By Al King
One of the situations that seems to be part of agricultural ventures, is crop damage due to insects. Those of us who are attempting to use more natural agricultural systems are always looking for natural ways to reduce crop loss. Some species of birds have diets that consist almost entirely of insects and spiders. The question then becomes how to attract the insect eating birds to our agricultural areas.
Western Bluebirds are one of the species of birds whose diets are primarily insects and spiders. They are cavity nesters, using a hollow in a tree for example. In order to increase the numbers of bluebirds, one can increase the opportunities for nesting by providing more cavities for them to nest in. This can be accomplished by providing nest boxes. Those who have studied bluebird nesting have come up with specific dimensions, entrance hole size, and recommendations for placement and orientation of the nest boxes. Nest boxes that conform to these recommendations, optimize the chance of the birds using them and successfully rearing young birds.
Some years ago, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to place bluebird nest boxes around our agricultural fields. He felt passionate about the fact that increasing the bluebird population would reduce the insect populations, and consequently reduce the need for other insect control measures.
We welcomed his offer and he placed a number of nest boxes, which he had made. He monitored the success of the blue bird nesting and subsequent maturation of the young birds. He later moved away, but left the nest boxes. I saw this program as beneficial to the property as well as an opportunity to experience this wonderful aspect of the natural world, so I took over the annual cleaning and maintenance of the nest boxes.
At present, we have eight active nest boxes at the sanctuary. They are cleaned and repaired each March. In April and May the bluebirds are courting, scouting for nesting opportunities, laying eggs, brooding and caring for their young. Observing these beautiful birds throughout the year is a joy. Knowing that I have had a hand in increasing their nesting opportunities is also a joy.