The Secret Lives of Bluebirds

The Secret Lives of Bluebirds
Summer’s in full swing, and so is the field season for many of HCTF’s grant recipients. Among these is the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT) and their “Bring Back the Bluebirds” project. The project is an international partnership working within Vancouver Island communities to restore Western bluebirds to their native Garry oak ecosystems. By transporting pairs of bluebirds to the Cowichan Valley from a healthy population in southern Washington, the project hopes to ultimately re-establish a breeding population of the birds on southeastern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands, where they have been extirpated (locally extinct) since the mid-1990s. The primary cause of their extirpation is thought to be habitat loss: bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, and historically have relied on the holes made by woodpeckers in dead trees for nest sites. As the number of potential nesting trees declined, so did the bluebirds, to the point where a local population could no longer be sustained. To mitigate this habitat loss, the GOERT project team has installed wooden nest boxes in suitable bluebird habitat as an alternative to traditional nesting cavities. Though it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing for all of the translocated pairs, the project team has...
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Project Evaluation: Bringing Back the Bluebirds

Project Evaluation: Bringing Back the Bluebirds
A few times a year, HCTF staff get to escape from the office and check out some of our projects in the field. We conduct project site evaluations as an accountability measure, and to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing our proponents. These evaluations include a financial review and a site visit, where we get to see firsthand the important conservation work being done by our proponents. This summer, HCTF Biologist Lynne Bonner and Finance Officer Katelynn Sander were excited to spend some time with the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT) and get the inside scoop on their Bring Back the Bluebirds project.   Though once plentiful, Western Bluebirds have been extirpated (locally extinct) in southwestern BC since 1995. They like to make their nests in Garry Oak meadows, but these ecosystems have become increasingly rare due to human development. As their habitat was lost and fragmented, Western Bluebirds eventually stopped returning to Vancouver Island to nest and raise their young. In their Bring Back the Bluebirds project, GOERT is aiming to re-establish a breeding population of Western Bluebirds on Vancouver Island. This project took flight in 2012, and has hatched an international partnership which...
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Bluebird Update

Bluebird Update
We received a great update on the HCTF-funded Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project . It seems July has seen a number of hatchings, including the second clutches of 2013 for two of the re-introduced pairs! The spring hatchlings are now fully-fledged juveniles and are doing great: they can now hunt for wild insects on their own, and will likely help their parents with the feeding of their newly-arrived siblings. GOERT's Julia Daly and Species-at-Risk biologist Trudy Chatwin estimate that there are over 38 Western Bluebirds flying about the Cowichan Valley these days, which includes all the juveniles and nesting parents. Thanks to GOERT for supplying the following photos to show us how the birds are doing.      
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Featured

Bringing Back the Bluebirds

Bringing Back the Bluebirds
  The Western Bluebird was once a common site on Vancouver Island. This brilliantly-coloured bird species thrived here and on the neighbouring Gulf Islands until the 1950's, when their numbers began to steadily decline. By the 1990s, bluebirds were no longer breeding in southwestern BC, and were soon considered to be extirpated (locally extinct). What caused this once prolific species to disappear? The primary factor is likely habitat loss. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they rely on holes left by woodpeckers in standing deadwood to build their nests. If most of these dead trees are removed (either through logging practices or urban development), the birds are left with little in the way of natural nesting habitat. Bluebirds face steep competition for the few remaining cavities, as these are also sought after by introduced species such as starlings and house sparrows. Human activity has undoubtedly impacted the bluebirds' distribution, but there is good reason to believe that human intervention will help return the species to its former range. The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team ( GOERT ) is working to restore self-sustaining Western Bluebird populations on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands through the HCTF-funded Bring Back the Bluebirds...
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