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Birdwatching: Sparkling clean homes free for the right bird!

Western bluebirds may begin raising families here

By Dr. Madeline A. Kalbach

For the Observer

Published on March 14, 2017 5:51PM

Western bluebirds sit on low perches to search for prey.


Western bluebirds sit on low perches to search for prey.

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The metallic blue-green tree swallow also nest in cavities or nesting boxes.

The metallic blue-green tree swallow also nest in cavities or nesting boxes.

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I cleaned out the bird boxes at the Tarlatt Unit of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for the breeding season. The hope is that tree swallows, violet-green swallows and western bluebirds will take advantage of the clean nesting boxes.

Last spring a pair of western bluebirds took up residence in one of the boxes for the first time ever on the refuge, but successful breeding could not be confirmed.

Last week when the bluebirds’ box was cleaned and tidied, an unhatched, beautiful, bluish, bluebird egg was found sitting on the grassy nest. The question that arises is what happened? Were the bluebirds chased off by the tree swallows before they laid all of their eggs or did they hatch a nestling or two? We can only guess!

It is hoped that in the next few weeks the western bluebirds will return to nest and raise a family. The tree swallows will nest for sure. They turned up the day after the boxes were cleaned and refreshed. They flew around several of them and then sat on top of one as if to say, “This one is ours.”

If a pair of western bluebirds chooses to breed on the refuge this year, and are successful, it would be a new nesting record for the WNW Refuge. Tarlatt with its open grassy areas and adjacent wooded areas is the perfect habitat for the western bluebird. There are utility wires and fence posts on which the bluebirds can perch to watch for prey. They favor low perches from which they can swoop down on unsuspecting insects. western bluebirds also feed on berries.

Male western bluebirds are a rich, deep blue color with a rusty-orange breast. They also have a small brownish patch on their back. Females are grey-brown tinged with blue. These small thrushes nest in holes in trees or in fence posts, but readily choose nesting boxes. If you look carefully at a bluebird’s bill it is clear they are not equipped to chisel out their own nest — hence, their reliance on woodpeckers or natural cavities for nesting. We can help the western bluebird by putting up nesting boxes in our yards and elsewhere. Plans for building bluebird boxes can be found on the internet.

Keep your eyes open for this elegant, small, dark blue thrush. It should land on the refuge any time now! Their sparkling clean nesting boxes await!


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