Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 10, 2012

For the (blue)birds

Warm homes await returning bluebirds

ASHLAND — With a wave of eastern bluebirds on the wing into the region, Thelma Warren of Ashland is trying to determine why the entrances to her bluebird houses have been carefully widened and what to do about it.

“Whoever did this was talented,” Warren said, examining the smooth and tapered entrance to one of the bluebird houses in the Ashland home she shares with her husband, Bob.

Inspecting the interior of the bird shelter, her eyes practically lit up as she discovered nesting material which was not there when she cleaned it a few days before.

Warren is one of many people who would not be classified as a true bird watcher, but enjoys watching birds. Through a large window above the back deck of their home, Warren said she enjoys the view and the winged visitors who drop by.

“I just love when they come to the window,” she said with a smile, adding she is concerned the widened openings might allow another type of bird or other animal to interfere with nesting bluebirds. She has been advised to not fill her bird feeders, although that tactic doesn’t seem to be working since nesting has obviously begun.

“They’re cute to watch, and whatever that was interfered with my life-plan for my backyard,” she said after theorizing the bluebird house holes were re-engineered by a woodpecker. Her husband points out a piece of fencing they’ve wrapped around the top of a deck post to keep an intrusive woodpecker from doing more damage, and adds they’ve had similar situations with other deck posts behind their home.

Warren said she became interested in bluebirds when “Buck” Weaver began counting them at Bellefonte Country Club, as well as building the bluebird houses which Warren does not want to replace unless she absolutely has no other options.

The bluebird interest has been spurred by people including Bellefonte Country Club’s current pro Jack Freeman, who has carried on with the bluebird count at the golf course, and through stories told by the late J.T. Lawson and his wife Fran.

Ken Murray of the Indiana Bluebird Society theorized a squirrel may have been responsible for enlarging the entrances of the Warrens’ bluebird houses. Murray said the small entrance is important protection for bluebirds because they can otherwise be attacked by house sparrows and starlings.

“The house sparrow is our biggest enemy,” Warren said, explaining sparrows have a chisel and anvil style beak, which they can use to crush the skull of a bluebird.

Starlings use a similar attack and then empty the birdhouse, he said.

“They will rip everything out. There’s nothing left when they’re done,” Murray noted, explaining both sparrows and starlings attack bluebirds and their eggs to take the nesting site for themselves.

According to The Bluebird Box website, “The Bluebird is a member of the thrush family related to the American Robin. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is generally found in the eastern half of North America to the Rocky Mountains. The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) is found from the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains west to the Pacific coast of the North America.

“The Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) is typically found west of the Rocky Mountains. All three species are blue on the back. The Eastern has a red breast and white belly. The Mountain is slightly larger than the Eastern and does not have the red breast. The Western is similar to the Eastern with the red of the breast spreading around to the back. Bluebirds are not Bluejays, Indigo Buntings, or any other bird species that is blue.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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