Dedication of new Bluebird Trail happening Saturday

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

By Susan Jonas, Garden Club of Danville

Danville is joining hundreds of other communities across the country in building Bluebird Trails to provide nest boxes for these beautiful little birds. Danville’s new trail has been jointly planned and built by The Garden Club of Danville and Will Wilson of Boy Scout Troop 119 as his Eagle Scout project. Will managed the construction, location, and installation of the boxes.

An official dedication will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Stanford Road trailhead of Clark’s Run Trail, near Village Apartments on McClure Drive. The trail begins near the kiosk and continues for a mile across Stanford Road to the pond on East Main Street.

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The public is encouraged to attend, learn more about the birds, and walk the trail to see the 30 boxes hand painted by members of the Garden Club. You might even spot the birds feeding in the meadows.

The bluebird is a longtime symbol of happiness, good health, and hope, but the brilliant blue birds were near extinction not so long ago.  They were encouraged by farmers to keep down insect populations that threatened crops. Their decline began in the early 20th century with habitat loss as cities expanded, suburbs sprawled, and pesticide use grew.

From 1920 to 1970, bluebirds went from being as common as robins to being so rare their extinction was all but certain. Bluebirds nest in cavities such as abandoned woodpecker holes. Ominously, so do the more aggressive nuisance birds, house sparrows and starlings, introduced from Europe. Like so many invasive animals and plants, these began overwhelming the natives until they were almost gone.

In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society began setting up a network of trails for boxes designed and maintained exclusively for bluebirds. Trained volunteers monitored the boxes regularly to check on the health of the birds and keep the boxes clean. The Bluebird population rebounded and stabilized, escaping extinction.

Now Danville is joining the cause and residents may choose to be a part of it, or just enjoy the public trail. If you live in town or a closely developed neighborhood, you’re not likely to have bluebirds nesting near you. Eastern bluebirds live in meadows and large open spaces surrounded by trees that offer nest holes. This is exactly what they’ll find along this section of Clark’s Run Trail.

In the summer, bluebirds feed mostly on insects. During mild winters they may not migrate but stick around feeding on berries. If you live near wide open spaces, you can support them by planting berry producing natives and plants that harbor insects. Leave dead trees standing if it’s safe to do so, to provide nesting holes for many creatures.

If you install a bluebird nestbox, whether purchased or homemade, be sure it is constructed and mounted accounting to approved plans.