It's hard to believe that last week it was nearly zero degrees outside and I am going to talk about Bluebird nesting already, but I am. The Bella Vista Bluebird Society will start monitoring their own nest boxes in early March, and given that it takes a few weeks for the birds to establish territories, it means we should put up our boxes in January or early February.
If you already have a Bluebird box in your yard, it's time to clean it out. You don't have to scrub it spotless, but do scrape out the old nesting material and feces from the nestlings with something that will make the job easier, such as a putty knife or similar. Remember not to inhale during this step, because you shouldn't breathe in the dust from the refuse as it can cause lung issues. Discard the refuse in the trash as you would any other waste. Once this is done, look over the box to make sure it is still in working condition and make any needed repairs using screws rather than nails, and ensure the box is still mounted securely. If the box looks like it has seen better days, or is not repairable, then consider replacing it with a new box.
There are a variety of options available. Here at The Bluebird Shed, we have a collaboration with the Bella Vista Bluebird Society (BVBBS) and offer their boxes in the store at cost. You can purchase a box, pole, predator guard (baffle), and have it installed for you all for $50. All the proceeds go back to the BVBBS and help fund the maintenance of their own Bluebird boxes. A BVBBS member will come out to your house and discuss optimal siting of the box and set it up for you.
If you opt not to go that route, we also carry a few other options for special purposes. One of our boxes has a Plexiglas view port so you can see what's going on inside without disturbing the nest contents and another is made of recycled plastic and will give decades of service. But the most popular option is certainly the BVBBS box.
Once you have your box in hand, you can mount the box on nearly anything (tree, fence, shed), but we really recommend that it be mounted on a pole with a predator guard. While this method is slightly more expensive, it will help give the Bluebirds their best start possible by deterring potential predators. It also frees you to put the box in a better location for viewing from inside your home or from your deck. This will maximize your enjoyment of being able to watch the parents care for the box, the nestlings, and eventually their spot-breasted fledglings, which is really a lot of fun!
Lastly, if you do put up a box, consider having your box included in the weekly monitoring program so that the data can be included in the BVBBS counts of birds hatched and fledged. The BVBBS has fledged over 45,000 baby Bluebirds since 1980 making them one of the largest (and most successful) continuously managed Bluebird trails in the nation. To do this, contact the BVBBS at www.bvbluebirds.com.