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									                                                                                                Spring 2009
                                                                                                Vol. 24, No. 1

                                  Newsletter of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, Inc.
BRAW is an affiliate member of the North American Bluebird Society (NABS), founded by Lawrence Zeleny

            Bluebird Nestbox Building Blitz!
                                                  see page 12

                                                                                                                     Pat Ready

 Zach Brocken working the assembly line at the ALAS nestbox blitz.

 Also inside this issue: Trails of Excellence - 2 • Monitor’s List - 3 • PVC Box Effectiveness? - 5 • Appreciation
 Certificate - 6 • Black Flies: New Findings - 7 • Looking Back - 8 • Downy WP for Hire - 9 • Bluebirds Challenge
  Winter - 10 • Bluebird B&B? - 11 • BPCA Contributes - 12 • BRAW County Coordinators - 13 • Attracting Purple
           Martins - 14 • BRAW Online - 16 • NABS Style Plan - 17 • Monitor Forms - 19-22 • Workshops - 23
Bluebirds Challenge                       to offer the birds protection from cold
                                          winter temperatures. Also many
                                                                                    successfully negotiated through
                                                                                    moderate winters in Wisconsin.
Winter in Wisconsin                       bluebird nest boxes are available for
                                          overnight roosting.
                                                                                    However, humans may well influence
                                                                                    their migration patterns more in
By Leif Marking
 The Eastern Bluebird traditionally         With the more severe winter             winter by offering desirable food,
migrates in late fall to southern or      conditions of 2007 and again in           heated water baths, and nesting boxes
gulf coast states to avoid the rigorous   2008 the situation has changed            for night roosting.
winters in the northern states that       markedly. For example La Crosse             Bird experts maintain that wild birds
offer limited food sources and cold       WI, experienced all-time record snow      receive only about 15 percent of their
temperatures. During the past             accumulation in December with             winter diet from bird feeders. They
decade, however, many of the winter       frequent below zero temperatures.         can survive comfortably without
seasons have been milder than usual,      An ice storm in early January 2009        handouts. The feeders are actually
and some bluebirds have ventured          covered much of the natural food          supplemental. In fact, the greatest
longer prior to migrating, Few were       items that bluebirds especially depend    numbers of birds in this country live,
reported to stay all winter.              on for daily sustenance and survival.     survive, and thrive in environments
 Despite recent drastically more          On January 8, 2009, the La Crosse         that are devoid of handouts. There is
rugged winter weather, unusual            Tribune Outdoors Section featured         good evidence that wild birds could
numbers of bluebirds are sighted and      a photo of 10 bluebirds on a snowy,       survive without these handouts, but
recorded in Christmas bird counts in      heated water bath, and many other         the handouts attract birds to the great
many Wisconsin regions. A number          newspapers and magazines were             pleasure and satisfaction of humans.
of folks are communicating their          reporting similar sightings.              Bluebirds and other insect-eating
sightings, and some are reporting that      Many of these bluebirds may perish      birds are not accustomed to feeding
bluebirds are spending the nights in      attempting to survive this year’s harsh   on seeds and fruits and do so as a last
their empty bluebird nest boxes for       winter conditions as food sources         resort for survival. They are incapable
protection from the cold. Many others     dwindle. Good nutrition is vital in       of surviving most northern winters,
report that bluebirds appear routinely    winter to maintain body temperatures      and that is why they traditionally
in cold weather at their heated water     sufficient to avoid hypothermia that      migrate to warmer climates in the
bath or bird feeders.                     often leads to mortality. This is also    winter.
 Some folks are concerned the             important to maitain the energy             So is climate change the primary
bluebirds might starve and they ask       necessary for mobility to avoid           reason for bluebirds to alter their
what kind of feed and cold protection     predators. Bluebirds that are in poor     inherited tendencies of migration? Or
to offer. My usual response to these      health perhaps lack the energy and        are human activities and innovations
inquiries is that bluebirds obviously     orientation for migration.                in bird feeding responsible for the
survived in this country for hundreds       One of my bluebird friends has          bluebirds delaying or refraining
of years without handouts of food or      found two dead male bluebirds of          from migration? If global warming
heated water in winter, and migration     the four that had been roosting in        develops noticeably in our lifetime,
has been mandatory for survival.          the box in her back yard. She had         we can expect birds to respond
 So what has changed this past            been cleaning and bedding the box         accordingly. However, we must be
decade that would encourage or allow      routinely to improve their opportunity    more cautious in our generosity of
bluebirds to overwinter in Wisconsin?     for survival. She offered them            handouts for bluebirds if we find that
Certainly the half dozen milder           mealworms but they did not consume;       we are discouraging migration. I
winters were conducive for healthy        their excretions contained various pits   suspect there are many bluebirds in
populations of bird species to expand     from berries. Her evaluation of this      Wisconsin this winter that will perish
their winter range. Other factors         precarious situation was that these       in this bone-chilling cold. Some
include the increased interest and        bluebirds should have migrated, and       birders fear the stage could be set for
awareness of people to commit efforts     she would be willing to remove the        heavy bluebird mortality.
to helping the birds with new and         nest box in winter to prevent another       I have a multitude of winter birds
innovative bird-feeding technologies      occurrence in the future. Other           at my feeder constantly devouring
as promoted commercially by               bluebirds are likely to perish this       sunflower seed in the absence of
suppliers of bird feed.                   year in boxes that are not routinely      a heated water bath. We see no
 Perhaps the most important               monitored or in natural cavities.         bluebirds lingering around the feeder
attraction for keeping bluebirds            The majority of bluebirds attempting    and none are roosting in nearby
in the region is the heated water         to overwinter and those reported dead     empty bluebird nest boxes. For the
bath, and sales of these have soared      are males and most likely juveniles       sake of bluebirds, perhaps use of
dramatically these past few years.        that have not experienced migration.      these seemingly harmless heated
Mealworms and other concocted             They could be late season-born and        water baths by well-meaning people
feed items are now available by mail      did not mature sufficiently to gain the   deserves further serious consideration.
order throughout the year. Winter         physiological character or incentive
overnight roost boxes are advertized      that leads them to migrate. Or they
                                          may have been born to parents that

