In 2007, Taylor Brooke Winery had nine nestboxes in their vineyard, but all were occupied by House Sparrows (HOSP). After implementing a House Sparrow management program, Taylor Brooke now has bluebirds!
In 2010, we replaced some of the older boxes at the Vineyard that were deteriorated, and changed the spacing to encourage Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. We installed a Gilwood box, which I find it preferred by bluebirds. On 04/11/2010, we found a bluebird nest in with 5 beautiful eggs. We installed a Sparrow Spooker on it to help protect the precious contents from attack by HOSP. HOSP are trying to nest in the slot box. A Gilbertson box (which is a style not preferred by HOSP) is not occupied. Another new box (by Tom Comfort) outfitted with monofilament to deter HOSP is also up.
Five blue pearls in a Gilwood nestbox at Taylor Brooke Winery. These were found on 04/11/2010, so the first egg could have been laid on 04/07. On 5/1, they all looked fat and happy. By 5/20, they had fledged and there was a Tree Swallow egg in the box, despite the Sparrow Spooker still flying. The Tree Swallows don't seem to like the Musser Gilbertson boxes.
Gilwood: Bluebird nest - fledged 5 babies as of 5/20
Slot box: HOSP attempts, tried to trap but it's hard in a slot box. Finally got one. No eggs as of 5/1. Empty on 5/20
Comfort box: empty as of 5/20
Older NABS box #14): HOSP attempting to nest, trying to trap. No egg on 5/17, Tree Swallow nesting - 1 egg as of 5/20
Musser PVC Gilberston #1 with mono: no activity as of 5/20
Musser #2: no activity as of 5/20
ABOUT HOSP: HOSP are an introduced, invasive species that will attack and destroy the eggs, young and adults of bluebird and other native birds. In addition to being aggressive, they are extremely prolific. Successful bluebird landlords do not let HOSP breed in their boxes. Because they are non-native, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
On the other hand, Bluebirds and Tree Swallows eat insects which helps with pest control. Nestboxes for songbirds, owls and bats in also help maintain biodiversity in a vineyard landscape. More.
INSECT CONTROL: While bluebirds are not entirely insectivorous, they can help control insect pest populations, and are a great addition to an Integrated Pest Management Plan. Dr. Julie Jedlicka of UC–Santa Cruz did some testing in California vineyards plagued by Pierce disease, which is spread by insects. The reearcher found that "2.4 times more insects vanished (presumably because they were eaten) from plots containing nesting boxes." (SantaCruz.com, UCSC Grad Finds Bluebird–Wine Connection, 11/16/2011)
03/00/10: Put up 1 Gilwood, 1 Gilbertson, 1 Comfort X Box (light interior). Very cold out
04/11/10: Five bluebird eggs in the Gilwood, sparrow spooker installed. HOSP in slot box - no eggs yet. X-box was removed due to rearrangement of posts, reinstalled. No action in Gilwood. No HOSP seen.
04/13: trapped 2 F HOSP with DRST with decoy. No additional nesting material in slot box.
04/23: Bluebirds were hatching today - 2 were out. 2 Gilwoods with monofilament made by C. Musser, and one NABS box) were empty. A second NABS style box was re-installed. HOSP still building in Slot box, put ground trap out for a few hours, but didn't get anything.
05/1: 5 healthy, fat babies!
5/3: trapped 1M in slot box. Total 2F, 1M this year.
Who does not welcome the beloved Bluebird and all that his coming implies? His cheery warble, heard at first as a mere wandering voice in the sky, heralds returning spring .... Snow may still lie in patches or drift in flurries; but when the Bluebird comes we know that spring is near.
- John B. May, abridgement to A Natural History of American Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 1930's
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