Pratt Although it may seem a bit early to be thinking about bird houses, January is a good time for bird lovers to put up a series of bluebird nesting boxes, commonly called a bluebird trail.
In less than two months, many songbirds will be making their way to the Sunflower State, including the eastern bluebird. With its brilliant blue and red colors and melodic song, the bluebird becomes an instant favorite of anyone lucky enough to see one.
Unfortunately, most people never get that chance. Once abundant in Kansas, these cavity-dwelling birds have declined dramatically in the past 50 years. Loss of natural nesting holes, increased pesticide use, and competition with the non-native house sparrow and European starling have all contributed to this decline.
However, bluebirds are making a comeback and can be encouraged to stay and nest in Kansas by any group willing to put up a series of nest boxes. Boxes are hung by civic organizations and youth groups interested in the bluebird's welfare.
Boxes are designed not only to give the bluebird a good place to nest, but to give trail custodians a way to remove the nests of undesirable species.
Bluebird trails consist of 10 or more boxes mounted on fence posts or pipes.
Because bluebirds feed primarily on insects caught in relatively short grass, boxes should be placed near pastures, hayfields, and meadows. Bluebirds will not nest in heavily wooded areas.
Boxes should be placed about 100 yards or more apart because the birds are territorial. Rural by nature, bluebirds seldom nest near towns or houses.
House sparrow nests should be removed immediately, but boxes may be used by other native species, such as house wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice and tree swallows.
Any organization wanting to establish a bluebird trail may obtain as many as 10 boxes free from Kansas Wildlife and Parks. Call 316 672-5911, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.