Volunteers are Valuable

Why volunteering is so important!!!

We want to encourage people to learn:

A) what might be involved.

b) that our records are important because it helps us know more about the day to day problems for the BB population.

C) dealing with living creatures we must protect the bird and ourselves from diseases or situations that affect health of
the population.


A “bluebird trail” consists of several nest boxes spaced 200 m or more apart and in a manner convenient for inspection on foot or by car, to record nesting success, band young birds, and clean out boxes in the fall.

Regular inspections also allow the nest caretaker to remove nests of House Sparrows and other intruders.

Some trails may be only a kilometre long, while the longest runs several hundred kilometres from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, with hundreds of kilometres of branch lines leading off from the main trail.

Placement of nest boxes

These are general guidelines as nest box placement must take into consideration the local conditions. Nest boxes may need to be relocated as local conditions change such as native pasture is replaced by crops, or a new building site is established near a nest box.

Does and Don’ts

  1. Face nest box opening away from prevailing winds, where possible. (Southeast, or northwest) The strongest winds in Southern Alberta are from the southwest, and spring snow storms blow in from the northeast.
  2. Place boxes near native grass or pasture.
  3. Don’t place boxes where cows (who rub on boxes), or horses (who eat them) can reach them. If that’s a problem, place rocks around post as cows don’t like to walk on large rocks. Sheet metal can be attached to the edges of the roof to stop horses from chewing on the plywood.
  4. Boxes can be numbered with grey paint on the side of the box as well as a number on the inside of the roof.
  5. Don’t place boxes near farm yards as house sparrows will move in, or near trees as wrens will move in.
  6. Tree swallows and wrens are protected, sparrows are not. Destroy sparrow nests, leave wren and swallow nests alone. Sparrow nests are a mess of almost everything and they fill up the box. Move nest boxes if sparrows are using them.
  7. Avoid placing boxes on heavily traveled roads to reduce bird mortality or near water bodies which can attract raccoons.

Identifying the differences

  • Tree swallow nests are made of grass, lined with feathers and the eggs are white.
  • Wren nests are made of twigs, with brown eggs.
  • Bluebird nests are grass leaves woven into a circle and the eggs are blue or sometimes white.


  • The main avian predator of the bluebird is the American Kestrel, a small hawk.
  • Raccoons can be a problem, as they will eat eggs and birds. If raccoons attack a nest you can put a tube shaped wire screen around the opening.


  • After nesting season (usually mid August), clean out boxes to prevent mice from over wintering.
  • Remove any dead nestlings, and check nestlings for open wounds. Fly larvae feed on the bluebirds at night and go to the bottom of the nest during the day. Open the floor a little on drop down floor boxes and brush the bottom of the nest to dislodge larvae in the nest material. Don’t handle wrens as they are excitable and will die of heart attack.

Bluebird Nest box pattern

The erection of thousands of birdhouses by concerned individuals and organizations has been responsible for preventing further depletion of bluebird numbers and in many areas has increased populations.

Bluebird nest boxes need not be fancy; wood is the best material to use. An ideal nest box for bluebirds would have a floor 20 cm square, walls 25 cm high, with a 3.8 cm diameter entrance hole located 18 cm above the floor.

The top of the birdhouse should be easily opened for cleaning. It should overhang the entrance hole to provide protection from rain. Two 6-mm holes should be drilled near the top of each side for ventilation and two 6-mm holes should be made in the floor for drainage.

Perches should not be placed on the birdhouse, as they only encourage House Sparrows to take up residence.

If an exterior finish is desired to preserve the wood, a woodstain is adequate. If houses are painted, a light green, brown, or grey should be used. White is too conspicuous, and a white nest box is often shunned by bluebirds. Dark colors absorb heat, which may become too intense for the eggs or young in the nest box.

Do not paint or varnish the inside of the box. The interior walls should have a rough surface to aid the bird in climbing up to the entrance hole.

The location of a bluebird house is important. Houses should be placed in semi-open areas such as pastures, fields, and rural roadsides. A fence post in a clearing with scattered trees about 20 m away is probably a good location. Bird houses in urban areas or near farm buildings are usually occupied by house sparrows. The nest box should be placed on a post 1 m or more above the ground.