2010-02-13 / Outdoors

Help save the bluebird

Non-native bird species threaten bluebird populations

It’s a bird battle that dates back more than 150 years – sparrows and starlings vs. the hometown favorite bluebird. With some help from humans, bluebird populations have held their own against these nasty competitors for nesting space.

Thousands of Pennsylvanians give the bluebird a helping hand each year by mounting nesting boxes sold by the Game Commission for $7.00.

“Bluebirds are early nesters, so now is the time put up new nest boxes, as well as to clean and repair existing boxes,” said Dan Brauning, a wildlife diversity expert with the Game Commission. “Building nesting boxes is a great project for individuals, families or civic organizations interested in wildlife. These box designs are proven to attract bluebirds and other species, including tree swallows and house wrens.”

Bluebirds are cavity nesters and have become less common due to a lack of suitable nest sites. Many nest sites have been lost through changing land-use practices. But the introductions of house sparrows and starlings in 1851 and 1890, respectively, have been the primary reasons for the bluebirds’ decline.

Boxes offered by the Game Commission, whole or in kits, include an opening that is too narrow for starlings to enter. However, house sparrows still will enter the boxes, particularly those placed in close proximity to houses.

Each year, about 9,000 boxes are provided to Pennsylvanians to help bluebirds. To order by phone, call 1-888-888- 3459.

Return to top