A (Bird)house is a Home

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By Karen Menard

Since 1988, thousands of birds in need of a nesting box have been calling the Metroparks home.

These cavity-nesting birds, who need a tree cavity or the right birdhouse, include secondary nesters that are incapable of chiseling their own tree cavity, such as Eastern bluebirds, house wrens, black-capped chickadees and tree swallows. These birds rely on the strong beaks, skulls and neck muscles of woodpeckers to craft their homes for them.

In the 1950s, landscape development, chemicals and non-native species such as house sparrows and starlings have contributed to the rapid decline of the Eastern bluebird. As a result, many conservation-based nesting box programs began.

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Metroparks has invested in cavity nesting bird conservation annually since the 1980s, and volunteer box monitors have contributed many hours constructing and maintaining boxes, as well as collecting important nesting data.

This year, 16 volunteers spent over 250 hours monitoring 111 nesting boxes in eight Metroparks. These great efforts combined with successful habitat management yielded an amazing total of 527 young birds fledged – 297 Eastern bluebirds, 162 house wrens and 68 tree swallows.

Through this program, Metroparks has continued to maintain the historic bluebird numbers throughout the Oak Openings region. In other Metroparks, recent box placement efforts have focused on North American tree swallow populations that have unfortunately declined by almost 50 percent in the last 50 years.

Did You Know?

Eastern bluebirds are easily to view in meadow and prairie openings at Oak Openings Preserve, Wildwood, Secor and Swan Creek Preserve April through July. 

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Photos: Top - Tree swallow, by Art Weber. Above: bluebird chicks by Dennis Mortemore.