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The Bluebird is very territorial, male protecting his food supplies from other male Bluebirds’ trespassing. The nesting site must have sufficient food for them to raise their young and exist themselves for them to be tempted to set up housekeeping. Only female builds nest in chosen shelter, while male accompanies her solely by singing his encouragement while she works.
Nest building starts in mid-May in Michigan and 3 to 5 clear blue eggs are laid in clutch. The baby birds grow alarmingly fast, ready to leave next in 15 to 20 days after hatching. By that time they are strong enough to fly fifty to one hundred feet their first attempt at flight to nearest perch.
By early September most Bluebirds have finished up their family responsibilities for season. A fortunate pair will have raised two or even three broods by that time. During fall, families of Bluebirds roam leisurely through countryside on a quest for insects and berries in great abundance.
Over these travels, different families join together in a loose flock, as they get ready for migrating. The date of their heading south is timed more by weather and food supply than by calendar. They migrate in search for food and congregate in more southern parts of their regions.
It is not that Bluebird cannot spend winter in northern areas like Michigan, quite to contrary they will stay as long as food supply lasts. Planting trees, shrubs and vines with berries that last through winter will provide much needed foor for wintering birds. Bittersweet, flowering Dogwood, Cotoneasters, Washington Hawthorns, Privet, Sumac, Pyracantha, flowering Crabapples, Virginia Creeper, multiflora Roses (rose hips), and Mountain Ash are all favorite food sources in cold season for birds that thrive in northern climates. They can sometimes be tempted to feeding stations with raisins, other fruits and berries and chopped unsalted peanuts, but they are not seed eaters so you will never find them eating from normal bird feeders. Should small fruits and berries they depend on become crusted with ice and snow, effort of providing food will keep them from starving to death. If they are forced to go to roost hungry, bitter cold will cause many of them to die.
Properly built winter houses are enough protection from severe weather for them to live year round even in north. To accommodate them for winter roosting, box should be large enough to shelter a number of birds. Floor dimensions should be 10” x 10”, with a depth of 18” and a width of 24”. The hole must be 1 1/2” or Starlings will move in on them, and needs to be at bottom of box with a perch placed beneath it. Several horizontal perches should be positioned inside at various levels at staggered intervals up one sidewall using 1/2” doweling The side of box should be hinged to allow cleaning in spring. The box must be at least 6 feet of ground to protect them from predators while they sleep, using a smooth metal pole that is greased so that nothing can climb it to reach box. Place winter roosts facing south for most warmth from sun.
For nesting boxes, again hole should measure only 1 1/2” and be situated about 5 foot off ground for observance of young in nest. But for nesting hole should be toward top of box to protect young from cold drafts. The nesting box must face due east. Nesting boxes cannot be any closer than 100 foot apart. Too many boxes will result in no Bluebirds—remember they are territorial and will only reside where they know there is enough food for themselves and their young.
Small air holes should be put next to roof board, and drainage should be provided in floor so it will not fill up with water. The roof should be slanted downward in front to stop rain from blowing into nest.
What a delightful preserve to add to your yard, create your own Bluebird Reserve. Stop spraying cutworms and grasshoppers, plant oodles of berry-bearing plants, and erect proper housing for both seasons in a suburban to rural setting and trust me, they will inspect site and set to building a nest.
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Raised by a highly respected & successful landscape contractor in the metro Detroit area, Clayton wanted a career in anything but landscaping! Now an award-winning landscape designer, Clayton runs Flowerville Farms, a mail-order nursery in Michigan. Read more at LostInTheFlowers.com.