cent of boxes were privately owned.
He added: “It's significant. Obviously the best places are these golf courses and wide open spaces, which we lack in Bermuda, but there are a lot of boxes out there.
“If we had all those people out there monitoring their bluebirds, that would be a significant number.”
Mr Smith said that bluebird mating and nesting took several weeks, so there was still time to collect statistics.
He added: “It starts in June and goes through until July. The male will find the box and tweet until he finds a female.
“They will produce four or five lovely blue eggs, laying one egg each consecutive day, but they won't sit on them until they are all laid.
“From then, it takes 14 days for them to hatch and about 18 days for them to fledge, so it's a lengthy process.”
Mr Smith hopes the information campaign will also encourage people who own bluebird boxes to maintain them.
He added: “It's politically correct to have a bluebird box in your yard, but a lot of the time when people see sparrows they become disheartened and it becomes just another sparrow nest.
“If this encourages people, that would be a great thing.”