Building Nestboxes and Setting Up Trails
A Bit About the Nestbox Setup
Through decades of monitoring and research, organizations like the North American Bluebird Society and Virginia Bluebird Society have zeroed in on the ideal nestbox setup that takes all possible precautions to protect the birds from predators while meeting the birds’ needs. It includes
- The Nestbox — NABS style, also called the Eastern Bluebird Box, is preferred although the Peterson style also works well. NABS style (shown at right) is easier to build. The box has ventilation holes as well as drainage holes and a “ladder” inside the front panel underneath the hole. The roof is slanted to help with rain runoff. The hole is 1.5 inches in diameter. Here are our favorite nestbox plans, with the door opening from the top, hinge at the bottom.
- The Noel Guard — This is a piece of hardware cloth bent into a rectangle and attached to the front of the box. This guard prevents raccoons from reaching inside the box to get and eat eggs, fledglings or the brooding female. Here are plans for this guard.
- The Stovepipe Guard — a critical guard, or baffle, that prevents snakes from climbing the pole and getting into the box while also deterring raccoons. The guard is made of a 8-inch round stovepipe with stovepipe cap. Attach a hose clamp to the pole just below where the bottom of the box will be, then slip the stovepipe over it. Here are plans for this guard.
- The Pole — a 10-foot piece of 1/2″ or 1″ aluminum electrical conduit that you cut down to 8 feet and then drive into the ground 2 to 2 1/2 feet makes an ideal mount for this setup.
How Many Nestboxes Makes a Good Trail?
It depends on the location. Space the boxes about 100 feet apart and about 20 feet from the tree line or brushy areas. On public trails at parks and other large areas, we like to start with about 10-12 boxes. This is a nice number for volunteers to monitor and gives us a chance to get to know the location, the habitat and the species there. This also is a good number for an Eagle Scout or school project.
Where Can We Set Up a New Trail?
After you sign up using the form at the bottom of this page, we’ll work with you to find a location, get permission and stake out the box spots. We can also provide sample boxes and guards for you to look at while building the nestbox setups and answer any questions.
In addition to setting up new trails, there are also a number places around Loudoun where boxes were set up but not according to specifications (e.g. too close together, no guards, not on poles, etc). In some cases, it means taking down old boxes and putting up new ones on poles and guards. In other cases, it means refurbishing boxes and spacing them out again along the trail.
What About a Smaller Project?
If you’re looking for a smaller project you might want to do a trail repair project. Each year we have boxes that have worn out, cracked and need to be replaced. This project is critical to maintaining the bluebird trails and great fun for younger kids to help with.