Spreading the Word - Bluebird!

Christy's Bluebird Project

This article was written for the Myakka City Newsletter which is printed once a month.  From this article being written, six Trails in two counties were installed.  There were people who reported Bluebirds.  There are still a few other homes who are improving their boxes and placements and may become a Bluebird Trail.  The newsletter reaches over 3500 homes and I am very thankful that only a few replied.  I was able to comfortably respond to people's interest.


by Christy Packard

Bluebirds used to be one of the most common birds in our country. But around the 1950s we were on our way to losing this beautiful bird. The House Sparrow which was brought in from England and the Starling, are the main cause of the Bluebirds decline. The loss of natural cavities which are used for birds nesting is also a major cause in the Bluebirds decline. I would like to ask for your help in bringing the Bluebird back to our Counties. You can help in many ways. Learning about the Bluebird and its habitat is the best way to start, and then you may find you can help in other ways.

There are three types of Bluebirds. Western Bluebirds, Mountain and our Eastern Bluebird which has a blue back and reddish breast. Their size is just a little smaller than a Robins. The word is that no Bluebirds are to be found below Ocala. But in Ona, in Hardee County there is a Bluebird Trail of 25 nesting boxes. A Trail is at least five houses. And at the Avon Park Bombing Range found at the end of State Road 64, there is a 100 box Trail. The state of Florida has only two other Trails which are found in the panhandle of Florida, that I know of.

I am Christina "Christy" Packard and I would like to see the return of the Bluebird in our areas. In May of this year I started my Bluebird Project. I had never seen a Bluebird before, but in this time of unrest and War, I thought how nice it is to think some happy thoughts and still help my community. Since May there are now six local libraries in Manatee and Sarasota counties which will be carrying Bluebird books and Videos which they ordered. I have setup two Trails, one in Manatee and one in Sarasota. Duette Park in Manatee County was approached asking if they would like to have a Trail. The head Ranger Danny Smith, would like to see the three parks he is over, Duette, Rye and Emerson Point, all have Trails. I also have a senior builder Jim Ford who has volunteered to build other nesting boxes for the parks. Wayne Ulrich of Sarasota has been volunteering to build the Bluebird boxes. I am at present showing plans and going to talk with three local cemeteries, and also the Panther Ridge communities about putting up Trails. As you can see much is happening and much more could done before breeding season starts.

Bluebirds start looking for homes a month or so before the eggs are to be laid. Egg laying starts in the middle of March. Bluebirds are pretty much like people when mating. Some have only one mate. Some Bluebirds change mates and some seem to have a couple of mates. Bluebirds can breed as much as four times in a year but two broods [families] is usual. They lay light blue eggs but they can be white. And the average number is four but can be less and as high as seven. The percentage of those Bluebirds from egg to fledging [flying out of the nest] which live, is only 66%. But with monitoring of the nests, the percentage of survival gets much higher. The life of a Bluebird is guessed to be only two years, but could be six or more. More studying needs to be done on the lives of Bluebirds We need more Bluebirds Southern Florida and less House Sparrows and Starlings.

Why have Bluebird Trails? The main reason is to replace the natural nesting cavities which building has taken away. The other is to learn about the Bluebirds and enjoy their presence again. There are thousands of Bluebird Trails all over the United States. Most all of these Trails are monitored by people who write down what they see happening inside and around the nest boxes. The information then is turned over to Cornell University where it is compiled. Areas which are studied are the type of boxes, the habitat where the boxes are set up. Of course the different types of birds who use the boxes and the egg counts and fledglings. Even the inside and outside temperatures are gathered three times daily by sensitive equipment. One such experiment is being done in a Northern Florida Trail.

Now to you. I need your help. Bringing back Bluebirds is not something that one person is going to do. I could use you help in the following ways or in any way you can think to help. I am particularly looking to start with those who want to be a Bluebird Trail Monitor by putting five boxes on your property and checking them weekly through the breeding season. Bluebird habitat is particularly found in wide low grass open areas away from bunches of shrubby plants. Having fences and above wiring is very favorable. The box setup is only five feet high and has a predator guard to keep snakes and raccoons away. I want to talk and teach anyone who wants to own a Bluebird house. Putting up a Bluebird house has responsibilities or should not be done.

People are needed to just go to the Parks for a while just to look at birds and write down what you see. We need builders, helpers, teachers, telephoners, writers, photographers, other Trail Monitors, Donors and Sponsors.

As of now I have been supplying all the materials. But I would gratefully welcome anyone or business, who would like to help purchase materials, or even Sponsor a Bluebird box for $15.00 which will cover the cost of materials. You can then name the box and your Mr. & Mrs. Bird who uses that box. The name to then be used in the permanent records.

