First Great American Bluebird Count

ust rely on pre-existing cavities in dead or dying trees, in field and orchard habitats. Their populations plummeted because of development and competition with non-native, cavity-nesting species, such as house sparrows and European starlings. Pesticides also are believed to have had an adverse effect on bluebird nesting success.

Fortunately, bluebirds will use nest boxes, or birdhouses, as they are more commonly called. Beginning in the 1960s, birdlovers, concerned about how few bluebirds they were seeing began putting up nest boxes around their yards and farms. Thanks to their efforts, these birds -- to many, "the symbol of happiness" -- are again coloring the landscape with their presence.

Not all species are faring so well. The small, colorful falcons called American kestrels, for example, are showing declines in some parts of the country. The bluebird count, it is hoped, will collect data that will benefit these regal birds.

To get a "bird's eye view" of what goes on inside nest boxes, Birdhouse Online is featuring Nest Box Cam, which shows video images taken from inside two nest boxes in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The bluebird count is an engaging family activity, says education coordinator Colleen DeLong, and to help involve children in the event, Birdhouse Online is featuring a coloring contest. Children 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 each lucky winner, chosen by a random drawing, will receive a birdhouse.

The site also features information on 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.

GNABC and Birdhouse Online "provide an engaging, interactive resource for citizen scien

Contact: Allison Wells
Cornell University News Service

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