Western Bluebird pair | Kathy Finholm

The weather has warmed up and my oh my the bluebird season is upon us! After a bit of a slow start, things are going gangbusters in Bluebirdlandia!

To date, we estimate the adult population on the island between 26-30 birds. Some birds are still nest building, others are on eggs, and 5 clutches have already been banded (with some fledged already). We have a few pairs that have built nests but then departed for other locations, as well as a roaming band of solo males hoping at a chance at one of the breeding females.

Some fun and exciting news to share about this population so far this year—

  • We have at least 3, possibly 4 unbanded birds in our population this year. These could be offspring from last year that came from a nest we did not discover, or possibly recruits from outside our population—in either case, it’s a positive sign, and shows that our adult breeding bird count is never an absolute—just an index.
  • We have a breeding female here from Vancouver Island! She was hatched out on VI in the Cowichan Valley in 2019. She did not return to VI in 2020, and we did not record her here … but it’s possible she was here on SJI and may have produced some of those unbanded birds. We are glad to know she paid attention to the travel restrictions to Canada and is adding to our population here.
  • In addition to the Cowichan female, we also have a female here from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) population in South Puget Sound. Likely lured northward by a charismatic male, she is currently sitting on eggs in San Juan Valley.
  • All this mixing and matching is a GREAT thing—recreating the historical migration routes, keeping the genetics strong, and demonstrating that these North Puget Sound/Salish Sea Western bluebirds function as one large population, even when separated by great distances.

Kathleen and SJPT staff banding a nestling at volunteer, Brian Clark’s, nest box (great sign Brian!)| Staff archive

Mama bird feeding her four banded fledglings| Brian Clark

Our big THANKS to all our volunteer monitors and nest box hosts for their vigilance and timely reporting of sightings and changes in the territories. There are at the moment several pairs that have gone AWOL—so it is NOT out of the question that they could turn up in a new territory. For volunteers who are monitoring someone else’s boxes, or their own—please recheck for activity, especially if the boxes are empty.

Recently, Kathleen was asked to be a guest on the regional podcast “BirdBanter” with Ed Pullen. If you’d like a deeper insight into the history of the project, the ups and downs of reintroductionsgive it a listen. We hope you’ll find it enjoyable: BirdBanter Podcast Episode #101.