Be a part of the future of Bluebirds in your Community and the State of Florida. Let a little part of Bluebird History be made in your own back yard. Please do get in touch with me if you would like to help and learn more about my Bluebird Project, or to Donate or Sponsor:

Christy Packard

4834 Seville Dr.

Sarasota, Fl. 34235

Phone 355-5265 Weekends or after 6pm

E-mail ke4fej1@email.msn.com

This article was found on the Internet nine months after it was written.  I did not know that they had done so.  This is a monthy article put out by the association of libraries found in Central Florida.  The Hardee County Public Library is part of that association.  Their library is one I contacted to have Bluebird books added to their collection.
Linger At The Library
October 2002
by Diane Hunt

Bluebirds have arrived at the Library. We have acquired several new books (The Bluebird Monitors Guide by Cynthia Berger, Bluebirds Forever by Connie Toops, The Bluebird Book by Donald Stokes, Bluebird Trails by Dorene Scriven) and a video (Stokes Bluebird Basics) about these charming birds. Donald Stokes states that the beauty and character of bluebirds have inspired many people. Henry David Thoreau in 1859 said that the bluebird really does carry the sky on its back. Poets such as Robert Frost (The Last Word of a Bluebird), John Burroughs (The Bluebird), and Paul Laurence Dunbar (Spring Fever) have immortalized the bluebird. And who of us will always remember the words of Edgar Y. Harburg in the song Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz:
Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why cant I?
Hardee County has had an established Bluebird Trail for years at the UF Cattle Experimental Range property. Christy Packard of Sarasota called to ask the Library to help with her Bluebird Project in South Florida Counties. Her goals are to help to increase cavity nest building bird populations, find useable lands for many bluebird trails (a trail is at least 5 boxes), find and educate monitors in each trail (a monitor looks in a box once a week), educate individuals on bluebird box ownership responsibilities, involve the youth through projects and badge earning, and to report all monitored information to Cornell University & National Bluebird Society. A newsletter will be coming out to involve county residents in Hardee and Manatee Counties. Christy can be reached by email: ke4fejl at email.msn.com for further information about this project. ..........

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This article was in a East Manatee Herald in Manatee County. One of our Trail Monitors, Melissa as able to contact Betty for this interview.  The interview was done by phone, and after a few minutes Betty had a story for the next Thursday's printing.  I will in the future work at my names pronunciation.  Usually saying,  "Packard,"  like the car works.  Immediately I received one home wanting a Trail of six boxes.  A few others want to start with one box.  But possibly have plans for a Trail at their Church, and another for a full Trail at their home which backs up to a  Nature Preserve.

Posted on Thu, Nov. 14, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
ALL ABOUT EAST - Project may help put bluebirds on your shoulder

Herald Staff Writer

Conventional wisdom says there are no bluebirds in this part of Florida.

Christy Patrick, a deputy clerk for the circuit court in Sarasota County who lives off University Parkway, saw a flash of blue on a line above her yard a few months ago and realized that what she was seeing was, in fact, a bluebird.

"In this time of war and trouble, I needed to do something happy," she said. So she decided to make a difference in her community. She is determined to create a friendly atmosphere for bluebirds to nest here.

She started Christy's Bluebird Project last May. She began by riding the back roads of Sarasota, Manatee and Hardee counties looking for birds and for areas that might make good "trails." A bluebird trail consists of a minimum of five bluebird boxes.

Bluebirds don't just build a nest in the crook of a tree. These birds nest in cavities, Patrick explained. Since most natural cavities like holes in rotted trees and old wooden fence posts have disappeared as the country has become more developed, the wooden bluebird homes are important in attracting birds.

She tried several routes to get the boxes placed, but because of liability concerns, found that most public agencies did not want to get involved. So she is working primarily with homeowners.

"This is good for homeowners because they and their children can monitor the boxes and see what is happening," she said.

Patrick said bluebirds are one of the most friendly of wild birds. They don't mind if humans check their nesting boxes and look at the eggs and the babies. Bluebirds have even been known to perch on a human's shoulder.

Since May, she has found homes for 42 boxes, so she is well ahead of her original goal to place 50 by March.

So far, she has worked with property owners to get six trails set up in East Manatee in the areas near Hunsader Farms, Verna Bethany Road, Bear Bay Road and Duette.

"There are a lot of areas in East Manatee, like Panther Ridge, where the homeowners are very interested in the environment, where I think, once we get the word out, people will be very interested," Patrick said.

She has engaged help from other volunteers. Two men build the boxes for the project, one in Sarasota and an 89-year-old Bradenton man. An East Manatee woman has volunteered to help install the poles, boxes and predator guards. She has placed material about the project in Manatee County libraries.

The information will be gathered weekly, compiled and sent to a project at Cornell University. The Birdhouse Network is a project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which is creating a national database of locations and information about bluebird box locations.

Patrick said it is important that owners monitor the boxes for several reasons. First, bluebirds are tidy creatures that will not build a nest in a box that has had another nest fouling the box. But more important, one of the biggest natural enemies of the bluebird is the house sparrow. The tiny sparrow was brought to this country from England in the 1860s, she explained. There are more house sparrows in Florida than any other bird. These birds will kill bluebirds and will invade the nesting boxes.

Patrick said because of the volunteer effort, the boxes are offered at $15 for the box, pole and predator guard, which is a bargain since the equipment would cost considerably more if purchased at retail. She and another volunteer are even willing to put up the boxes if necessary.

If you are interested in having a bluebird on your shoulder, call Patrick at 355-5265 or e-mail her at ke4fej1@email.msn.com.

This article was written after my reporters boss had gone to a Myakka City Christmas Day, and had talked to those at the Myakka City Historical Booth.  The booth was selling plants and telling those who came by which plants were best for the Bluebirds.  I was told that the Sarasota Herald East Manatee paper was interested in the area Bluebird Project.

