If you build it, they will come. Sounds simple, right? This common phrase is often used to describe situations with definite outcomes. Hang up a bird feeder and you get birds. Plant wildflowers and you get bees. Put up a bluebird nest box and you get bluebirds . . . well maybe. With bluebirds, it may not be quite as straightforward as “build it and they will come.” Providing a nest box does improve your chances of attracting one of these colorful birds, but other actions like selecting the right location and habitat for the box, reducing predators, and evicting non-native birds may ultimately be the factors that determine if bluebirds eventually inhabit your yard. Regardless, the key first step is putting up a nest box. But how do you get one?
The two most common ways of acquiring a nest box are to either purchase or build one. Fully constructed boxes are available from some stores, such as home and garden centers. These boxes may seem appealing to time-pressed individuals or folks with few woodworking skills, but buyer beware. Many of these commercial boxes are not appropriate for bluebirds. To properly function as a bluebird nest box, it must be large enough (at least 4” x 4” at the base), provide a wide enough opening (1.5 inches in diameter), be accessible for routine nest checks, and made of durable material that will protect young chicks from inclement weather.
A better option is to build a bluebird nest box yourself so you can ensure it meets the correct specifications. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Wildlife Division has been supporting the construction of bluebird nest boxes for over 25 years by distributing rough-cut lumber to organized groups. This annual program has been highly successful in generating tens of thousands of bluebird boxes and helping restore bluebird populations statewide. The timber for this program comes from state forests and the lumber is milled at the state saw mill so that it can be provided free-of-charge. The lumber can be reserved by organized groups on a “first come, first serve” basis. Interested groups should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the group name, the group leader’s name, a mailing address for an informational packet, and the number of bundles requested. Each bundle of lumber yields approximately 15-20 boxes. The large size of each wood bundle has limited the availability of wood to GROUPS ONLY.
The lumber for groups consists of planks, and all groups will be responsible for cutting the wood to the proper dimensions. Hardware for construction of the boxes is not provided.
When notified, groups will be responsible for picking up their wood at either the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area, located at 341 Milford Street (Route 69) in Burlington, or at DEEP Eastern District Headquarters, located at 209 Hebron Road (Route 66) in Marlborough.
Participating groups are expected to construct, erect, and monitor bluebird boxes throughout the entire nesting season (March-July) and then report box usage to the Wildlife Division.
NEW for this year, a limited number of bluebird box kits are going to be available for individuals. These kits will be distributed in early 2013 on a first-come, first-serve basis. The dates and locations for pickups have yet to be determined, but it will likely be on Saturdays at state-owned facilities. Be sure to regularly check the Wildlife Division’s website, ct.gov/deep/wildlife and Facebook page, facebook.com/ctfishandwildlife, for more information. Each kit will come with instructions. Participants will need to provide their own hardware for assembling the box.
For those who have access to a lumber supply and would like to build a nest box today, the directions for building two different styles of bluebird boxes can be found in the DEEP’s Eastern Bluebird Fact Sheet. The fact sheet also contains information about the best places to locate bluebird boxes and how to go about checking them.