Two new groups are helping to improve the survival rate of bluebirds and swallows in Manitoba. They are doing so by providing nest boxes through the Brandon-based organization, Friends of the Bluebirds.
One group, the Belles, Beaux & Builders 4-H Club from Neepawa, made a presentation at the Brandon Discovery Centre at the April meeting of the bluebird friends. Under the guidance of Brad Mummery, three of the club’s members outlined the project undertaken by the 4-H club last winter. Although in existence for many years, the club had not tried this project before. The three members explained how they had learned to use hand tools and, with adult guidance, to operate some power tools as well. Six young people, aged eight to 14, completed 37 birdhouses after many work sessions. Several Neepawa businesses helped the club by donating the needed lumber and other materials. “As we continued, we became much faster at putting the boxes together,” one member commented. One of those making the presentation had painted his box — “just to make it fancier,” he said — although painting is not really necessary.
For some of the young people, the project will continue over the summer. They plan to locate suitable habitat — in pastures, not too close to farmhouses — and put out these boxes. “We hope to monitor these birdhouses,” said club leader, Kerrilee Lapointe, “to see if bluebirds and/or tree swallows begin to use them.” Many of the extra houses were given away at the Friends’ meeting, while others will be used around Neepawa. It is hoped that these will also be maintained, and cleaned out on a yearly basis. If regular summer monitoring of nests is done, and the results are reported to Friends of the Bluebirds, that is even more worthwhile.
At the Friends’ meeting, Mummery suggested that members should investigate groups in their own communities that might carry out similar building projects. He is particularly challenging other 4-H clubs to do the same. At a recent 4-H meeting, he presented sample birdhouses to several clubs and urged them to adopt his project.
A different group that recently began to construct birdhouses is the Westbran Training Centre in Brandon. (This centre includes apprenticeship, employment and workforce development services for western Manitobans.) At the April meeting, Friends’ member Phil Weiss outlined how the training centre was helping. Friends of the Bluebirds is purchasing the lumber, but then the trainees work together to cut the wood and construct the boxes. They have also drawn up an actual blueprint, which will be put up on the Friends’ website for others to model. So far, the centre has made nearly 30 birdhouses that were handed out to club members. Enough lumber to build another 40 was recently donated and taken there. Westbran Training Centre instructors believe they have the capability to make even more.
Birdhouses from these two groups are a welcome addition for the Friends. Some of their bluebird lines have been in operation for many years, and a considerable number of the boxes are in need of replacement. Some members do build their own, but extra ones are needed for those who cannot do so.
For anyone interested in building and maintaining bluebird houses this is the website, Friends of the Bluebirds, based in Brandon.