Jan. 23, 2003           Manatee Herald-Tribune H-T East

Project works to bring bluebirds back to the county



Chris Nobles, 15, and Ryan Hidalgo, 16, listen as DeSoto Lakes resident Christy Packard tells about 25 other Sarasota County 4-H members about her bluebird project. Packard, in her attempt to rekindle the bluebird population in Southwest Florida, wrote a book for the 4-H programs in Manatee and Sarasota counties to be used as a project by the organizations' members.

SARASOTA -- Experts said bluebirds don't fly south of Ocala, but Christy Packard said she's seen them here and wants to bring them back.

The DeSoto Lakes resident worked last year to rekindle the bluebird population in the area. To help do that, she is getting a younger generation interested by working with 4-H programs in Sarasota and Manatee counties,

Monday night, Packard met with Sarasota's 4-H County Council and introduced her project to about 25 children and teenagers. Packard also passed out a book that she wrote to be used as a 4-H project guide. She will do the same in Manatee County next month.

"We're pioneers," she told the 4-H'ers. "We can do something that's never been done before."

Packard said that throughout the nation there are about 9,000 bluebird "trails," sets of five birdhouses designed specifically for the rare bird.

"I wondered why it is so big in the United States, but we don't have them," she said. "It's probably because of education."

So the 53-year-old took it upon herself to teach area residents about the songbird.




Five newborn baby bluebirds.

She has since built 13 bluebird trails in Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. She persuaded public librarians to order books about bluebirds to help educate the region. She also has created her own Web site titled "Christy's Bluebird Project," where people can learn about the project and make it happen in their back yards.

Packard moved to Sarasota when she was 6 and was a 4-H member for nine years. That was one of the reasons she took her project to 4-H.


Brothers Wade and Clint Nobles, both 15, help Christy Packard assemble a bird box specifically for bluebirds at Monday night's 4-H Sarasota County Council meeting. The metal cylinder is used to keep predators at bay, Packard said. 13H

"I know 4-H'ers," she said Monday to the crowd. "By you learning, your parents are going to wonder what you're doing. I think that in time, you will tell a lot of people what they don't know."

Marcia Morris, Sarasota County's 4-H agent, said she would want her children to do the project if she were a parent.

"It looks very interesting," she said. "I'm very interested in birds myself. We have a lot of birds where we live."

Morris said Packard is linking her book to two projects, "Bird Study and Wildlife Unit I" and "Bird Study and Wildlife Unit II," already in place for 4-H members. Packard's bluebird project will be considered "Unit III."

"It's a very in-depth project," Morris said. "I think it would be good for the kids."

Both Morris and Packard are trying to get the bluebird endeavor to the 4-H state and national levels. Packard's book must be reviewed by a university graduate student hired by 4-H to check for accuracy. The book also must be printed for every county. To become national, each state's 4-H board must review the project.

"People sometimes don't understand," Morris said. "To get a piece of curriculum (national) is a long process. That's why a lot of things don't go national."

Morris said it costs money to get a project adopted statewide. The cost is about $3,000 to hire the graduate student and pay for printing.

"When you're giving out educational information, it has to be correct," Morris said.

For now, the project is in its trial stage.

Packard insists she does not want personal recognition. She just wants to see bluebirds back in the area.

"When I first started, they all laughed at me. 'We hate to see you wasting your time,'" she said. "Now, we've had more sightings. Manatee has seen more. I've delivered a trail and had one fly right over. So, they are there."

Last modified: January 23. 2003 12:00AM
For more information, visit Christy Packard's Web site at http://ke4fej1.tripod.com
Packard currently has 13 bluebird trails throughout Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties that are monitored by residents.  To create a bluebird trail in your yard or neighborhood, send an e-mail to her at ke4fej1@email.msn.com
4-H is accepting donations to make Packard's bluebird endeavor a statewide 4-H project.  About $3,000 is needed.  Checks, made payable to the Florida 4-H Foundation, can be sent to P.O. Box 110225, Gainesville, FL 32611-0225.  Write "bluebird project" in the memo box of the check.  Donations to 4-H are tax-deductible.

This article was written by me for the Myakka City Newsletter-February

Christys Bluebird Project Update:

There are so far, at least 89 new Bluebird boxes ready for breeding season, which will be here starting the middle of February. The project now has 14 Bluebird Trails with Monitors whom will be looking in the boxes weekly, from March to August. A Bluebird Trail is at least five birdhouses. All of the Bluebird Trails so far are sponsored/owned by a land owner. And their birdhouses are then spaced around their own property. Bluebirds love to be around people. They are not endangered but do need help from people, by suppling more nesting cavities.

The information the home Monitors will be collecting is, if they find a nest, or eggs, and how many eggs or baby birds. They will be following the 14 days it takes the young to fledge from the nest, and note if the birds get off to a good start. They are also there all along to correct things which may go wrong during the nesting, such as helping to keep away predators such as House Sparrows and Red Ants. The information is going to be turned into Cornell University which collects from thousands of Monitors from around the country. This information will then help to better understand Bluebirds. You can find more information on Bluebirds and what is happening with this local Project by looking at the Internet at the following address https://ke4fej1.tripod.com/

January 20th the Sarasota County 4-H will be introduced to a new Bluebird Project booklet written by Christy Packard who is also a former 4-H member. Manatee County 4-H will start this project booklet next month after the County Fair. This will be a pilot program and if successful will then go statewide and could possibly go national. Actually all that is needed to make this Bluebird Project Booklet a working reality for all is the money needed for the printing. The printing fund is through the University of Florida who will be revising and printing this booklet. Anyone who would like to help in this area please do contact Christy. The 4-H is considered a non-profit organization and this would be a tax free donation..

