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“Bluebirds are early nesters, so now is the time to put up new nest boxes, as well as to clean and repair existing boxes,” said Dan Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Division chief. “These bluebird boxes enable Pennsylvanians to help wildlife in a natural way.
“Also, building nesting boxes is a great project for individuals, families or civic organizations interested in connecting with wildlife. These box designs are proven to attract bluebirds and other native species, such as tree swallows and house wrens.”
Bluebirds live in open country, and are a beautiful songbird native to Pennsylvania. 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, as well as to urban and suburban sprawl. But the introductions of house sparrows and starlings in 1851 and 1890 have been the primary reasons for the bluebirds’ decline, as these non-native species took over native bluebird nesting cavities.
The bluebird boxes offered by the Game Commission include an opening that is the prescribed one-and-one-half inches in diameter. This precludes starlings from being able to enter. However, house sparrows still may be able to enter the boxes. If this occurs, the house sparrow nests should be removed immediately.
Boxes should be erected on a free-standing pole three to five feet above the ground – facing south, if possible – and facing a nearby tree or fence where young birds can safely land on their initial flights from the box. To reduce predation and competition from other species, no perch should be placed on the box; bluebirds do not need one. Boxes placed in pairs, about 20 feet apart, may help reduce competition from swallows.
The Game Commission’s Howard Nursery has been manufacturing bluebird nest boxes and box kits for more than a quarter century. Each year, about 9,000 boxes are manufactured there and sold or provided to Pennsylvanians to help bluebirds. That annual influx of new nest boxes helps ensure Pennsylvania remains a “keystone state” in bluebird conservation.