Fox Valley bird watching

Jeff Long

owl COLORWe are all bird-watchers in some way. Even if you don’t carry a field guide and binoculars, you can’t help but notice the graceful, winged creatures that swirl around us.

And, if you’ve ever witnessed an Eastern Bluebird, it was certainly a memorable sighting – a brilliant flash of blue, contrasted by bright, glowing orange – much like the warm glow of the sun set against the cool, blue sky.

Once upon a time, these beautiful thrushes ranked among the most common songbirds in North America. Their snazzy looks and delightful calls created an aura of cheerfulness amid the many open spaces, farm fields, meadows, savannas and roadsides.

But in the mid-1900s, their populations began declining at alarming rates – dropping nearly 90 percent from their original numbers by 1980. Loss of habitat was the primary culprit. As urban sprawl continued to engulf the natural landscape, strip malls and subdivisions overtook the areas where bluebirds nested.

There is a silver lining to this story, however, and the Fox Valley Park District is proud to be contributing to a new, happy chapter that is helping bring back bluebird populations through habitat restoration efforts that enhance species conservation.

With the valuable help of community volunteers, the FVPD has instituted a Bluebird Boxes Monitoring Program to help facilitate the recovery of bluebird populations and increase their presence in our parks and public places.

While still in its infancy, the program is expanding and is in need of additional volunteers to monitor, maintain and collect data on bluebird nest boxes at specific sites.

Bluebirds are “cavity nesters” exclusively, meaning they are incapable of excavating their own nesting sites. Therefore, they rely on cavities created by woodpeckers or other boring insects, rotted out tree stumps, old fence posts, and other similar structures.

Nests are built with stems, twigs and feathers and are lined with fine grass. It makes for a cozy abode, but also one that’s attractive to predatory species such as sparrows and starlings, which take over bluebird nests and break the eggs.

In many ways, bluebird monitor volunteers are landlords and caretakers for the birds in that they provide a safe nesting situation. Through periodic checks, they observe the status of the nest to assure all is well and that predators and/or non-native species have not invaded.

“Volunteer monitors play an important role in helping us continue the amazing recovery of bluebird populations in our area,” said Natural Areas Specialist Cathy Daul. “Their stewardship will help us advance one of the greatest conservation success stories in recent history that is restoring bluebird populations to historic levels.”

The spring migration is under way as bluebirds have begun looking for nesting sites and mates. Upon building their nests, bluebirds typically produce three to four broods from May to July.

The Fox Valley Park District’s Natural Areas Department has monitoring opportunities at numerous sites. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Cathy Daul at 630-897-4261 or

And then, listen closely to those sweet, serenading sounds – those are the bluebirds thanking you.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.