Wisconsin Bluebird                                          10                                                Spring 2009
BPCA Contributes                          BPCA to find out if we could con-
                                          struct 250 or so boxes for his Top State
                                                                                     ALAS Box Building Blitz!
                                                                                     In August the Aldo Leopold Audu-
to BRAW                                   Program needs this spring. Kent is the
                                          driving force in the effort that has al-
                                                                                     bon Society (ALAS) of Stevens Pt.
By Leif Marking                                                                      held a box building workshop and
 The Brice Prairie Conservation Asso-     ready resulted in recruitment of many      built over 500 NABS Style boxes for
ciation (BPCA) membership approved        new members and monitors and a             BRAW. The event was organized by
a contribution to the Bluebird Restora-   dramatic increase in the production of     Kent Hall. Pat Ready photos
tion Association of Wisconsin (BRAW)      bluebirds. Since the need was so vo-
last summer provided the donation         luminous, Kent suggested we cut the
was in the form of bluebird boxes that    costs by using standard pine boards
could be marketed by BRAW. The            rather than the more expensive cedar.
plan was for BRAW to sell the boxes       This resulted in material costs of less
for $20 each at the Madison Garden        than half the cost of cedar material.
Expo in February and other similar        Fred and I purchased the pine lumber
events. The proceeds were to be used      on sale at Menards and proceeded to
by the BRAW Top State Project to          construct NABS-style bluebird boxes.
expand the numbers of bluebird boxes      To save on lumber we eliminated the
and trails in many Wisconsin counties.    lower extension on the back panel
  BPCA purchased enough lumber for        since that portion is not necessary with
100 bluebird boxes, and Fred Craig        the new mounting systems. Despite
and I proceeded to build them. Fred       Parkinson’s disease and knee prob-
and I have our shops equipped with        lems, I can work a couple hours before
the necessary tools to do this kind of    a rest, and with that meager effort I
work, and we are the main box build-      constructed 12 to 15 boxes a day. But
ers for BPCA. They are the NABS-style     big jobs can be accomplished a little at
boxes made of cedar lumber that is 7/8    a time! Together we constructed 276
inches thick and smooth on one side       boxes in November. They are avail-
for easy cleaning. These boxes were       able for the returning bluebirds in
constructed to be convertible to vent     spring.
or no vent simply by fastening the side    These pine boxes are very serviceable
panels to the front and back panels       and functional, however they may not       Joe Schultz adding the finishing
with screws that are removable. Once      last quite as long as cedar boxes. The     touch.
these boxes are sold, BRAW should         cedar boxes, of thicker lumber, offer
have $2,000 to invest in the Top State    better insulation against cold in spring
Project.                                  and heat in summer, but box tempera-
  In November Kent Hall contacted         ture is often not an issue in Wisconsin.
                                          The bluebirds will treasure them!
Leif Marking inspects the nest boxes built for use by BRAW for the Opera-
tion Top State effort.