There are two five box Bluebird Trails available now to sponsor/own. The cost is $15.00 per birdhouse setup which includes the pole and predator guard, so the Trail cost would be $75.00. You are eligable to be a Trail Monitor for this project if you agree to report weekly by email or phone what is found in your five boxes, and have at least five acres of open land. You will be helped with placement and how to monitor and someone always there to ask questions if you have them. You can also be a Trail Monitor if you build you own setups and pledge to weekley monitor them.

Please get in touch with Christy if you have any questions about Bluebirds, or want to sponsor/Monitor a Trail, or help with the printing funding of the 4-H Bluebird Booklet.

Christy Packard ke4fej1@email.msn.com

4834 Seville Dr. 355-5265

Sarasota, FL

Feb. 28, 2003 Manatee Herald-Tribune H-T East

Interest in bluebirds takes flight in two counties


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Chris Nobles, 15, and Ryan Hidalgo, 16, listen as DeSoto Lakes resident Christy Packard tells Sarasota County 4-H members about her bluebird project on Jan. 23. Packard, in her attempt to rekindle the bluebird population in Southwest Florida, wrote a book for the 4-H programs in Manatee and Sarasota counties to be used as a project by the organizations' members.

EAST MANATEE -- Bluebird sightings are growing and so is interest in the birds.

Myakka resident Sherry Miller said she has a male and a female flying around her back yard near one of the five boxes she set up earlier this month as a bluebird "trail" in hopes of attracting the rare bird.

She said every morning at about 7:30 a.m. she can see them from a window at her home off State Road 70.

"They're beautiful," she said. "You just wouldn't believe the blue of this bird."

Miller purchased her trail from DeSoto Lakes resident Christy Packard, who launched the area's bluebird project hoping to rekindle the songbird's population. Before Packard started her endeavour, researchers believed bluebirds never flew south of Ocala.

Packard is working with Manatee County's 4-H program to develop a bluebird project for members. She began working with Sarasota County's 4-H last month.

About $3,000 is needed to make the project a statewide program. The state 4-H office received a donation for $1,000 earlier this month, but more is needed, said Joy Jordan, state 4-H curriculum coordinator. Jordan said the money will be used to hire a researcher and cover printing costs.

Manatee County 4-H coordinator Diana Smith said several children are showing interest in the project.

"We've had kids come up to us," she said. "People are getting excited about it."

Packard, who was in 4-H for nine years, said she is happy with the amount of interest she's been able to generate in helping the bluebirds.

"I'm thrilled," Packard said. "Everything's going great. To be this far ahead of the game, and now we have so many people involved."

In the past month, Packard has added seven trails to 13 in place. She said 10 of those are in East Manatee, including one at Miller's home, three off State Road 70, two in Panther Ridge, one off County Road 675, two in Pomello Park and one off Wauchula Road.

"This is really a start of something," Packard said. "This is new history out in Myakka."

Last modified: February 27. 2003 12:00AM

From:  Myakka City, FL  March 1, 2003  Newsletter

March is the Start of Bird Breeding Season
Are YOU Ready?

What do you have to do for the birds? Do you have a birdbath in your yard? Do you feed the birds? Do you have birdhouses around your home? A yes to any of these questions means you have things to check and do, and then do them regularly through the year.

I am not an expert. I am more like you in what I know, but I read and listen to the tips which are handed down from those who have helped with the natural cavity breeding birds. Do you, and did you know that your birdbath should be emptied and scrubbed out weekly? Use a little bleach while scrubbing and then thoroughly rinse and let dry. Why work so hard at cleaning a birdbath? We like clean glasses, and it is for our health the glass should be clean. Same for the birds. Remember lots of birds walk, bathe, drink and poop in that birdbath.

Are you helping or hurting the birds by feeding them? Just because food is out there, and they are eating it, does not mean it could not be hurting them. Food thrown on the ground all the time is creating a bad situation. Lots of birds are stomping around, and after time the dust of their presence and poop is in this dust. Birds carry disease which can be left behind in all this dust, which can transfer to another bird, possibly later making them sick which leads to death. It is also said that ground feeding brings rats. Rats at night then look for more food which are baby birds in/on nests.

You are regularly cleaning your bird feeders aren't you? Again, all types of feeders need to be emptied and scrubbed down, dried and filled with new food. Who wants to eat off a dirty plate? Don't pass disease around. Yes, even you can pick up a disease from the old bird filth. Remember to wash your hands after working with your bird items.

Birds usually do not clean out their own houses. If a natural cavity gets dirty or filled, they find another cavity. A birdhouse is a way of recycling. You are the one to clean birdhouses out. Usually emptying them is enough, but they can be rinsed out and dried. That is why Monitoring or looking into your birdhouses is important. Some birds do not mind you looking and some do. Learn the difference. Learn what birds breed how many times a year and when to clean and how to dispose of the nest. And on the ground is not the best. Bag the nest and put it in the trash. Do not spread the parasites.

You feel good when your home is clean and the dishes sparkle, and so will your birds look good, happy and healthy!

