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Idaho Fish and Game

Get Ready for Bluebirds

Even though snow still covers the ground and temperatures remain chilly, now is the time to get ready for the return of our state bird, the Mountain Bluebird. These lovely members of the thrush family arrive in the Salmon region usually by the end of February or early in March. Males usually arrive before the females to begin establishing a nesting territory. Flying across the open habitats they prefer, their sky-blue plumage provides a welcome hint of springtime against the fading winter snow. All of North America's three species of bluebird are cavity nesters. In the past, dead snags and other cavities in trees such as those excavated by woodpeckers were plentiful across the bluebirds' range. However, the cavities these birds need for nesting have become scarce due to habitat loss. Fortunately for the bluebirds and us too, the birds have readily adapted to using artificial nest boxes to raise their broods. These wooden nesting boxes when placed in suitable habitat can insure that bluebirds returning to your property continue to have a place to nest. Since the bluebirds arrive so early, it is important to clean out last year's nests now, before the birds arrive. Repair any damage you see or replace old boxes. If you do not have any bluebird boxes, but would like to put some out, now is the best time to do so. Place your boxes about 5 feet up on a wooden or metal post in open habitat with scattered trees. Make sure to orient the box so that it is out of prevailing winds as well as the hot afternoon sun. Bluebirds are very territorial so keep at least 100 yards between houses. Bluebird nest boxes are easy to make; all you need is some lumber, nails, a few tools, and a little time. Building nest boxes makes a great family project that will provide lasting enjoyment as your property hosts a family of bluebirds. Your Salmon region Fish and Game office has easy-to-follow plans for building these nest boxes. If you seem to be all thumbs with construction projects, Fish and Game also has some bluebird boxes available thanks to the hard work of Eagle Scout Brian Keller and his fellow scouts. So, come by and pick up some plans or a bluebird box and you can join many other area residents who welcome the "bluebird of happiness" back to Idaho each spring.