Man in biking outfit stands in tall grass
March 24, 2021

Volunteers support bluebirds on Gateway State Trail

Bluebirds along the Gateway State Trail enjoy a helping hand from volunteers with the Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail Association (GBCTA). Since 2014, the friends group has maintained 16 houses each year, installing them in spring, monitoring the nests throughout summer, and cleaning and storing the houses in winter.

In 2021, the friends group will install 10 more bluebird houses along the Brown’s Creek State Trail. These new houses were obtained from a grant under the Public Lands Nesting Box program, which is administered by the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota.

materials for building a bluebird house
Components of one bluebird house, including mounting posts.
materials for bluebird houses in a box
Materials for 10 houses to be installed along the Brown's Creek Trail.

Dennis Lindeke, board member of GBCTA and Master Naturalist, has been the lead volunteer for this project. He and fellow volunteers put up the houses and visit them each week from April through August on their bikes. When approaching a house, they knock to give any birds inside a chance to fly away. Then, they look inside to see if anyone is living there. Is there a nest? Are there eggs? Are there baby birds?

“Bluebirds are very good housekeepers,” say Lindeke when describing what they find in the houses. Sometimes wrens will take advantage of this prime real estate, and they are very messy inhabitants. If a wren has built a nest, the volunteer will clear it out so that a bluebird can take up residence. Chickadees get a pass though—they are good bluebird neighbors.

a screenshot of a spreadsheet

Dennis’s notes.

Dennis keeps meticulous notes on each house on every visit. This data is then compiled at the end of the year and reported to the Bluebird Recovery Program, which aggregates data from across the state.

What can you do?

Friends groups can play an important role in supporting bluebird populations by installing and monitoring bluebird houses. If your friends group is considering embarking on this, here is some advice from Dennis:

  • You can start with just two houses!
  • Placement is important.
    • Houses should be placed in pairs about 10-20 feet apart.
    • Pairs should be placed 100 yards apart or out of sight lines of other pairs.
    • Open locations near fields or golf courses are best.
    • Make sure the site is easily accessible by car or bike for weekly monitoring.
  • Clean and store the houses in the wintertime.
  • Become a member of the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota.

Individuals or groups who are a member of the Bluebird Recovery Program for one year and have demonstrated success in stewarding bluebird houses are eligible to apply for new bluebird houses from the Public Lands Nest Box program.

Content contributed by: Dennis Lindeke, Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail Association

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