Live bluebird nesting box camera offers glimpse into active nest

Harrisburg — In an effort to garner
appreciation for wildlife, especially the state’s bluebird
population, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s webcasting of a live
video feed from a bluebird nestbox on the grounds of its Harrisburg
Headquarters now is providing a glimpse into an active nest.  To
view the live feed, visit the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on the
“Bluebird Nestbox Cam” icon under the opening photo in the center
of the homepage.

“After several weeks
of nest building and waiting, the bluebird nestbox camera now is
allowing viewers to follow along with an active nest that presently
contains five recently laid bluebird eggs,” said Carl G. Roe, Game
Commission executive director. “The best way to get Pennsylvanians
– in fact most Americans – excited about wildlife is to show them
what makes wildlife so irreplaceable and priceless.

“We decided to set-up
and use this live webcast to help us educate the public about the
importance of wildlife, how to make backyards friendlier to
wildlife and also provide a way for folks to simply get closer to
bluebirds. Last year, it was a huge hit, and we expect that the
broadcasting of this year’s activities again will be well
received.”

Launched last year,
the bluebird camera was the agency’s first foray into the world of
live nest camera feeds. It provides a color video feed plus audio
from the bluebird nestbox quarters, which is situated near the
agency’s headquarters. A live feed also is broadcast to a monitor
in the agency’s lobby.

New this year is the
installation of an infrared video camera, which will enable
visitors to tune in after dark, too.

Steps are taken to
deter house sparrows from using the nestbox by mounting
monofilament fishing line from the roof over the entrance hole,
which compels sparrows to stay away. Bluebird nestboxes placed
close to buildings almost always attract competition from sparrows,
which annually chase native bluebirds from nestboxes and nesting
cavities.

“In the early 1960s,
the eastern bluebird was hanging on for dear life,” said Dan
Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Section supervisor.
“The species was suffering from a European invasion of house
sparrows and European starlings. Today, it’s not hard to imagine
the harm that would come from releasing starlings and house
sparrows in New York City during the 1800s. But back then, at a
time when people were trying to reverse declining songbird
populations, it seemed like the right thing to do in New
York.

“The starling spread
quickly across America. Released in 1890 and 1891, starlings were
building nests in California by the 1940s. What our forefathers
didn’t expect, in addition to the rapid range expansion of these
alien species, was that they would almost immediately begin
competing with bluebirds and other beneficial songbirds for cavity
nesting sites.”

Bluebirds were
enjoying a satisfying existence around 1900. It is when some
ornithologists believe Pennsylvania’s bluebird population was at
its largest, because fully two-thirds of the Commonwealth was
farmland. But the runaway populations of starlings and sparrows
would begin to compete with and ultimately cripple the bluebird’s
ability to secure adequate nesting.

The species’ problems
would be further compounded by farmlands reverting to forestland or
being swallowed by development, the increased use of pesticides,
and the replacement of wooden fence-posts with metal
posts.

By 1960, the bottom
was ready to fall out, and the Game Commission and many other
conservation agencies and organizations launched an aggressive
campaign to rescue the species.

With the aid of its Howard Nursery,
the Game Commission manufactured inexpensive bluebird nestboxes and
bluebird nestbox kits for the public to place afield. Boy Scouts
and Cub Scouts became involved, as well as 4-H Clubs, schools and
Audubon chapters. Bluebirds became the poster child for efforts
aimed at getting people to do something for wildlife in their
backyards.

“Today, bluebirds are
back in a big way, even in the southeastern counties, where they
compete heavily with large populations of house sparrows,” Brauning
said. “It’s fair to say that our bluebird population is stronger
today than it has been in 50 years. With time and continued
assistance from caring Pennsylvanians, it seems likely bluebirds
will continue to prosper.”

For more information
on bluebirds, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on
“Wildlife” in the menu bar in the banner, then choose “Bluebird”
from the listing under the “Wild Birds and Birding”
section.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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