Christy Packard - Christy's Bluebird Project - Web Site:

April Update
By: Christy Packard
Phone: 941-355-5265 *** Email:

March 15th was the Bluebird Project Official Monitoring day start. We started our recording year off with 99 boxes in the ground, and 122 total which all should be in the ground by the end of March. The materials now are being purchased for the 10 boxes at Buffalo Creek Golf Course, and the others are made. We have a total of 20 Bluebird Trails and 19 Monitors, and 1 individual participating. This Project is now in its 10th month.

Myakka City is making a bit of news for Florida and the United States. Our first egg was laid on February 28, and there are five eggs in the nest, which is located on ST. RD. 675 by Hunsader Farm. The baby birds should be appearing around March 17th or 18th and will be fledging [leaving the nest] around April 2nd or 3rd. At the moment, our area is probably going to be recorded as having the first egg laid in Florida. And if the baby birds fledge, we will be known for having the first fledging in the United States for Bluebirds! All this information is being recorded by Cornell University, and also followed by thousands of people who care for, and care about Bluebirds throughout the United States.

We also have reports of 10 possible other nests. At the time of writing this report I do not have our first Official Reports in.

On March 13th I gave a talk to the Manatee 4-H County Council and leaders. This was the first introduction to their start of the 4-H Bluebird Project Booklet which I wrote for 4-H use. The kids and adults were amazed at all there is connected with learning about Bluebirds and other Cavity Nesting Birds. Many now have already signed up to start their projects. Is there a young person in your family that would like to do the Bluebird Project or learn more about this Project, and also join 4-H? If so call the Manatee 4-H office. We are going to be helping other 4-H clubs which are in our area get started.

Even though we now have over $1,000.00 donated to the printing of the 4-H Bluebird Project Booklet we still need $2,500.00 more, and this Project will be upgraded and given to All of the 67 counties of the State of Florida for their 4-H. You can help make this happen by giving any size donation to: University of Florida, and mark it to be especially used for the: Bluebird Project. Send your checks to my address below to be sent to the University. Let make this happen this year!

March 16th we met at Dennys on ST. RD. 70 Just to get together. There were Trail Monitors, Martha Mazzei and Sherry Miller, and builder Jim Ford, and Joe Huber who invented the Huber House Sparrow Trap. Joe who used to live in Ohio and now is down in Venice, he has been honored by the North American Bluebird Association for his invention. We also had bird banders from Sarasota and Tampa.

It will never be too late to join in with this Bluebird Project. We are now accepting homes that have individual Bluebird boxes, and will, report what is happening in their boxes weekly. We also are always interested in those who want to start their own Trail [5 boxes] of Bluebird boxes. Any questions anyone may have about Bluebirds and any of the above information please e-mail or call and you will be helped. (Note: My answering machine gave out last month, if you had called and were not called back. I now have a new one.)

Christy Packard 355-5265 4834 Seville Dr. Sarasota, FL ke4fej1@email.msn.com Web Site: https://ke4fej1.tripod.com/

Published on April 24, 2003, Page 16E, Bradenton Herald, The (FL)


Source: Betty Carroll, Herald Staff Writer

Bluebird wise, Myakka City is making national news. The scoffers said there are no bluebirds in this part of Florida, but a small band of believers, headed up by Christy Packard, a Sarasota resident who was sure the beautiful, friendly little birds exist here, proved they will indeed nest in East Manatee if given the right conditions. 
Packard started the project several months ago, gathering a group who would build the bluebird boxes and poles and who would even mount the boxes if given the right conditions.

The project was adopted by numerous residents of East Manatee, and the bluebirds now have a choice of 123 nesting boxes on 22 bluebird trails in our area, with more on the way.

And, wonder of wonders, we have baby bluebirds in Manatee.  The first egg was laid in a box near Hunsader Farm on Feb. 27.  Then another five eggs were laid in the same vicinity and again, disappointingly, did not make it through the cold weather and storms we suffered through about that time.

One egg from that area has hatched and should fledge, or leave the nest, around April 25.  And in the Verna Bethany Road area four bluebirds fledged on April 10.  And there are five eggs at a box in Panther Ridge.

Packard said other animals and birds use the nesting boxes.  Tufted titmice have used the nesting boxes and even a mother flying squirrel--yes, she has been dubbed "Rocky"--and has three or four little "Rockettes" nestled safely in one of the project nesting boxes.

The bluebird project has been approved as a 4-H Club project by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Florida and Packard has written the step by step program materials.  Now, all that is needed is about $3,500 to print the booklets for the entire state.  Next, it will be distributed nationally as a 4-H Club project when more money is raised for that printing and distribution.

So far, people in the community have donated about $1,000 to the Bluebird Project.  But more is needed.  Anyone who would like to make a donation can call Packard at 355-5265 for instructions on how to halp make this 4-H project happen.

Posted on Thu, May. 01, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
ALL ABOUT EAST  pecial to the Herald
Watch for bluebirds

Got an update from Christy Packard, the lady who is spearheading the effort to bring the bluebird back to Florida. More trails and boxes were going to be placed in Buffalo Creek and Waterlefe. And one bird, though not a bluebird, has set up housekeeping in a newspaper delivery box.

She said bluebirds fly in flocks, adding that she nearly wrecked her car when a flock of the bright blue little birds whizzed by right in front of her when she was driving in East Manatee. (**This really happened in Avon Park)

Packard said about 4 p.m. is a good time to look for numbers of the little birds. They are friendly little creatures that like to hang out with both their own kind and humans.

"They hide out when the sun is hot in the middle of the day. But look up about five feet off the ground or on utility wires in the late afternoon and you might see a flock of them," she said.

Verna Bethany Road is a good place to watch for bluebirds. And of course, if you do, don't do anything to scare them off. And do think about setting up your own bluebird boxes or trails.


1st Bluebird Babies Fly Out Of The Nest May

April 10th four baby Bluebirds fledged from the Pomello Ranch area. I believe this to be the first Bluebird babies in the United States to fledge, after not hearing any other reports across the country. We know the baby birds left the nest, and did not disappear for any other reason because most importantly we have a predator guard protecting against raccoons and snakes on the pole. Then the best way to tell that the babies have fledged, is to look inside the box, looking for the white streaks they will leave as they jet propel themselves out of the box. Now the babies and parents will stay away for about two weeks. The first week they will be feed about every twenty minutes, and then in the second week the babies will have to learn to catch their own food. Then the parents and babies may very well return to the same nest, and the parents will start their second breeding. Now the new babies will have their older brothers and sisters to help feed them. Bluebirds are very family orientated. At this Trail, and in less than five days, a nest box directly across from that used box now has a new nest. There is a possibility that the new babies did not survive being out in the environment, in which case the new nest is being built by the original Bluebird parents. The way we will tell is if a pair of Bluebirds comes back with young and starts nesting. Or we may have a totally new second pair of Bluebirds ready to breed.

We still have 5 Bluebird eggs which never hatched. But on the same Trail we have new Bluebird babies. This is around the Hunsader Farm area. In Panther Ridge there are five new babies. Both of these nest hatched the same day and both should fledge around the 25th of April.

Now many of you have Bluebird nests and have reported nests, eggs, and babies. Do you know what you should do now? It is ok to look into your nest. Bluebirds are very people friendly. The only time you do not want to look is too close to sunset, and not before 11:00 AM. Because if the Mom is out of the nest and the sun goes down she will not go back into the nest, which means eggs or babies could cool down too much. In the morning is when birds lay their eggs and if you are looking inside the box, and Mom wants to lay an eggs she may drop it outside while waiting to get back into her box. Also if you know there are baby birds, you should know at what stage they are at. One egg a day is laid until all are laid. The day no more eggs are laid is the day you count to hatching which should be around day 14. Then counting the next day it takes about 18 days to fledge. And it is important not to look into the box after they are 12 days old. They may fledge prematurely and become easy prey for a predator. After your birds have flown away they will never come back to the old nest. At this point you need to clean out the nest. Wipe down the white streak marks so you will see the new marks next time.

Bluebirds can breed up to four times in a year. But two is normal and three is very possible. The egg count laid through the summer may go down per each brood. The "Why" might be that it is getting hotter inside those nest boxes. Boxes do not have to be placed in the shade but certainly shade will keep the box cooler. Using a double roof may also help keep things cool.

Do your boxes need cleaning out now and ready for the second breeding which is starting now? The Bluebirds will be breeding into the middle of August so it is not too late to ever start. We now have 22 Bluebird Trails and our 23rd will be the Buffalo Creek Golf Course which should be put up in a couple of weeks. That will make 133 boxes. We also now have our first Trail in Hillsborough County in Plant City. We have eggs in Hardee County by Ona, and we have our first nest in Sarasota County off of Rawls Rd., and seven Tufted Titmouse babies which should fledge around the 18th on Wachula Rd.

Please do look at our Project web site https://ke4fej1.tripod.com/ and call 355-5265 if you would like to join our Project or e-mail ke4fej1@email.msn.com with any questions. Those of you who have called wanting to build your boxes and have a Trail, I am waiting to hear from you, and I am here to help any of the 4-H members with their projects.

Think Bluebird Christy Packard


Bad Things Can Happen To Bluebirds Too

August 2003

The middle of August will bring a close to the breeding of Bluebirds, but it is possible for them to breed one more time. We now have at least one nest with 3 babies getting ready to fledge. Bluebirds stop breeding for a few reasons, which can be that it is just too hot, or that it might be the rains and violent weather we will be having. Also if the Bluebirds have already breed two times, they could just be getting tired out. New Mom and Dad Bluebirds have done enough for a first year, and the older parents are just getting too old to raise up so many young any more. But since this is our first year, we dont know what to expect for our area. I believe it is possible for us to have 3 or 4 more nests. These nests could start from the middle of July to the end of September. We will all have to wait and see what happens.

This past month brought many of our Monitors new experiences which were not very pleasant to learn. Our M 21 trail, just past Mizel Rd., had a nest with five Bluebird babies ready to hatch. Also the M 6 trail which is found almost opposite the Verna-Bethany Church, also had five eggs which could start to hatch. But the heaviest of the rains came, and we all know what happened. After hearing about Hidden River in Sarasota, and the depth of the water, I thought about how many natural nests were probably underwater. Then realizing we have two trails just off of Rawls Rd., which is just west of Hidden River, I found that those trails were on high lands. One Monitor did lose the bridge to his home, and the creek was more like 50 feet wide, but his home and the trail were ok. Other Monitors properties were ok, and so were their Bluebird boxes. But the two above boxes were affected by the rains. M 21s hatchlings stopped hatching with the third bird, and because of the death of that hatching, immediately the Red Ants crawled up into the box killing the two birds which had just hatched. At M 6 the ants had already gone into the box, and the parents did not come back. In both of these cases there might have been other factors as to why they might not of hatched or fledged, but the smell of death brought the predators. The good side of losing these eggs and babies, is that Bluebirds will usually, immediately start another nest, and that is what happened at both trails.

