Bluebirds fledge half last years number

Sunday, September 9, 2018
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Kristi Powell photos

Above: A mountain bluebird clings to a branch in Makoshika State Park. The bluebirds add a nice touch to the park’s ecosystem, but the brutal realities of nature make maintaining the population an ongoing struggle.

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Right: A full nest with hatchling is a victory for bluebird keepers. Snakes and other bird species are a constant threat.

Makoshika Park offers beautiful rock formations, vast canyons, and an array of wild flowers. It is also home to mountain bluebirds. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and readily accept man-made nesting boxes. There are 75 bluebird nesting boxes in Makoshika Park. Keith Robinson helps me check, maintain, and record nesting information on 60 of those nesting boxes. Naomi Burbach, Kristi Powell, Luke Gambee and his daughter Eva also help by checking the remaining houses and maintaining nesting records. Many of the nesting boxes are in remote locations and require a great deal of hiking to be maintained.

In 2017, 149 baby bluebirds fledged from the nesting boxes in Makoshika Park. That was a record year. This year 80 baby bluebirds fledged. Some ice storms often take a toll on nesting bluebirds, their eggs and baby birds, but this did not happen this spring. Weather conditions were excellent for the nesting bluebirds. However, this past season wrens grabbed up 25 of the nesting boxes that were meant for bluebirds. In some cases they built their nests directly on top of existing bluebird nests. In addition, at least seven nesting boxes were used by tree swallows. Predators, including bull snake, wiped out another seven bluebird nests filled with bluebird eggs or baby bluebirds. Having great weather, I was convinced that the number of fledging bluebirds would be at an all-time high. This year Mother Nature had a different plan for the bluebirds in Makoshika park.