Install, maintain bluebird boxes by March 15

By Jim Freeman - In The Open

A few weeks ago I was out at the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area and noticed that our bluebird boxes, particularly the poles, were a little worse for wear.

The boxes were installed a few years earlier by an enterprising Boy Scout troop, and over the years I have routinely inspected them during the winter; which involves cleaning out the old nesting material, replacing any damaged boards and making them ready for the upcoming year. I call it renovating public housing units.

Upon inspection I noticed that one of the posts was bent over, with another one broken off, moved and reinstalled with the birdhouse about three feet off of the ground. None of them were what I would consider predator-resistant.

So this is how I went about replacing the posts, and it is something you can do too.

What I decided to do, with some help from Meigs SWCD program manager Steve Jenkins, was replace the hollow metal pipes with t-posts, and then mounting the birdhouses on 1 ½-inch gray PVC electrical conduit, using an appropriate-sized u-bolt to hold them in place. The conduit comes in 10-foot pieces, which I cut into 5-foot pieces, and we drove the posts into the ground deep enough so that the conduit would slip entirely over the metal t-post.

The gray PVC conduit presents a slippery surface, challenging to predators – a couple of sprays of glossy tire spray makes it even more slippery. The conduit itself is resistant to sunlight. If you want to move the boxes it should (“should” being the operative word here) be a simple matter to slip the conduit and box back off of the post.

Of course any metal pipe or bar small enough to slide the conduit over would work, you probably have a few just lying around.

It was one of those freakishly warm and pleasant February days when we installed the new posts – a wonderful day to be outside. The job went well and was over quickly, and more importantly the new posts are secure and aesthetically pleasing, the gray PVC even matches the appearance of the aged bluebird boxes.

The birdhouses form a bluebird trail, which is five or more bluebird nesting boxes mounted on fence posts or pipes. The boxes are spaced 100 to 200 yards apart.

The Eastern Bluebird is a sparrow-sized, insect-devouring bird that naturally nests in cavities in decaying trees and wooden fence posts, they are a species that benefits greatly from the generosity of human landlords. Invasive European Starlings and House Sparrows compete the native bluebirds for housing.

As luck would have it a male eastern bluebird and its mate stopped to inspect one of the recently reinstalled bluebird boxes. It was pretty cool watching a pair of prospective tenants checking out our handiwork.

Over the years we seem to have a mix of bluebirds and tree swallows using the boxes, and the tree swallows are welcome as well – pretty birds, beneficial, and fun to watch. Native, cavity dwelling birds are welcome to use the boxes too.

If you are going to put up or renovate your bluebird boxes it is advisable to do it by March 15. More information about constructing bluebird nesting boxes and bluebird trails can be found online. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife pamphlet “Hit the Trail for Bluebirds” can be found on the Division of Wildlife’s website, or at the Meigs SWCD office at 113 East Memorial Drive, Suite D, Pomeroy. Of course you are free to stop by the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area, located on New Lima Road between Rutland and Harrisonville, and watch our bluebirds enjoying their newly renovated homes.

Jim Freeman is the wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282, or at

By Jim Freeman

In The Open