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Bluebird Banding

Spring is always a time of new beginnings and that is especially true for wild birds. In fact, I don’t know about you but when I hear the birds chirruping then I know the weather is definitely changing for the better!

Some bird species are monitored in our area by the local university. We have been told that we have one of the largest Barn Swallow colonies, and this is likely because they like old original barns for nesting. One year the university placed tracking monitors on ten swallows from our barn and followed their movements all the way to South America!

Bluebirds are another species monitored here at the farm by another gentleman from the university (now retired), John Burger. John lives nearby and has been coming to the farm for at least 20 years. He places and maintains the birdhouses and bands the babies; John keeps detailed records of Bluebird activity in our area.

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) breeds across southeastern Canada from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. There is also a Western Bluebird (S Mexicana and S. currucides) breed found in parts of western Canada. The males have bright blue heads, backs, wings and tails, whereas the females are much greyer but have bright blue wings and tails.

We are located in Ontario and therefore Eastern Bluebirds frequent our farm. Bluebirds like to nest in natural and woodpecker tree cavities, or in birdhouses that are elevated, preferably as high as a tall shrub. The Bluebird house is positioned on top of a pole that is placed in the ground. The house consists of a narrow wooden box with a small round hole for an opening. The opening is small and this helps to keep larger birds from stealing and eating eggs. Although other smaller bird eggs, like those of the Cowbirds are often found in the Bluebird boxes as well.

Long trails of birdhouses have been established for Bluebirds throughout the provinces. We have several of these birdhouses strategically placed along fence lines and in open field areas.

Bluebirds lay 4-5 pale blue eggs, which are then incubated for 14 days. They are primarily insectivorous but are also known to eat small fruits in late fall.

John opens the boxes to clean them out and bands any babies for tracking purposes. According to John, he has found that the birds on our farm generally lay eggs in every other birdhouse; apparently they value their privacy.

Here are some photos from John’s visit to the farm.


John plugs the opening before he opens the box.


The box is opened from the side.


John finds a baby bird in the birdhouse.


John gets a band and his tool ready.


Banding the small leg.




Baby is placed back inside the birdhouse.


Everything is documented.

Photos courtesy of Jan Hall



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