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Bluebirds Love Mealworms

Honey, is this oatmeal fresh?

Here's a secret. Bluebirds love mealworms. They're crazy about them. I was fretting, in spring, about whether the eastern bluebirds would adopt our new birdhouse. The birds landed on the wooden box once or twice and peered into the hole, but they didn't seem to be building there.

I told myself it was OK if the bluebirds found a better nesting cavity in the woods, but I longed for them to move into the birdhouse, where I could see from the kitchen and the front door. Then I heard that mealworms, which are usually sold as food for pet reptiles, would help persuade bluebirds to stay.

Two days later, 1000 mealworms arrived by UPS, in a small, screen-sided cardboard box. The mealworms were loose in there, most of them bunched up around the piece of raw potato included for food and moisture, with instructions to provide them with oatmeal or wheat bran as bedding.

Within an hour

The weather was cold and drizzly. I hadn't seen any bluebirds all day. I picked a dozen of the inch-long mealworms out of the box and carried them by hand to the birdhouse. They were dry and smooth, and although they tickled a bit when they wiggled, they weren't at all nasty to hold.

Whistling my poor imitation of a bluebird's song, I put the mealworms on top of the birdhouse and retreated to my kitchen. An hour later I noticed a female bluebird standing on the birdhouse roof. She cocked her head to study the pale yellow mealworms, and then she picked one up in her bill and swallowed it. After she'd consumed several, her mate flew in from the nearby trees, landed beside her, and ate some too.

I'd read that it might not be good for bluebirds to give them too many mealworms, so I restrained myself until evening to put out another supply. The female caught on fast. As soon as I opened the door and did my fake bluebird whistle, she came down from a treetop to a branch near the birdhouse, and she landed on it before I got back to my house.

Husband looks in fridge

My husband, Michael, is not enthusiastic about things that wriggle in the kitchen, but he adapted with surprising speed. When he looked in the refrigerator for snacks, he discovered an open bin of oatmeal and mealworms. He stirred the contents with a finger, looking at the larvae of 976 darkling beetles.

"For the bluebirds," I explained. "Don't worry. They can't crawl up the sides of the bin, and besides, they don't move much when they're cold."

I took good care of my mealworms, except for contributing a few of them every day to the bluebirds. On alternate weekends I brought their bin out of the fridge for a day and a night so they could warm up and feed. I put a fresh slice of apple or potato in their bin, and they consumed everything but the peel. When human guests appeared unnerved at the sight of writhing mealworms in a bin on my kitchen sink, I explained that they were my pets.

Bluebirds move in

Although I was not particularly consistent about feeding the bluebirds at the same time every day, they knew when the mealworms were imminent. They didn't come around when I was headed for my car or a walk, but if I stepped out of the house whistling, with mealworms in my hand, the two birds flew toward the birdhouse from wherever they were in the woods.

I experimented with how far I had to retreat from the birdhouse before they would come in. The female landed when I was ten feet away. More skittish, the male arrived only after the female was already eating.

One cool morning before I made the delivery, I looked out the living room window and saw the female bluebird perched on top of one of our feeders, eyeing me. Bluebirds aren't interested in millet, sunflower seeds, and thistle. I understood that she wanted mealworms, and clearly she understood where they came from. A few moments later, as I opened my door, she was waiting for me on the birdhouse.

Real estate deal clinched

On day three of the mealworm program, the female started carrying soft dry grass into the birdhouse. "The mealworms clinched the real estate deal," Michael commented. Soon I saw four pretty, sky-blue eggs inside.

When the eggs hatched, I started increasing the daily allotment of mealworms. The female shuttled them directly from birdhouse roof to nestlings below. The male at first flew with his beak full into the woods, returning after half a minute or so to feed the babies. Perhaps he was acting out an instinctive pattern, evolved to conceal from predators the fact that he was feeding young.

By the second day, he didn't bother to go all the way to woods before turning back to the nest. His woodsward feint grew shorter with each trip, until it became only a gesture of his head. After that he dropped directly from the roof to the birdhouse door.

The babies thrived and are on their own now. Of course, I cannot claim to know what bluebirds think. But a bluebird has looked me in the eye and communicated what she wanted. A wild, beautiful bird and I bridged a gap, to the immense satisfaction of us both.

-- Diane Cooledge Porter

Story first appeared in Backyard Bird Newsletter, August, 2005.
Copyright 2005 by Diane Porter
Photos copyright 2005 by Michael and Diane Porter

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A  Word from our President

The politicians and other entities will make mention of the day and what should be done, etc.