As beginners and being inexperienced with working with birds, we all will learn as we go along. On one trail which has PVC boxes, a nest was found with three eggs. During the monitoring, the bottom half of the PVC pipe was unhooked and taken down and off of the top. This was done to look better into the nest, and then it is replaced. But the design of this type of box is a new idea, and different to use. The box dropped to the ground, and two of the eggs broke. The parents did not return to the box. I believe what happened was that a parent jumped into the box, and because the top and bottom parts where not hooked correctly, the bottom then dropped to the ground. In this case we report that the loss was due to humane error. But now you, and I, and that Monitor knows what can happen, and we all will try not to repeat this type of mishap. The upside is that this was the first report of our Bluebirds using a PVC pipe bird house. On this same trail another PVC box also has a nest.

We have learned that weather can make a difference, and that we can have human error. Red Ants in our area appear to be our major predator threat. For the weather, we can use larger over hanging tops to boxes, which will help keep out rain, and we can also place boxes in dryer land areas. We will probably always be living with Red Ants, but we can work on eliminating them from around box areas. Also there is a product called Tanglewood, that can be found in Garden Stores, which can be wrapped around the bottom of the birdhouse poles, which should stop ants from crawling up to the box. This sticky twine like material is replaced when ants can continue to crawl up the pole. As to human error, we should always be working on our knowledge of the " what and how" we will care for our cavity nesting birds and equipment. Predation, and human error will go down with the rise in the level of our learned knowledge.

Above are only a few things which have gone wrong on our trails, but there are other bad things which can happen to nesting birds. Other trails in the United States are fighting off House Sparrows, Starlings, snakes and raccoons. Plus other birds which pester the Bluebird, and those humans who just have to destroy others property. By the way did you know it is a Federal Offense and a $15,000.00 fine to bother a nest box! Birds and their nests, eggs, and feathers are taken very seriously.

Our Bluebird project now has over 60 fledged Bluebirds, and it is not over yet. Late July I will be talking to our local counties Golf Course Superintendents, about Bluebird boxes and other nesting bird boxes. More of you are calling about putting in Bluebird trails, and now is the time to get ready for next year. Boxes should be put up in December, so plan now to become one of our new Monitors. Besides getting more boxes out for the cavity nesting birds, my goal is to help anyone to gain the knowledge you need to be successful on your property. Give me a call at 355-5265 to ask about trails, boxes, or any questions you have on Bluebirds. Or e-mail me for any bird related questions at ke4fej1@email.msn.com , and also take a look at our Web Site: http://ke4fej1.tripod.com

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Reports of Bluebirds scouting out bird boxes have been coming in this past month. Last year at this time was when people called to quickly get their Bluebird Trail put on their land. What appears to be happening is that the Bluebirds are looking for possible new homes for breeding for next year. The young fledglings and their parents have probably been staying in the dense tree growth, which was probably cooler than staying out in our hot sun. The Bluebirds in our area most likely do not travel to other places, but they could be moving around to other areas during the winter months. Bluebirds in the North do travel a bit further South. The Bluebirds for now may be traveling around your area seeing what may be available to breed in for next year.

Through reporting to Cornell University and individual records of what Bluebirds are doing on Trails, information is found that parent Bluebirds will most likely return to the box they breed in last year. Information shows that many Bluebirds do not like to nest in the same box for each breeding time, but like to stay in the same area. The 59 Bluebirds which fledged from your area this year will also most likely make their nesting close to where their parents breed. Not all of the young stay in the family breeding area. I believe I have read that it is the female Bluebird that may move to another area. This would help with bringing new blood to the breeding lines. (I am sorry that I can not say for a fact that it is the female. I have only read it once, but it was interesting that what I did read said it was only one gender that moved out of an area, and not both.)

I hope next year that Bluebird banding is started over at Avon Park, where over 550 Bluebirds are fledged from 100 boxes. Not only will you be seeing more Bluebirds now in your area as the numbers grow, but you will be able to look with binoculars to see what color bands they have, where we can then tell what area the Bluebird fledged from. Also if you ever find a dead bird with a band on its leg please report the find. The numbers off the leg band will be needed, and the condition of the bird such as how it might have died. Why? There was a report of a Bluebird which was banded in Montana which was found dead on the California coast around the Los Angeles area. This information is valuable because the experts did not know a Bluebird would travel as that one had. Not much is know about Bluebirds as a whole.

School is over for me for this year and I can now get back to Bluebirds after my regular day work. There are only three months until breeding will start in our area. Will your yard be ready for the Bluebirds? Time will be short for me too. Now is the time to ask me how to get your boxes in shape for your Bluebirds. Also if you have your own boxes, and at least 5 boxes, you can become a numbered Bluebird Trail for our Bluebird Project. Also if you have less boxes, but would like to join the Project you can also join in this year. All that I ask is that you send in an e-mail or give a phone call with what is happening in your boxes weekly. Lets keep track of as many cavity nesting birds as we can.

