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more tree swallows because Bluebirds are territorial and will defend other Bluebirds from nesting to close.These numbers vary a little depending on what you can find but having more space between the paired boxes will yield more Bluebirds. Houses should be placed where they can be easily and safely be monitored like old fields or large mowed areas. Once you have placed your box at the right height and location you can feed Bluebirds live food such as mealworms. Mealworms will be available in April from MN Backyard Birds. The boxes should be mounted using half-inch rebar and three-quarter-inch electrical conduit with the metal conduit going over the rebar and using two half-inch hole straps to attach the box 5-6 feet above ground facing northeast/southeast or east.The rebar can be pounded 8-12 inches into the ground using a small sledge hammer depending on the soil type.This method is highly recommended for Bluebird trails and also deters predators. Bluebirds prefer large open area with some scattered trees for shelter and for the fledged birds to go.Today Bluebirds are commonly seen at golf courses, parks and cemeteries. Whichever box you choose to use, even if it’s just one, make sure that the box can be opened for checking and cleaning. Do not place nest boxes on trees or fence posts this will only result in poor nesting success and nest failures.This situation also increases the number of predators with easy access. By the end of April the house or Bluebird trail should be ready to go for the nesting season, the boxes can be checked weekly throughout the nesting season May-August. Regardless of the number of houses it’s very important to properly maintain to ensure healthy birds. When checking boxes you might also discover other birds using them like House Wren, Chickadee and Tree Swallow.The House Wren is known to toss out or puncture eggs from any of the birds listed above before it takes over the box. House Wrens can be discouraged from doing this by avoiding locations that are near wooded edges or any area that is more wooded than open. This is why box placement becomes very important. So how do you know who is nesting in your box? When checking the boxes you can identify what bird is nesting by looking at the nesting material and or the eggs. For example Tree Swallows will almost include feathers in their nest and have white eggs, House Wrens will fill the box with many tiny sticks using no grass or feathers, Chickadees will use fur/hair and moss. The Bluebird nest will be mostly all grasses with some pine needles placed in a cup shape and have blue eggs. In the spring of 2011 I took the Minnesota Master NatuPhotos courtesy of Judd Brink

ralist training course held at the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd. At the end of the course each student had to submit their capstone project prior to graduation. My capstone project was to remove the old Bluebird boxes (unable to open to clean or check) and redesign a new Bluebird trail using the proper boxes placed in the correct habitat.The Bluebird trail has 20 new boxes with about half being the Peterson style, the houses were also numbered and mapped using a GPS. All nest boxes are monitored on a weekly basis to ensure a successful Bluebird Trail.The first box on the trail hosted the first pair of Bluebirds with four eggs recorded on May 7, 2012, which successfully fledged on or near June 8, 2012.The trail had two other boxes with Bluebirds that also were successful. Bluebirds can have up to two/three broods each nesting season containing four to seven eggs.The goal is to rebuild the local Bluebird population at the Northland Arboretum through continued monitoring and maintenance of boxes. Bluebirds continue to be increasing in number because of the efforts of numerous concerned individuals and the creation of Bluebird trails. If you are interested in building a nest box, a great resource is the DNR book “Wood Working for Wildlife” by Carrol Henderson. Building nesting boxes and providing food can be a very entertaining and rewarding experience for anyone who is interested in ensuring the Eastern Bluebirds’ continued success in Minnesota. The next time you visit the Northland Arboretum you can see more than just blue skies but more Bluebirds too! The bluebird trail needs more volunteer trail monitors for this summer and in the future. Monitoring the trail is a fun opportunity to see and learn more about Bluebirds. This is a good project for other master naturalist or anyone who is interested in helping the trail to be successful. For more information you can contact Judd Brink the Bluebird trail coordinator for the Northland Arboretum at 218-838-4784 or by email jb@mnbackyardbirds.com or you can contact the Northland Arboretum at 218-829-8770.You can help bring back the Bluebirds for others to enjoy. Happy Birding! J U D D B R I N K is the owner of MN Backyard Birds

offering birdscaping packages using bird feeding stations for your enjoyment. We install and maintain bird feeding stations for commercial and residential customers in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Judd also leads bird-guided walks and tours in the area. He can be contacted at jb@mnbackyardbirds.com

J u d d

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Outdoor Traditions - Spring 2013  

Outdoor news from the Brainerd Lakes Area: Early Season Largemouth Bass •Fishing Guides Share ‘Snapshots’ from their Memory Banks •No More ‘...

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