HARRISBURG, Pa., April 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In an effort to garner appreciation for wildlife, especially the state's bluebird population, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's webcasting of a live video feed from a bluebird nestbox on the grounds of its Harrisburg Headquarters now is providing a glimpse into an active nest. To view the live feed, visit the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on the "Bluebird Nest Cam" icon in the center of the homepage.
"After several weeks of nest building and waiting, the bluebird nestbox camera now is allowing viewers to follow along with an active nest that presently contains four recently laid bluebird eggs," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "The best way to get Pennsylvanians – in fact most Americans – excited about wildlife is to show them what makes wildlife so irreplaceable and priceless.
"Once again, we're broadcasting a live webcast to educate the public about the importance of wildlife and how to make backyards friendlier to wildlife, as well as to provide a way for folks to simply get closer to bluebirds. It has been a huge hit, and we expect that the broadcasting of this year's activities again will be well received."
First launched in 2009, the bluebird camera was the agency's first foray into the world of live nest camera feeds. It provides a color video feed plus audio from the bluebird nestbox quarters, which is situated near the agency's headquarters. A live feed also is broadcast to a monitor in the agency's lobby.
The webcast features an infrared video camera, which enables visitors to tune in anytime of the day or night.
Steps are taken to deter house sparrows 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 Division chief. "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 the Game Commission's Howard Nursery, bluebird nestboxes and bluebird nestbox kits are available 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.
Visitors to the Game Commission's Harrisburg headquarters can purchase bluebird nesting boxes for $9.54 (which includes sales tax), and customers can select from assembled boxes or kits that can be assembled as a wood-working project. Sales will continue while supplies last, and office hours are Monday-Friday from 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Game Commission's headquarters is at 2001 Elmerton Ave., just off the Progress Avenue exit of Interstate 81 in Harrisburg. To order by phone, call the Game Commission's Harrisburg office at 1-888-888-3459. If ordering by phone, shipping and handling costs will apply depending on how many boxes are ordered.
"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 (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar in the banner and choose "Bluebird" from the listing under the "Wild Birds and Birding" section.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission