Natasha Lovato / NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, Colo.) Bluebirds made their way to Castle Rock and the Douglas County area shortly after Valentine’s Day, and now residents are helping to increase bluebird numbers.
Mountain bluebirds are found in southern Colorado year-round. However, Castle Rock and surrounding areas typically see bluebirds make their way to the area around mid-February and stick around until the end of October. The bluebirds use the DougCo area as their breeding grounds in the spring. They typically become more social and migrate in the fall south to areas between southern Colorado and northern Mexico.
Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they must rely on other species’ used nesting cavities. The Colorado Bluebird Project comes into play to help create and maintain artificial nest boxes for bluebird residents.
Barbara Spagnuolo, the natural resource specialist for the Colorado Bluebird Project, shared her excitement that their 2023 volunteer recruitment is complete but that there are still numerous ways residents can help the bluebirds.
“Folks can install bluebird boxes in their own backyards; they can also offer mealworms,” Spagnuolo said.
“Bluebirds don't go to traditional bird feeders so folks can put out mealworms.”
Bluebirds feed mainly on insects and wild fruit, berries, and mealworms found at storefronts across DougCo, like Wild Birds Unlimited.
Over the years, bluebird habitat has been cleared for development, leading to a population decrease. The Colorado Bluebird Society works to provide artificial nest sites to help bring back bluebird populations.
Nest boxes are placed within public open space areas either along fence lines or near existing trails creating a bluebird trail. Since the placement of the boxes in suitable habitats is one of the most important factors for attracting bluebirds, the boxes are placed in open grassland areas with scattered trees or shrubs and plenty of perch sites such as fence lines.
Volunteering to help increase bluebird populations
Volunteers of all ages are recruited in February to assist with monitoring the nest boxes from April through August. Colorado Bluebird Project Volunteers visit the boxes rotating once every two or three weeks to collect important nesting data and help maintain and repair older nest boxes.
Spagnulolo explained that for the past 15 years, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and students from several Castle Rock schools, the Colorado Bluebird Project watched and carefully monitored thousands of nests from native cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds, swallows, wrens, and chickadees in nest boxes established all over town. The Colorado Bluebird Project also documented over 7,000 chicks fledging from the boxes since 2007.
Bluebird boxes are located throughout Castle Rock on various public parks, trails, open spaces, and school properties, including Philip S. Miller Park, Red Hawk Ridge Golf Course, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Castle Rock Elementary School, and more.
Spagnuolo suggests that those interested in volunteer work should contact them for additional volunteer opportunities or stay in touch to sign up with the Colorado Bluebird Project for 2024.