Bluebird Monitoring

Eastern Bluebird Natural History & Conservation

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is a small songbird in the Thrush Family, along with other common birds such as the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), and Veery (Catharus fuscescens). Bluebirds are migratory birds; their range extends from Canada during summer months down into Central America during cooler months. Bluebirds, like most Thrushes, are insectivorious birds that feed primarily on invertebrates including (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, beetles) among others as well as berries (pokeberries, hackberries,blackberries). Unlike other birds that  regularly visit bird feeders, bluebirds need a flat surface; therefore, they are platform feeders.

Bluebirds prefer open habitats including open woodlands, meadows, prairies, and orchards. In Ohio, they can be found any time of the year. Although, most migrate south for the winter, many will stick around and gather in large flocks. Gathering in large flocks is advantageous because singular birds do not have to work as hard during harsh conditions searching for food, water, shelter, and avoiding predators. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they are not capable of creating their own cavities and rely on other animals such as Woodpeckers and other natural events to create cavities for them. 

Between 1920-1970 Bluebird populations dwindled to astronomically low numbers. A bird that once was so common became a rare sight to behold. There were many factors that caused population numbers to decline. Extensive land clearing and housing development led to a decrease in trees resulting in a decrease in natural cavities. Over time, wooden fence posts that used to provide cavities for bluebirds and other cavity nesting species alike were replaced with metal posts. The introduction of herbicides and pesticides, forest management (removing dead trees/snags), and the increase in feral cat populations all contributed to Bluebird population declines.

However, the biggest detriment to Bluebird population decline can be atrributed to the introduction of non-native bird species; House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) and European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Both House Sparrows and European Starlings are cavity nesters and both species are agressive birds. These non-native birds outcompete native species for space. House Sparrows are small enough to fit into any size cavity that a Bluebird can and they will always chase and attempt to kill young and adults. Starlings are larger than Bluebirds. When the right precautions are taken when installing artifical nest boxes for Bluebirds, assuring the entrance hole is just the right size, Starlings can be detered from intervening. Natural cavities present more opportunities for these non-native species to harrass Bluebirds because Woodpeckers tend to create large cavities. 


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During the 1970's the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) was formed by concerned citizen scientist to raise awareness for declining population numbers. NABS helped establish a framework for educating citizens about establishing extensive bluebird trails and training them to monitor the bird boxes. Bird boxes were installed on trails near optimal habitat to allow for the monitoring of population size and health of the birds. The results of the program have became a story of legendary proportion. Over the course of the next 30 years, Bluebird populations not only increased to acceptable levels, they have thrived and gone from nearly being extinct to becoming a species of least concern.

The RCPD Natural Resource Management staff and volunteers play a critical role in monitoring our local Bluebird populations to ensure that this miraculous fairy tale story continues!

About Our Parks

Our parks and staff are dedicated to education, enjoyment and preservation of Richland County's natural areas and inhabitants. Our goal is pursued by preserving natural areas for people to experience, and by providing opportunities for people of all ages to learn about the rich diversity of life and habitats in our county.

Our Location

Gorman Nature Center
2295 Lexington Avenue
Mansfield, Ohio 44907

Hours of Operation
Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Closed Sunday-Monday and Federal Holidays. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.)

419-884-FROG (3764)

© 2015 Richland County Park District. All Rights Reserved.

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