Bluebirds are some of the most desired birds as they eat destructive pests such as snails, grasshoppers, termites, moths, and mosquitos. To keep bluebird populations healthy, naturalists have been urging people across the country to install and tend bluebird boxes. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and rather than make their own nests, they take advantage of existing nooks and crannies in trees. As wooded areas decline due to land development, so do the nooks and crannies the bluebirds use for nesting and they have become reliant on boxes made by humans.
To protect the bluebirds from predators such as cats, snakes, and raccoons, the bluebird boxes are placed on poles about seven feet above the ground. The bluebirds prefer the openings on their boxes to face the east. The holes or openings on the boxes are a specific size to keep other birds out.
With the help of Irv the birdman from Sunol, we have begun installing bluebird boxes for the western bluebirds on the ranch to nest in. If you will note, these bluebird boxes have two holes for the bluebirds. Irv started making his bluebird boxes with two doors after a greedy little bird always sat in the door of his one door bluebird box and the mother could feed only him. His siblings eventually starved to death. Due to the high temperatures in the Livermore Valley, Irv puts a sun roof on the bluebird boxes that are not in the shade of a tree. Although it is hard to see, the camo colored bluebird box has about 1/2 inch gap between the sunroof and the roof. The door also has a shield from the sun.
We are having problems with gophers all over the ranch, with one very pesky gopher eating the milkweed in our pollinator garden. Our friends at the NRCS/RCD suggested installing an owl box to use the circle of life method of ridding the garden of the gophers instead of using rodenticides or traps. A single barn owl family can consume 3,000 rodents in a single 4-month breeding cycle. Besides using the owl boxes to control rodents, the owl boxes provide the owls with a safe place to hatch their young.
Since we mentioned rodenticides above, we think it is important for people to know that rodenticides are incredibly destructive to wildlife. Owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, foxes, herons, egrets, and even domestic dogs and cats can be at risk of eating a rodent that has consumed rodenticides, which can have fatal consequences. A single poisoned rodent can wipe out an entire owl family. Without natural predators, rodent populations would explode.
Ricka from the RCD provided us with an owl box to hang in large old oak tree. Now we wait and hope a barn owl will raise a brood in the box. Barn owls are not good housekeepers so, if and when the owls vacate the box, we will have to clean it out in October for the next tenants. There is an opening in the front of the box where we can slide the floor out and clean the box. Irv the birdman from Sunol told us how he uses a kitchen spatula to scrap the sides of the owl and bluebird boxes.
Oak Tree Conservation
We are working with the NRCS/RCD to establish new oak trees on our ranch. We are at the very early stages of this project. Click the button below to learn more!