Resident bluebirds are in mixed flocks here with bluebirds migrated from the North. During snowstorms, ice storms, and frigid snaps in Southwest Virginia, I am feeding bluebirds on my property with bluebird suet and live mealworms. They eat fruits and berries this time of year. This food can be hard to find during harsh weather. All of my nextboxes have been winterized so that the roosting cavity-nesting birds have a warm bed and no cold drafts and wet snow or rains get inside the ventilation gaps. I use pine needles about two-inches thick and bat it down with my fist to break down the scratchy points of the needles. If water gets onto a bed of needles, which hopefully won’t happen, that moisture seeps to the bottom and out of the drainage areas on the box floor. This way the topside needles dry out. Grasses can stay wet and absorb water and then freeze. Many bluebirds will pile inside a nestbox for roosting together and use each others’ body warmth during the cold nights. Never remove a nestbox during winter months–the birds love them for roosting. I think that’s marvelous!
One additional thought to share during the time we all are thinking of installing new bluebird boxes by February 2011: …………. please install your bluebird box on a 3/4-to-one-inch size EMT (conduit metal) pole with at LEAST the ground (stovepipe is best!) predator guard below the box so that we landlords are not setting up the birds for failure during the upcoming nesting cycle. Ground predators I have to deter are snakes, raccoons, ants, mice, squirrels, roaming housecats, and feral cats. Nestboxes installed on a fence line, tree trunk, 4×4 wood post, and utility pole are dangerous to the birds. Please don’t do it! Simply put, to lure bluebirds into our boxes and not help them stay safe from ground predators is like playing a practical joke on them.
Before we know it, the males will be leaving the mixed flocks and looking to establish territories for mate hunting and then “house hunting”. Have the boxes ready by February 1st. Please contact me for advice on getting it done. Let me train you to monitor just one box. You won’t regret it as soon as you discover the joys of bluebirding!
I hope everyone has safe…. and warm….holidays to come.