Please call or e-mail if you have questions about this process. You can do it! Lets show the United States that the Myakka area knows how to take care of their birds.

We already are holding two United States records for our nesting boxes from this past year. Please join in the fun as we learn to help our cavity nesting birds. If you do not have boxes of your own, I will help talk about any cavity nesting box. I am still making Bluebird box setups which are 5 poles, 5 boxes, and 3 predator guards for $75.00 which is the cost of materials. You do not have to be a "Rocket Scientist" to learn

how to monitor, nor can you do very much wrong. I am always available for you to

e-mail or to talk with me. Give me a call at 355-5265 and leave a message. You can

e-mail me at ke4fej1@email.msn.com also visit our web site: https://ke4fej1.tripod.com/ and remember to "Think Bluebird!"

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Is Santa Bringing Bluebird Boxes to Your House This Year?


Bluebird sightings are still being reported. Our Monitor, Jenny in Panther Ridge

e-mailed, reporting at least 50 Bluebirds were found all over her yard. The Bluebirds were standing, and going in and out all of her six boxes. Remember this is the time of year the Bluebirds are checking out properties to find where they might like to nest next year. I did not hear that the birds returned to her property, but they sounded like they certainly had checked out her boxes very well. Do you have your boxes out and ready?

Time is running out in many ways. Christmas will be here shortly and we all have lots to do this time of season. This is the best time to be thinking of getting your Bluebird Trail or boxes up also. The Bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds are going to start finding a home and building their nests in just 8 weeks. If you missed the beginning and most busiest of breeding time last year, you will want to be ready for it in 2004.

Anyone can have Bluebird boxes, and any property in the Myakka City area has good Bluebird possibilities. True, more open land is better, but bushy land could find you with a Tufted Titmouse or Great Crested Fly Catcher, or maybe a bat or a flying squirrel. Also do not worry if you think you have too much activity on your property, very close activity could bother them some. Noise also does not bother them as much as we would think. In California, some Bluebird Trails are placed in the median strips with 75 mile per hour cars zooming by them!

I am looking for people to join in our Bluebird Project where you report weekly by e-mail or phone. You would report what you find inside you boxes once each week. Most important is the date,and what you find, and the number of eggs or hatchlings. You cannot do anything wrong. I will help you whenever you need help. I also would like you to at least read The Bluebird Monitors Guide. I am looking for people who would like to put a Bluebird Trail [5 boxes] on their property. You can purchase 5 boxes, 5 poles, and 3 predator guards for the cost of materials which is $75.00 from me. You can also make your own boxes or purchase boxes anywhere.

This year for those who cannot put up 5 boxes on their property, but want to be a part of the Bluebird Project and faithfully report your box findings, I will also let you be a part of our reported Project to Cornell University. Instead of you having a Trail number, you will be given box numbers by zip code areas. What is most important is to report through the entire breeding season which is February thru August. I would love to keep track of as many Bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds in the Myakka City area. Give this a thought and then me a call.

You can make your own boxes very easily. I use red cedar for all the Bluebird boxes. The size is 1 x 6 inches, and it takes 52 inches of perfect wood to make one box. Look out for splits in the wood which are usually found at the ends, that will then need to be trimmed off. Then look for a nice looking board which does not have many knot holes. I found they might pop out, and I learned the hard way you cant drive a nail into a knot hole. You should be able to find a 6 foot board with few knot holes or splits, which you can cut out all of the box pieces.

The size of the box pieces are 11 inch top, 9 inch back, 8 inch front, 8 inch sides, with a fitted bottom. The hole in the front is 1 inches. The hole is placed 6 inches from the inside bottom of the box, or about 6 inches from end of the board to bottom of the hole. To put together, start with putting the right side nailed to the back. Placed on inside of back board. Note all boards will be fitted with the bottoms being flush. Next nail front to right side. Nail from front. Then fit in the left side. The left side is the opening side. To nail this piece all you have to do is place a nail, which will be the hinge, on each side about inch measured down from the top of this piece. Hammer this placed nail from the back and then parallel to that nail hammer a nail from the front. If this side does not open fairly easily, lift the left door and pull the front and back pieces apart just a little. The left side should open with little resistance. Then attach the top by leaving inch hanging over the back. I do that because when using the PVC pole this lip will stop the pole from sliding down. Now fit a piece into the bottom. Before nailing cut off each of the 4 corners, because this is where the rain water will escape. You need a latch for the door. I put a small screw at the middle bottom of the left side door. I then place a screw in the center of the bottom of the box, and this screw is tightly screwed down with a heavy piece of wire which is about 8 inches long, or enough to be tied down and then wrap around the side screw and face back to the other screw. When monitoring all you will have to do is unhook the wire and lift the side. Then lower the side and re-hook the wire. You do not want baby birds pushing the door open.

I hope I have helped you to get your plans moving for your bird boxes. Most of you are going to have boxes in your yard anyway. My idea of this Bluebird Project is to get you the information you need to get the best birding results in your yard, and what is best for the birds and Cornell University too. I would like to help you in anyway you need. We will learn together. Myakka City had a super first year and next year is only going to be better!

Thank You for helping me spread the word - Bluebird!

Phone 355-5265 E-Mail ke4fej1@email.msn.com Web Site https://ke4fej1.tripod.com/

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