                                                                                     Kent Hall secures boxes.

Wisconsin Bluebird                                          12                                              Spring 2009
The Big Blue Egg                           quizzed him on how
                                           large. His description
By Leif Marking
                                           suggested it was too
 Jim Solberg, a news reporter,
                                           large for a bluebird
requested to come along with me on
                                           egg. Then I had to
one of my monitoring trips to learn
                                           go check for myself.
a little bit more about bluebirds,
                                           I had already
monitoring, and other birds that use
                                           informed him that
our nest boxes. We started to check
                                           our 1 3/8 inch-wide
boxes near West Salem WI, and found
                                           oval entry restricted
and recorded five beautiful bluebird
                                           starlings, blue jays,
eggs in each of the first two boxes,
                                           and most cowbirds.
which was very exciting for Jim.
                                           My observation was
 I knew the next box had seven
                                           the large blue egg
chickadee eggs on my last check,
                                           was that of a starling,
so when Jim inspected the nest he
                                           although the blue
reported a complete hatch. The adult
                                           color was amazingly                         I was concerned that a starling might
birds perched in a small apple tree
                                           similar to the bluebird’s eggs. But       return and destroy the bluebird eggs
nearby scolding us as we removed the
                                           Jim was leery about that idea because     so after our monitoring trip I returned
nest so Jim could take some photos
                                           our restricted entry size prevents        to the scene with a new substitute
of the maggot-sized newborns. We
                                           them from getting in. I explained         box. The female bluebird left the box
replaced the nest, and the parents
                                           that I had removed starling eggs and      and watched from a nearby corn stalk
returned to the box before we left the
                                           nest material recently from a wood        as I placed the nest with six eggs in
                                           duck box on a nearby pond, and this       the newly mounted box. As I prepared
 I gathered that Jim was intrigued
                                           large blue egg was identical to those I   to leave with the old box in my car
with this monitoring activity so I
                                           removed. So how did the starling get      the female anxiously entered her
asked him to check the next box so I
                                           into the bluebird box?                    new home. I took the old box home,
could stay in the vehicle and save my
                                             Then I noticed a woodpecker, who        replaced the entry panel, and returned
energy. As he returned, he reported
                                           apparently preferred round holes          to the scene.
six bluebird eggs. However one was
                                           to oval ones, had attacked the entry        Once again the female watched as
extra large like it had a double yoke. I
                                                     hole. The hole was nearly       I replaced the original box, placed
                                                     2 inches wide in this one-      the nest inside, removed the starling
                                                     year-old cedar NABS-style       egg, and watched from a little
                                                     house. Apparently the           distance as she reclaimed her home.
                                                     starling was egg bound and      Bluebirds are so charming when you
                                                     had to relieve herself in the   invade their territory that one must
                                                     nearest safe cavity. I was so   think they comprehend that you are
                                                     thrilled to observe that the    helping them. So how did this pair
                                                     starling had not harmed the     of bluebirds show their appreciation?
                                                     bluebird eggs. This incident    Well, all of the eggs hatched, and
                                                     exemplified to me the           all the nestlings fledged. I can share
                                                     kindness of mother birds to     another intimate experience with
                                                     other bird’s reproduction.      bluebirds.

Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin
Sue Schultz, Membership Chair                                                                      NON PROFIT ORG.
5221 Cheryl’s Dr.,                                                                                 U.S. POSTAGE PAID
Plover, WI 54467                                                                                    PERMIT NO. 1027                                                                                         MADISON, WI

     Spring is coming!
   Time to get your nest
       boxes ready.

                                                             24                                               Spring 2009

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