Bluebirds: The First Biodiversity Agents

The first known use of bio-diversity in North America began with Eastern Bluebirds, long before the American Revolution and the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Early colonists were greeted by this lovely and cheerful little bird, and they were so enchanted with this friendly songbird, that colonists first named them the "Blue Robin" after their beloved Robin back in merry old England.

Jogn SchusterMale Eastern Bluebird
by Wendell Long

As these early pioneers cleared land for houses and the planting of apple orchards, the Eastern Bluebird was noticed eagerly hunting for insects that they needed for survival around these cleared areas. With the addition of natural cavities in apple trees, plus vacant nesting cavities in wooden fence posts or fence rails excavated by Woodpeckers, the Eastern Bluebirds promptly moved into these vacant cavities to nest, raise their young and they would eat up insects in these apple orchards to feed themselves and their offspring.

It wasn't long before Colonial craftsmen figured out that by building wooden nesting boxes for Eastern Bluebirds that they could take advantage of their nature insect hunting instincts, effectively bring a balance to the insect population thus reducing crop damage. Since Bluebirds are one of nature's most effective pest control agents, feeding chiefly on insects, early Americans learned to value their new friend, so it wasn't unusual to see nesting boxes placed on fence posts around the farms of the early settlers well into the American Civil War and beyond. In fact, many Revolutionary War and America Civil War reenactment sites, have period reproductions of Bluebird nesting boxes in their gardens, just to be accurate with the farming practices being depicted.

Jogn SchusterFemale & Male Eastern Bluebirds

All of this started to change in 1851 when the House Sparrow was introduction into North America and though Bluebirds continued to flourish for a time the Eastern Bluebird populations started to rapidly decline after the introduction of the European Starling in the 1890's, by an acclimatization society, headed by Eugene Schieffelin, decided to releasing into the United States all of the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

The competition from these 2 alien exotics caused drastic declines in the Eastern Bluebird populations. Today these same exotics are jeopardizing the populations of all species of Bluebirds and other native cavity nesting birds across the nation. Since both House Sparrows and European Starlings do not migrate, are cavity nesters, and are very aggressive, they successfully chased the Bluebirds from their nesting sites. Today the populations of European Starlings in New York state alone is estimated to be 15,000,000 and climbing. Furthermore, in parts of that state people have reported that they haven't seen a single Redheaded Woodpecker in decades (due to the European Starlings aggressive nesting behavior.) If that isn't bad enough, both House Sparrows and European Starlings have been known to kill both adult Bluebirds and nestlings to usurp their nesting sites. Today, it is rare to see Bluebirds where House Sparrows and European Starlings have taken over.

Jogn SchusterWestern Bluebird by Bill Lawton

Other contributing factors to the decline of the Bluebird is the loss of nesting sites due to modern development along with the careless use of pesticides, especially DDT and steel T-BAR fencing. With all the cards stacked against the Bluebird, some have estimated the Bluebird's population has declined to as much as 90%.

However there is hope for this wonderful natural resource as the numbers of Bluebirds appears to be on the rise, due mostly to conservationists that have been developing Bluebird Trails using proven nesting boxes that provide safe nesting sites for Bluebirds which are monitored to reduce House Sparrow predation. Furthermore agriculture is starting to turn to alliterative methods of pest control and are reintroducing IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to their vineyards, organic gardens and other agricultural endeavors which Wild Wing Company is proud to be apart.