 The fact of the matter is that anyone contributing money or time to a nature organization, work on 

CELEBRATE

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 environmental cleanups, take care not to waste water or anything they can control are the real #EarthDay participants.  

 

I’d like to thank the members of my organization “The Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin” who for 35 years have worked to save cavity nesters.  

Steve Sample

 President 

Protect Our Planet!

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Welcome to BRAW!

You don't have to be a bluebird expert

to have bluebirds in your yard or to start a trail...

Join BRAW and we'll show you how.  

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Due to overwhelming response to this nest box promotion this program is TEMPORARILY ON HOLD.

Please come back here for the latest status update.

We're sorry for this temporary inconvenience.

 

 Nest Box Promotion Update  

Good News!           

Our supply of bluebird nesting boxes will be increasing soon and we will be able to meet the demand of boxes. 

 

Requests should be prepared to wait a few weeks for delivery. 

 

Our next step is to open the program again. We appreciate your patience and understanding! 

Welcome to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW)!

Our Association (BRAW) is a group of individuals devoted to help, maintain, and increase the number Wisconsin's eastern bluebirds and cavity nesting birds through activities to lend a helping hand to ensure their populations continue to thrive and remain stable.

 

BRAW is a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Wisconsin. Donations and other financial support of BRAW, Inc. is a tax deductible charity to the extent allowed by law.

 RENEW your

Membership online go to

Payment Options

Need to submit 2019’s trail report?

2019 EZ Form

Help Wisconsin Bluebirds

Become  A  Member

Your donation to BRAW"s bluebird conservation efforts is  appreciated.

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BRAW COUNTY COORDINATORS

BRAW is a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Wisconsin. Donations and other financial support of BRAW, Inc. is a tax deductible charity to the extent allowed by law.

The most exciting and rewarding experience of being a member is to take care of a Bluebird Trail. The BRAW site and BRAW members are here to help you to be successful.

Once your trail or boxes are up and ready, it is important to monitor them. This will allow the bluebirds to thrive in the best possible conditions.

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NEW

 BRAW Info Pack Version 6

Is Now Available

BRAW is offering a high-quality cedar nest box with a predator guard as part of a $15 Holiday Gift Membership deal for a members to give to NEW Wisconsin members only. 

This offer expires December 31st.

Here's how it works.

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY:

1.

2.

3.

Current members give a Gift Membership to  someone outside of their household

The new members gets an online subscription to our publication Wisconsin Bluebird

 

If the new member resides in the State of Wisconsin, they will also get a Bluebird nest box shipped to them free of charge

To order you must contact Valerie.

Email: ripvws@gmail.com

Phone: (847) 302-5864

Learn

In 1964 there were only an estimated 600 nesting bluebird pairs left in the state due to habitat loss.

Help

Each year BRAW members’ nest boxes alone fledge over 20,000 bluebirds, plus numerous tree swallows, chickadees and other birds.

Maintain

BRAW members maintain 8,000 nest boxes throughout the state bring a wealth of experience to those wanting to learn how to do it.

Join

You can make a difference.

Become A Member Today!

Welcome!

News 

We invite you to explore our website and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions or comments, or wish to become a member.

Our Mission

The mission of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) is to broaden the base of state residents who help Eastern Bluebirds and native cavity nesters by erecting, maintaining and monitoring nest boxes. 

Our Vision

The vision of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) is to ensure that the state’s Eastern Bluebird and other native cavity nesters population remains strong and stable.

 

  • The Summer 2020 Newsletter has been mailed out

  • Information Pack No. 6 is was mailed out this week

  • Online Forms are being updated to be more user-friendly

  • Membership payment on line are being accepted

  • Our website is being updated for a better  look and user-friendliness

  • BRAW is no accepting membership payments online

BRAW COUNTY COORDINATORS

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Expect  temporary visual changes as the project continues.

BRAW  NOW at AMAZON SMILE

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History
History

UPDATE

2020 Nest Box Data Report Summary

BRAW thanks all who submitted reports!!!

177 online reports were received!

This year the pandemic's disrupted a lot of activities and some missed the report deadline.

BRAW understands this and encourages anyone unable to submit  their report(s) to send theirs in by  December 31

   ONLINE  SUBMISSION FORMS     

Form 20S

BRAW’s History

When BRAW was organized in 1986, it was estimated that the Eastern Bluebird population in its historic range had declined by 90% during the preceding 50 years due to changes in agriculture practices, competition from the House (English) Sparrow and European Starling, severe weather in its central and southern winter range, and the loss of nest sites, such as tree cavities and hollow wooden fence posts.

