History of Bermuda’s Bluebirds
The Bermuda bluebird is a member of the thrush family and bears the Latin name Sialia sialis. Bermuda is the only place outside of the eastern half of North America where it has ever been known to breed.
Throughout Bermuda’s history these bluebirds were very abundant, attaining population densities much higher than are found in the American continent. The bluebird population flourished when earlier settlers created more habitat by clearing woodland for open pasturelands, cropland and lawns. The bluebird nested in holes of the shore cliffs, in walls and under the eaves of the houses, as well as in the numerous hollows provided by cedar trees.
The first and most drastic decline of the bluebird population occurred in the late 19th century when the House sparrow was introduced. The aggressive and adaptable sparrow multiplied rapidly and soon became the most abundant bird in Bermuda. The sparrow, as a hole-nester, rapidly displaced the bluebirds from the eaves of houses and soon began taking over the cliff holes and hollow of the cedar trees as well.
By the 1930’s the natural bluebird nestlings were confined almost exclusively to holes in the trunks of cedar trees. The cedar scale endemic in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s killed over 90% of Bermuda’s cedar forest. In an attempt to remove the eyesore and reforest the island the Government and private landowners felled most of the dead cedars destroying many ideal-nesting hollows.
Pesticides, the decline of habitat, other pest birds, rats, lizards, feral cats and mites play a part in the decline of the bluebird in Bermuda. The Bluebird is now completely dependent on nesting boxes for their survival. Most parks and all the golf course have monitored trails. A large number of private homes also have nesting boxes.
(Click a question to reveal the answer)
Are bluebirds indigenous to Bermuda?
Yes, when man first arrived Bluebirds were in Bermuda.
When is nesting season?
March through July
How many nestings can I get per season?
Up to three
How many eggs do you get per nesting?
Five, four and three
How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?
How long does it take for the chicks to fledge?
How many nest-boxes should I erect?
As many as possible
Where should I erect my box?
1. In an open grassy area 2. Near a solid tree, fence line or wires where the bluebirds can perch to look for food and watch the entrance hole.
Can I nail my nest-box to a tree?
Only if you are certain that there are no cats or rats in the vicinity
What’s the best mounting?
Galvanised or PVC pipe
What’s the best height to mount my box at?
Eye level or lower if no cats
Should I put out any bread crumbs or seed?
NEVER! Bluebirds only eat live insects and grub. Crumbs and seeds only attract the enemies!
Who are the bluebirds’ natural enemies?
1. Sparrows 2. Cats 3. Rats 4. Kiskadees 5. Starlings 6. Lizards
Who are Bluebird friends?
1. People who build, erect and monitor nest-boxes 2. People who erect and monitor Bluebird Trails
What is a Bluebird Trail?
Ten or more nest-boxes erected and monitored by friends
Why do we monitor a nest-box?
1. To remove the old bluebird nest after the chicks fledge 2. To remove any sparrows nests! 3. To tackle any other problems 4. To remove eggs that did not hatch
How often should one monitor a nest-box?
Every week during the season and every 2-3 days when bluebirds are in residence, but if possible not in the last few days before fledging.
Why are sparrows a threat?
They compete for nest-boxes and sometimes kill the bluebirds they find in nest-boxes
But isnt that Mother Natures way?
No. Mother Nature did not intend for sparrows to be here. A Bermudian brought them here by ship in 1870.
Are starlings and kisskadees a threat?
Yes, but they are too big to squeeze through the entry hole
How big is the Entry Hole?
One and a half inches diameter
What are other problems?
1. Red Mites 2. Vandalism 3. Pesticides 4. Over development
What do I do if I find a chronic red mite infestation in my bluebird’s nest?
Remove old nest. Put chicks in small dark box. Clean out box. Place chicks in a new nest (made from dead casuarinas needles) and return to box. One can put a teaspoon of Diatomaceous Earth under the nest to kill mites (becarefull not to inhale the powder) or put a pinch of cigar tobacco under the nest.
Is it alright to handle chicks?
In an emergency, yes.
How can I make a replacement nest?
Use natural materials like dry Casuarina needles.
What does a bluebird nest look like?
Clean and tidy cup-shaped nest made of grass or casuarinas needles
What colour are bluebird eggs?
What colour are sparrow eggs?
White, brown or grey with speckles.
What does a sparrow nest look like?
Untidy nest made of grass and pieces of trash, with feathers almost completely surrounding the nest
Eggs or chicks are missing?
You have a sparrow, rat or lizard problem.
How do I stop ants, rats and lizards climbing the pole?
Grease (heavy grease) an area 3 -6 inches high all the way around the pole.
How to avoid vandalism?
Locate box away from beaten track. Camouflage. Also, keep out of reach of children.
Whens the best time to spray pesticides so they dont harm bluebirds?
NEVER! But if you must, then at dusk.
Any other tips?
1. Monitor vigilantly! 2. Paint the outside of the box a light pastel shade with latex paint. 3. Keep cats well fed and indoors nearing fledging time.
Where can we buy a bluebird box?
The Aquarium, Bermuda National Trust shop, Godet & Young and Abberfeldy
What does one do after the birds fledge?
Discard the old nest, dust and wash the box out with boiling water, let dry and reinstall.
Why do we love bluebirds?
Because of their beautiful plumage and of course they bring good luck!
On this site
- ‘Did you Know’ – Dr. Dean Rust BSP
- About Bluebirds
- Build a Bluebird Box
- Nest Monitoring
- Sparrow Control
- Photo Gallery
- Contact Us