Seeking volunteers for Bluebird nest monitoring at historic Elmwood Cemetery

If Bluebirds are considered symbols of happiness and progress, here is some happy news about New Jersey: we are first in the nation in expanding Bluebird population!

In 2018, five Bluebird nest boxes were installed at the historic Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick (the LRWP’s 2019 BioBlitz partner). Part of an Eagle Scout project, the nest boxes were placed and installed under the guidance of Laura Stone, a representative from the NJ Bluebird Society. Laura explains that a box that is not monitored may do more harm to bluebirds than good. “Monitoring increases the chances of success for bluebirds using the box. When good records are kept, it is also valuable for determining population trends”. Monitoring nest boxes is a way to understand problems birds may be having with predators and competitors, and to ensure that the boxes are safe and appropriately located. Without the proper habitat in appropriate locations, Bluebirds are not able to reestablish themselves in this area.

As a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, use of pesticides, and competition from aggressive non-native birds, starting in the early 1900s, populations of many native bird species like Bluebirds dropped precariously. In recent years, with human help in installing and monitoring nest boxes, these trends have reversed. Bluebirds are well suited to nesting in man-made boxes. They are what are known as “secondary cavity nesters,” meaning they historically build their nests in holes in trees left by woodpeckers. In the absence of woodpecker holes or other natural cavities, they will readily accept boxes. They also don’t mind being close to people, so boxes placed near homes won’t scare them away.

Bluebird nest boxes must be properly maintained and monitored weekly in order to increase the Bluebird population.

In order to participate in the Bluebird program, one is required to become certified through NestWatch.org. The certification is very simple. It only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to read through the information on the website and take an online certification test. Once certified, you will work with Elmwood Cemetery to schedule times to monitor weekly and report findings to NestWatch.org. The nest boxes are monitored for 10 months from March through the beginning of October. Anyone interested should contact Elmwood Cemetery Association President Eleanor Molloy emolloy@theelmwoodcemetery.com or at #732-545-1445.

Unlike some birds which lay only one clutch of eggs each year, bluebirds are prolific breeders, laying two or even three clutches of up to five eggs. This helps compensate for the low survival rate of fledglings due to predators, disease, and deadly cold and wet spells in spring. For more information on bluebirds and how to help them nest near you, visit the New Jersey Bluebird Society website at www.njbluebirdsociety.org. You can also see photos of bluebirds and hear recordings of their songs and sounds.

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