BRAW works to bring to light the efforts of Wisconsin citizens who had been helping bluebirds in the past and those who have recently joined their ranks. Since 1994, BRAW has entered monitors’ data into a computer data base and as a result, through computer analysis of the data, it has gained great insights into the complexities of how management practices and box design affect bluebird population dynamics.

Through workshops, the Annual Membership meeting, and through publication of research findings in the Wisconsin Bluebird newsletter, BRAW shares successful birding techniques while hopefully avoiding some of the mistakes painfully learned by earlier bluebird enthusiasts.

BRAW seeks to expand public knowledge and enthusiasm for the Eastern Bluebird so that a growing number of people will have the desire to aid cavity nesters and have the knowledge about how to best accomplish this in their own communities.

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BRAW Informational Packet:

Attracting Eastern Bluebirds & Other Cavity Nesters (26 pages),
by Kent Hall, Ph. D. and Pat Ready (Editor)

This booklet pulls together the collective experiences of people who work especially in the interest of bluebirds, particularly those persons who record and summarize their nest box data and whom we term monitors.

CONTENT of the INFO PACKET

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
  • Location, Location, Location

  • Relocation

  • Box Style/Dimensions

  • Spacing

  • Nest, Egg & Chick Removal for bluebirds, chickadees, Tree Swallows (1,2,3,4) and House Wrens (4): Procedures approved by USFWS in Dec., 2006

  • Common Predators of Bluebirds: Raccoons, House Sparrows and Black Flies, Woodpeckers

  • Direction of Opening

  • Common Myths Associated With Bluebird Monitoring.

  • Natural History Information for Cavity Nesting Songbirds: 2002-2012

  • What kind of nest box should I use for a bluebird trail?

  • Monitoring Instructions. (p. 10)

  • Nest Guide to Cavity Nesters by Patrick Ready/BRAW

  • Individual Nestbox Weekly Field Record / Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, Inc.

  • Why Monitor Eastern Bluebird Nest Boxes?

  • History of Bluebird Production in Wisconsin by BRAW Monitors.

  • Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data – bluebirds are increasing

  • Comparison of Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow fledglings in 2005-12 time period

  • Number of fledgling Eastern Bluebirds & Tree Swallows, and number of active nest-boxes, in the 1994 to 2012 time period. Note that most BRAW monitors dropped paired boxes by 1997 and most dropped crowded single boxes by 2002.

  • Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data – bluebirds per route

  • Relative Abundance of cavity nesting songbirds in 2006 and 2010.

  • BRAW management practices that are thought to have improved Eastern Bluebird production on the Audubon and other Bluebird Trails.

  • Fence post mounting system

  • 3/4” Conduit Mounting System

  • NABS style Bluebird Box, plan

  • Peterson Nest Box (Unvented), plan

  • The “K” Bluebird Nest Box, plan

  • Resources for bluebirders:

  • County Coordinators are Ready to Help You

  • School and Youth Outreach

  • Recommended Reading

  • Bluebird chick development– first 14 days by Jack Bartholmai

  • ANNUAL BIRD NESTING SURVEY SUMMARY
    Etc.

Cover: Life cycle of the Eastern Bluebird (Photos by Pat Ready)

GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESSFUL MONITORING OF EASTERN BLUEBIRD NEST BOXES By Kent D. Hall, Ph.D.

Our Latest Information Pack

 6th Edition June, 2020

The new member Information Packet is authored by Kent Hall and our President, Patrick Ready. Inside you will find vast bluebird information and "do it yourself" examples for: attracting these beautiful songbirds; locating nest boxes; starting a trail; monitoring a trail; county coordinator listing; and useful data collection forms for field use.  

  Member News 

  • Copies of New Information Pack No. 6 available for $2.00 ea. ​

  • Membership payment on line is being accepted

Online Bluebird News Stories 

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There are two ways to make payments and donations to BRAW. You may pay by check or online (via either PayPal or credit card).

1) Payment by check

If you prefer to send by mail the payment you entered in the previous page form, send your check made to BRAW, Inc., to:

BRAW Membership Coordinator
Mike Ray
PO Box 628492
Middleton, WI 53562

If you include an email address with your payment, the membership coordinator will send an email confirming receipt once it has been processed.

2) Payment with PayPal or credit card

PayPal is very secure. BRAW does not handle your financial data at all, only PayPal or your Credit Card Company does.

