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Attracting Bluebirds and Other Cavity
Nesting Songbirds in North Dakota

Introduction and History of Bluebirds

Bluebirds are one of the most admired birds in North America. The popularity of bluebirds has landed them in stories, poems and movies where they symbolize love, happiness and renewed hope. These brightly colored species are becoming more of a favorite of North Dakota residents. Individuals have increasingly become aware of the joys of viewing bluebirds and providing them artificial nesting sites.

GIF - mailbox
As this rural North Dakota mailbox shows, bluebirds are becoming a more popular songbird for state residents.

Some of the earliest records of bluebird conservation came from the journals of Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and writer born in 1817. Thoreau's writings mention eastern bluebirds returning to their boxes, giving evidence that people were already providing nest boxes in the early 1800's, possibly even in the 1700's.

Eastern bluebirds seem to have been common at this point in time and somewhat stable until the introduction of two bird species from Europe the house sparrow in 1850 and the starling in 1890. Starlings and house sparrows use bluebird habitat and compete fiercely, forcing birds out of usable spaces or even killing them. Both the exotic house sparrow and starling spread uncontrollably and were widespread by the early 1900's. At this time, the population of bluebirds began to fall in response to both the presence of too many house sparrows and starlings and the loss of suitable habitat.

Individuals recognized the shrinking populations of bluebirds and began creating bluebird "trails"--series of nesting boxes placed along roads, around the 1930's.

The continuation of this effort on a larger scale from the early 1970's to the present time has undoubtedly had a significant effect upon the return of bluebird populations.

The purpose of this publication is to introduce you to the two species of bluebirds and other songbirds utilizing nest boxes in North Dakota, to teach you how to develop your own bluebird trail and properly manage and maintain it, and finally to ultimately increase the available nesting habitat for bluebirds through your trail building efforts. Good Luck and Happy Birding!

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