FAQsHow to Get a Neighbor to Monitor

How to Get a Neighbor to Monitor

Not Your Nestbox

Question: Any advice on how to get a neighbor who has boxes up to monitor them? I offered to do it for her, but she didn’t seem interested even in that.

Suggestions: Bluebird nestboxes should be monitored at least once a week, preferably every 4-5 days. However, some people with nestboxes seldom, if ever, check or maintain them. Do try to learn why they don’t want to monitor the box or have you monitor it, as this may help you figure out the best approach. Here are some ideas:

  1. Let them know you are collecting data to report to a bluebirding organization (whichever one you report to) and maybe they will let you monitor it for them, as part of a bluebird trail. Sometimes folks get excited about participating in a citizen scientist project.
  2. Give them a brief flyer (examples at http://www.sialis.org/handout.htm or http://www.bluebirdnut.com/bluebirdflyer.htm) that provides more information about why monitoring is important. Also see Nestbox Monitoring.
  3. Reassure them that it is okay to monitor, as long as it is done carefully and correctly.  Many people are afraid that birds will abandon the box if they check it.  They do not realize that bluebirds are very tolerant of monitoring.  Others are terrified of getting attacked (e.g., by swooping Tree Swallows.)   |
  4. Chat with them about what happens in boxes that are not monitored. E.g., paper wasps, snakes, House Sparrows, blow flies, wet nests, etc. If they love birds, hopefully they will want to see them successfully nest.
  5. Talk to them about how it will impact YOUR boxes if theirs aren’t monitored (the guilt trip.) E.g., if House Sparrows (HOSP) breed in THEIR boxes, they may attack and kill eggs, nestlings and adult native birds nesting in YOUR boxes. Give them the House Sparrow advisory flyer at http://www.sialis.org/neglect.htm.
  6. If you really like them, “gift” them a book on bluebirds to get them interested (if you think they’ll read it.) Zickefoose and Stokes both did a good short booklet. The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide is for more serious folks, but has great photos, and is only $10.47 at null. Bluebirds Forever by Toops is pricier ($16.07) but has good photos and is sort of chatty. Giving them such a nice present might also make them feel guilty enough to either monitor themselves or let you do it.
  7. Ask them along one day as you walk your trail, so they can see what you’re doing and what a monitor might find that needs to be addressed. They can also experience firsthand the excitement of opening a box to find that first egg or newborn nestlings.

Be prepared for the reality that there will still be some folks who absolutely refuse to do anything, including cleaning out the box once a year.


PS.  Here’s one incident I’m NOT proud of and DON’T recommend. Someone had a nestbox that was falling apart (loose roof, cracked sides, etc.), mounted on a fence post next to brambles. I had to walk by it every time I checked my own trail. One day I lifted up the loose roof. The box was jammed full of nesting material, and five House Sparrows flew out in my face (they’d been roosting). Right after the next nasty storm, I yanked the roof off and threw it out. The box came down shortly afterwards as the owner was not willing to fix it. Then later (guilt kicking in) I gave them a nice new box on a pole with a predator guard, and put it up for them on the condition that they’d let me monitor it as part of the trail.


In my many years of monitoring, I have “taken over” the care of boxes in many different places and circumstances. In almost every case (99.9%), the boxes appeared only to be used by native cavity nesters when they were originally installed. Once the paper wasps, rodents, House Wrens, House Sparrows, etc. moved in, the native species abandoned all hope, and the boxes.
– Duane Rice, Bluebird_L, 2009



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