GORDANSVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 13, 2020) – A group of volunteers and campers recently partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Park Rangers from Cordell Hull Lake to assemble bluebird boxes that will be distributed to recreational areas.
Cordell Hull Lake Park Ranger Ashley Webster, who coordinated the event, complimented the volunteers from Defeated Creek and Salt Lick campgrounds, on a job well done and commended the ranger staff for their outstanding efforts in preparing the bluebird kits.
Webster secured wood donations and materials to build 40 bluebird nest boxes to be placed around recreational facilities and open areas. She coordinated an assembly area and managed time slots all while maintaining social distancing for COVID-19.
“COVID-19 makes things like this difficult but this was a great project for the Corps, volunteers and campers,” said Webster. “Outreach projects like this are an excellent way for us to take care of our natural habitat, the environment and remind us of the Corps mission.”
Webster worked closely with the staff and volunteers to cut, prepare and assemble the kits. The collaboration resulted in the assembly of more than 40 bluebird boxes that will be distributed along the shoreline and in the recreation areas of the campground.
“The bird boxes are made from rough cut cedar. Each piece is numbered, labeled as a kit and then constructed which made the process seamless as possible,” said Webster.
According to Webster the bluebird houses should be mounted on a pole or post roughly 4 to 6 feet above the ground in a relatively open area, with the entrance facing a large tree or shrub 25 to 100 feet away.
Webster said bluebirds are "cavity" nesters, meaning they traditionally build their nest in a hole in a tree. It has been estimated that around the year 1900, the population of eastern bluebirds in the United States was approximately 20 million. But, by the 1960s, that number had decreased by 90 percent, down to only about 2 million. The reason was two non-native species, house sparrows and starlings, were introduced and pushed out the native bluebirds. House sparrows and starlings are also cavity nesters, but they are very aggressive and will out compete and even kill bluebirds in order to take over a nesting site.
“Someone discovered that if we built and placed nest boxes for bluebirds, that they would show up and raise a family,” said Webster. “They just needed a place to live. Over the years, humans caused the bluebird population decline when they introduced non-native birds, and humans were able to help bluebirds by building nest boxes for them. So, bluebird populations are rising again.”
Bluebirds frequent the area so much that nearby city, Crossville, Tenn., recently named the bluebird as their official city bird. Crossville is a city in and the county seat of Cumberland County, Tenn. It is 35 miles east of Cookeville, 80 miles north of Chattanooga, and 70 miles west of Knoxville.
“Everyone loves bluebirds and I’ve loved them since I was a little girl,” said Amanda Gingerich, a resident of Cookeville and park associate at Meadow Park Lake. “We are a town with lots of bluebirds and visible nest boxes makes everyone happy; the birds, the residents, visitors and potential new residents. Bluebirds in your yard seem to make us all happy.”
Webster said, you can contribute at home by putting up a bluebird nest box in your yard. She said it is uncanny how quickly a nest box attracts bluebirds. It is important to build a properly designed nest box, not one with distinguished wood, a bird perch or designs.
“Those kind of boxes usually attract unwanted house sparrows or birds,” said Webster. “Make sure the box opens and closes so you can check on the progress and clean out the old nest as soon as the babies fledge.
Webster said Bluebirds nest two or three times each summer and they build a new nest every time. It is best to mount your bluebird box on a pole with a predator guard to avoid feeding the snakes and raccoons.
Overall I’m extremely happy and thankful for our volunteers and co-workers who helped with this event,” said Webster. “It went seamless, we didn’t have any issues, everyone was respectful and properly social distanced themselves and we look forward to doing one or two of these events a year.”
(For more information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, visit the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)