2018-03-02 / Home & Garden

Real Estate Agents for Eastern Bluebirds

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

Humans aren’t the only animals enlisting real estate agents to find the perfect home to raise their young. Student garden club members at Catawba Trail Elementary School in Richland School District Two have morphed into contractors and real estate agents to locate property to mount nesting boxes for eastern bluebirds.

Fifth graders explained human activities have removed many trees suitable for these cavity-nesting birds. Woodpecker holes in dead trees are a favorite location to build a bluebird nest, but snags are cut down. Other cavity nesting species compete with bluebirds for natural cavities too.

Bluebirds like open country around trees with very little ground cover much like Catawba Trail’s schoolyard.

Using funds from the science lab business of making and selling homemade designer crayons and slime, students decided to develop a bluebird nesting box community in and around Elgin.


Fifth grade garden club members present five bluebird boxes to the Carolina Children’s Garden. Fifth grade garden club members present five bluebird boxes to the Carolina Children’s Garden. They outsourced production of a precut untreated wooden bluebird nesting box kit with Frank Gilbert’s ninth grade industrial technology class at Heyward Career and Technology Center in Richland School District One. His students use the North American Bluebird Society nest box pattern to cut the kits.

Catawba Trail students under the supervision of science lab teacher, Victoria Pasco, assembled the kits with hammers and nails and created a hinged side door to clean and monitor the box. No perch is necessary for bluebirds. To protect the boxes from weather, they stained the exterior.

Students mounted five boxes on posts 4-6’ off the ground across campus. The front of each box faces open fields. Since bluebirds are territorial and don’t like to live near neighbors, boxes are spaced 300 feet apart. In February, bluebirds start looking for nesting sites. One box has a pair of nesting tenants already.

Next students selected nearby real estate to mount more boxes. They donated five boxes to Blake at Woodcreek Farms, an assisted living and memory care facility where residents enjoy watching birds.

They donated five boxes to the Carolina Children’s Garden, a public garden they love to visit.

On Earth Day they will be selling bluebird boxes at Soda City.

They set up a Bluebird Buffet on campus with mealworm treat boxes and a tri-part compost bin. Bluebirds are insect eaters and hover over the compost to catch flying and jumping insects. They like the fruit of dogwood, eastern red cedar, holly, beautyberry, sumac, blueberry, wax myrtle, and viburnum.

Food prep waste from the school cafeteria and pencil shavings are added to the compost bin daily. Compost is spread throughout the school gardens including the newly planted potato patch, asparagus bed, carrot corner, blueberry corridor, strawberry plot, milkweed propagation zone, and native plantings around the fishpond.


Students stain the exterior of the bluebird houses. Students stain the exterior of the bluebird houses. Through the energetic and educated efforts of young conservation-minded real estate agents, bluebirds will continue to carry the sky on their backs through the Catawba Trail community.

Resources
www.nabluebirdsociety.org
nestwatch.org/learn/allaboutbirdhouses/birds/east
ern-bluebird/

www.southcarolinabluebirds.org



Al Thomas, activities director for the Blake at Woodcreek Farms, accepts bluebird houses for the assisted living community. Al Thomas, activities director for the Blake at Woodcreek Farms, accepts bluebird houses for the assisted living community.

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