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Where are the Bluebirds?

Put your bluebird house on the map for Fun and Science.

Researchers at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) need you to tell them count America's Bluebirds.

"The Great North American Bluebird Count and Birdhouse Online provide an engaging, interactive resource for citizen scientists of all ages," says Dean Sheldon, Jr., of the North American Bluebird. "We encourage everyone to put their birdhouse on the map. It's fun, and it wll give us a better understanding of bluebirds and other cavity-nesting birds -- a great way to make a difference for these birds we all enjoy so much."

This four-day, Internet-based count is part of Birdhouse Online, a new web site cosponsored by the Cornell Lab's Nest Box Network and NABS, with support from the National Science Foundation.

Since March 1, 1999, Birdhouse Online has been collecting information from across the continent about cavity-nesting birds (birds that nest in holes in trees and in nest boxes, or birdhouses) such as chickadees, swallows, and of course, bluebirds. The site features regularly updated maps for each species, illustrating reported numbers and any indications of breeding (nesting material, eggs, young).

"There are thousands of nest boxes out there," says Dr. Andre Dhondt, director of Cornell Lab's Bird Population Studies program. " We can use what we learn about one species of cavity-nesting bird to better understand and protect all cavity-nesters. But," adds Dhondt, "you don't need a nest box in order to participate. If you see bluebirds, kestrels, or other cavity-nesting species, we want to know about it. Log onto the web site and enter your sighting."

Coloring Contest for the Kids

The Great North American Bluebird Count is a fun family activity, says DeLong, and to help engage children in the event, Birdhouse Online is featuring a coloring contest. Kids of all ages are invited to send in their completed pictures of cavity-nesting birds, which can be printed out from the web site. Their artwork might be displayed at the site's Picture Gallery, and lucky winners, chosen from a random drawing from submissions, will each receive a free birdhouse.

Bluebird Conservation

The Great North American Bluebird Count was developed to focus attention on cavity-nesting birds for one weekend of the year, at a time when birds in the south are into nesting activities and birds farther north are just starting. Although the count encourages participants to submit sightings of more than 30 species, the Cornell Lab and NABS named the count for the bluebird because it is a symbol of conservation success.

Bluebirds suffered serious population declines during the early part of the 20th century. Bluebirds cannot excavate their own nest holes so must rely on pre-existing cavities in dead or dying trees, in field and orchard habitats. Their populations plummeted due to loss of such nest sites as a result of development and competition with non-native cavity-nesting species (such as House Sparrows and European Starlings). Pesticides are also believed to have had an adverse effect on bluebird nesting success.

Fortunately, bluebirds will use human-made cavities in the form of nest boxes (known to most people as bluebird boxes). Beginning in the 1960s, citizens concerned about how few bluebirds they were seeing, began putting up nest boxes around their yards and farms. Thanks to their efforts, these beautiful birds -- to many, the symbol of happiness -- are again coloring the landscape with their presence.

Want a peek into a bird nest?

To get a bird's eye view of what exactly goes on inside nest boxes, Birdhouse Online is featuring Nest Box Cam, which shows video images taken from inside two nest boxes. One camera is in a nest box in North Carolina; the other, in a nest box in South Carolina, which is now home to a nesting Carolina Chickadee.
"The first egg appeared in the South Carolina box on April 4-5, Easter Sunday," says Colleen DeLong, education coordinator for the Nest Box Network. "We're looking forward to watching the nest-box cams throughout the breeding season, and we're hoping everyone will watch with us."

American Kestrels

Not all species are faring so well. American Kestrels, for example, a small, colorful falcon, are showing declines in some parts of the country. GNABC hopes to collect data that will benefit these regal birds.

Tips About Cavity Nesters

The site also features information the different cavity-nesting species, tips for building or choosing a good nest box, and more. Everyone is encouraged to return to the site often to view nesting activity as the breeding season progresses throughout the continent.

For more information, contact the

Cornell Lab/GNABC,
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd.,
Ithaca, NY 14850
(800) 843- BIRD (2473), or

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institute whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through education, research, and citizen science focused on birds.

The North American Bluebird Society (NABS) is a non-profit conservation, education, and research organization promoting the recovery of bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting bird species.

For more articles about BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS!

Bird Profiles for Young Natguralists
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina House Wren
White Breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse
Prothonotary Warbler
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds
Downey Woodpecker
Purple Martin