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Bluebirds a sign of spring

March 29, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

Have you seen a bluebird today?

If so, it's a sure sign of spring.

Emmet County Conservation Board naturalist Jenna Pollock Thursday told Estherville Good Samaritan Society residents all about bluebirds, their habits and habitats.

Have you ever seen bluebirds on the golf course? Well, it's not all that unusual since bluebirds like being around water features.

Don't place bluebird house right next to fields, though. The spraying can kill insects - a bluebird staple.

Pollock said March and April are the best months to put up bluebird houses. The best placement is four to six feet above the ground - away from predators. Houses should be 50-100 yards apart and south or southeast facing. The houses should be 25-100 feet away from trees, shrubs and powerlines.

And you know how most birds like a perch - sort of a front doorstep, if you will? Well that's not the case for bluebirds that use the top of their houses as a perch.

Okay, so let's say you've decided to become a bluebird landlord and one day you find you have tenants. And not that you're prejudiced or anything, but let's say you want to make sure the birds are, well, blue. How do you do that?

Well, when Pollock held a workshop on building bluebird houses a few weeks ago she made sure everyone left a door so the premises could be inspected.

Now bluebirds keep a clean nest - something landlords should appreciate. And rarely will you see feathers in a nest.

As for bluebird identification, males are a bright, vibrant blue and females are a little lighter.

Males will carry grasses to the nest and sit on top of the house and flutter a lot. Females will build their nest and incubate eggs.

There might actually be "decoy" eggs - away from the primary nest that holds most of the eggs, nestlings and fledglings. Pollock encourages bluebird landlords to check the bluebird house every couple days, and once it's occupied, to check it every two weeks.

You'll have other occupants in bluebird houses sometimes too, like swallows that leave the nest full of feathers and wrens that build their nexts from sticks. And you really want to watch out for sparrows, those "dirty birds" that leave a messy nest. And hornets or ants can be a problem too.

And if you're thinking of what color scheme your bluebirds might like their house painted? Well, the best advice is to not pain their houses at all.

Bluebirds, it seems, like the natural smell of wood.



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