To purchase/renew a membership, select the appropriate membership from the first box and click Add to Cart:
  • $10 USD Online Gift Membership – good for one year, newsletter is distributed electronically (requires a valid email address)

  • $15 USD Student Annual Membership – for students only, good for one year, newsletter is distributed electronically (requires a valid email address)

  • $20 USD Online Annual Membership – good for one year, newsletter is distributed electronically (requires a valid email address)

  • $25 Individual/Family Annual Membership – good for one year, hardcopy of newsletter is mailed out

  • $100 Corporate Annual Membership – intended for businesses, good for one year, hardcopy of newsletter is mailed out

  • $300 Life Membership – hardcopy of newsletter is mailed out

 

If you are purchasing more than one membership, please complete each purchase separately.

To donate supplies to BRAW, select any item and click Add to Cart:
  • $15 USD Nest Box

  • $100 USD Trail Nest

 

Within the Paypal cart, you may select the number of each.

To donate funds to BRAW, click the Donate button.

NOTE: PayPal allows you to pay with a PayPal account or a Credit Card. If you pay with a PayPal account you should see the left screenshot below, if you pay with a credit card you should see the right screenshot and click on “Continue“. Also if you want to add a donation to your membership, you have to click on “Continue Shopping” in the PayPal window before clicking on the Check Out Button. If you miss the “Continue Shopping” or if it does not work, you have to make another PayPal payment by going back to this page.

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BRAW's Preferred Nest Box
Designed by Fred Craig
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Checking A Fred Craig Nest Box 
 Nest Box Shown With Noel Predator Guard Attached

Where is Pope Farm?

The conservancy is located at:

 7440 W Old Sauk Rd, Verona, WI 53593

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NBAS Style Bluebird Box Material List

  • Cedar lumber preferred 

  •  Top:  8" wide

  • Back, front, sides & bottom:  6" wide

  • All angle cuts are 10 degrees 

  • Roof: 10 -1/2"long  x  7 -1/2" wide

  • Sides:  9 -7/8"long  x  5" wide

  • Floor:  3-3/4" long  x  5" wide

NBAS Approved 

NABS Style Nest Box

This solitary nest box is located in one of the prairie restoration areas of within the Pope Farm Conservancy.

View of rainbow from Pope Farm Conservancy

Where is Pope Farm?

Pope Farm Conservancy is 105 acres that sits on top of three recessional moraines in the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin, where three different watersheds come together. A 360 degree panoramic view of Lake Mendota, the Capitol and Madison’s west side can be seen to the east, the Black Earth Creek valley to the North, and the terminal moraine to the South and West.

Six different Prairie Restoration projects and seven different crops including a field of sunflowers provide tremendous synergy that attracts wildlife to the conservancy. Forty interpretive signs follow the historical aspects of the land. They start with the Glaciers and land formation, followed by the Native Americans, settlers, the CCC project in the 1930’s, to today’s methods of erosion control. These features and their interpretation have resulted in making Pope Farm an educational conservancy.

BRAW's Preferred Nest Box
Designed by Fred Craig
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Checking A Fred Craig Nest Box 
 Nest Box Shown With Noel Predator Guard Attached

Where is Pope Farm?

The conservancy is located at:

 7440 W Old Sauk Rd, Verona, WI 53593

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northamerican-bluebird-society-logo.jpg

NBAS Style Bluebird Box Material List

  • Cedar lumber preferred 

  •  Top:  8" wide

  • Back, front, sides & bottom:  6" wide

  • All angle cuts are 10 degrees 

  • Roof: 10 -1/2"long  x  7 -1/2" wide

  • Sides:  9 -7/8"long  x  5" wide

  • Floor:  3-3/4" long  x  5" wide

NBAS Approved 

NABS Style Nest Box

This solitary nest box is located in one of the prairie restoration areas of within the Pope Farm Conservancy.

View of rainbow from Pope Farm Conservancy

Where is Pope Farm?

Pope Farm Conservancy is 105 acres that sits on top of three recessional moraines in the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin, where three different watersheds come together. A 360 degree panoramic view of Lake Mendota, the Capitol and Madison’s west side can be seen to the east, the Black Earth Creek valley to the North, and the terminal moraine to the South and West.

Six different Prairie Restoration projects and seven different crops including a field of sunflowers provide tremendous synergy that attracts wildlife to the conservancy. Forty interpretive signs follow the historical aspects of the land. They start with the Glaciers and land formation, followed by the Native Americans, settlers, the CCC project in the 1930’s, to today’s methods of erosion control. These features and their interpretation have resulted in making Pope Farm an educational conservancy.

Below are nest box building plans the two most productive nest  boxes recorded by BRAW.  Building a bluebird nest box is a fun and rewarding family activity. Best of all is locating is the collective enjoyment gained watching bluebirds move in and seeing their fledglings. 

BRAW Recommended Nest Boxes