Jerry Apps: Bluebirds and spring
One of our springtime treats at Roshara is seeing the return of the bluebirds. By late March and early April, they are usually back, not long after the winter snows have melted and before the prairie grass has greened up.
We built a bluebird trail about forty years ago, as a way to encourage bluebirds but also as a way to define the boundary between my property and my brother’s. The trail stretches for nearly a quarter mile along the southern border on my farm.
My son-in-law, Paul Bodilly, is the chief birdhouse maintainer and builder of replacement houses. We’ve discovered having a metal roof on our bluebird houses increases their life about twice. But we still have many with wooden roofs. Some other basics of bluebird houses: the hole should be 1 ½ inches to prevent larger birds from using the house and to help keep predators such as raccoons away. The entrance hole should be about six to ten inches from the house’s floor. Bluebird houses should be placed about 100 yards apart.
Don’t be alarmed if a pair of tree swallows takes up residence in your bluebird house. At Roshara, we have about as many tree swallows as we have bluebirds.
Violating the rule to place bluebird houses away from buildings, we have a house next to our vegetable garden. We have had a bluebird family there every year for the past ten years. What a joy to work in the garden and watch a pair of bluebirds go in and out of the house as we work.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: A bluebird has the blue sky on its back and the orange sun on its breast. Its arrival confirms that spring has arrived.
Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life.