Bluebird Nestbox Camera: Take Two

Jun 24, 2010, 14:40 ET from Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the successful fledging of four bluebird chicks about two weeks ago, a pair of bluebirds wasted no time in getting on with a second nest that can be viewed through a live webcast on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website ( The live video feed from a bluebird nestbox on the grounds of the Game Commission's Harrisburg Headquarters can be viewed by clicking on the "Bluebird Live-Feed" icon under the opening photo in the center of the homepage.

"It is not uncommon for bluebirds to re-nest after successfully fledging chicks from a first nest," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.  "We are thrilled to see that the bluebird pair built a second nest, and already have begun to lay eggs. Those who continue to check in on this webcast will be just as pleased to follow along.

"The best way to get Pennsylvanians – in fact most Americans – excited about wildlife is to show them what makes wildlife so irreplaceable and priceless.  Last year, we established a live webcast from this bluebird nesting box to help us in our efforts to encourage the public to make backyards friendlier to wildlife. It has been a huge hit, and we expect that the broadcasting of this year's continued activities to be well received."

Roe noted that the nestbox camera provides the public a closer look at the entire nesting process of bluebirds. Soon after the first chicks fledge, the original nesting material was removed to reduce the chance that any parasites could remain in the nest box, and to encourage a second nesting effort.

Steps are taken to deter house sparrows – a non-native species – from using the nestbox by mounting monofilament fishing line from the roof over the entrance hole, which compels sparrows to stay away. Bluebird nestboxes placed close to buildings almost always attract competition from sparrows, which annually chase native bluebirds from nestboxes and nesting cavities.

"In the early 1960s, the eastern bluebird was hanging on for dear life," said Dan Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Section supervisor. "The species was suffering from a European invasion of house sparrows and European starlings. Today, it's not hard to imagine the harm that would come from releasing starlings and house sparrows in New York City during the 1800s. But back then, at a time when people were trying to reverse declining songbird populations, it seemed like the right thing to do in New York.

"The starling spread quickly across America. Released in 1890 and 1891, starlings were building nests in California by the 1940s. What our forefathers didn't expect, in addition to the rapid range expansion of these alien species, was that they would almost immediately begin competing with bluebirds and other beneficial songbirds for cavity nesting sites."

Bluebirds were enjoying a satisfying existence around 1900. It is when some ornithologists believe Pennsylvania's bluebird population was at its largest, because fully two-thirds of the Commonwealth was farmland. But the runaway populations of starlings and sparrows would begin to compete with and ultimately cripple the bluebird's ability to secure adequate nesting.

The species' problems would be further compounded by farmlands reverting to forestland or being swallowed by development, the increased use of pesticides, and the replacement of wooden fence-posts with metal posts.

By 1960, the bottom was ready to fall out, and the Game Commission and many other conservation agencies and organizations launched an aggressive campaign to rescue the species. With the aid of its Howard Nursery, the Game Commission manufactured inexpensive bluebird nestboxes and bluebird nestbox kits for the public to place afield. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts became involved, as well as 4-H Clubs, schools and Audubon chapters. Bluebirds became the poster child for efforts aimed at getting people to do something for wildlife in their backyards.

"Today, bluebirds are back in a big way, even in the southeastern counties, where they compete heavily with large populations of house sparrows," Brauning said. "It's fair to say that our bluebird population is stronger today than it has been in 50 years. With time and continued assistance from caring Pennsylvanians, it seems likely bluebirds will continue to prosper."

For more information on bluebirds, visit the Game Commission's website (, click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar in the banner, click on "Birds," and then choose "Bluebird Home" from the listing.

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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission