Driving through the winding country roads of Gold Country, visitors often notice bird houses hanging on fences along the roadways and wonder what they are. Here's the answer - thanks to scores of dedicated bird-loving volunteers, these are nesting boxes for bluebirds.
There are three types of bluebirds found in Canada, but in Logan Lake, mountain bluebirds (Sialia currucoides), are the only ones to make an appearance. A type of thrush, mountain bluebirds are often found in mountainous areas and they like to nest at higher elevations. While their territory extends as far as Mexico, the Yukon, and Manitoba, in BC these delightful birds are primarily found in the south central area of the province. Currently mountain bluebirds are not a species of concern in Canada or the United States, although their numbers reached an all-time low in the 1970's.
Mountain bluebirds are easily distinguished from other types of bluebirds as they have no distinct red colouration. During breeding season the males are a bright cerulean blue on top with pale blue on their underside. The female is grayer in colour with bright blue that is visible when they are in flight on their back end, wings and tail feathers.
In winter, the males fade to a duller tone, looking almost brownish blue in colour while the females are slightly brighter blue and occasionally show a hint of reddish brown on their breasts. The males often issue a hauntingly beautiful warble song early in the mornings. While some bluebirds stay around the area all year, the return of the others from migration is considered a harbinger of spring.
Bluebirds are considered secondary cavity nesters, which mean they build their nest in a pre-existing hold or cavity such as a woodpecker hole, a sandstone cliff, or a human-made box. A clutch usually consists of between 4-6 eggs and if weather and elevation are favourable they may produce a second clutch after the first has left the nest. House sparrows and European starlings, also secondary cavity nesters, are two of the species who compete with bluebirds for nesting areas. Both of these species were introduced from Europe in the mid to late 1800's.
The BC the Southern Interior Bluebird Trail Society is a non-profit volunteer organization that acts as the managing body for bluebird trails in the interior of BC. The organization was formed to help promote the recovery of mountain and western bluebirds, which were threatened at the time. Since then members have placed over 6,000 nest boxes. In Logan Lake, there are 26 volunteers caring for approximately 450 boxes that contain nests between May and June. These volunteers are responsible for maintaining the boxes, monitoring the development of the young birds, recording and reporting statistics, and cleaning the boxes after the birds have left. The volunteers are specially trained and are very careful to avoid interfering with the birds as they are nesting. For many of these dedicated volunteers the joy of watching the life cycle of the birds and seeing them return year after year is the best part of what they do.
While the boxes are visible on countless roads in the Gold Country area and bluebirds are an abundant beauty in the spring, we ask that you please do not open or disturb the boxes. Human interactions with the young birds at key points in their development can be a threat to their survival.