Juvenile bluebird at Phelps Preserve, San Juan Island, August 2022 | Photo by Miles Brengle

The fifteenth year of the San Juan Islands Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project saw many things, including a tough winter at the beginning of the year and a notable first for the project that we’ve been celebrating since the early summer. As we’ve reached the end of the 2022 nesting season, here’s a recap of what we found.


  • 14 breeding adults across seven territories 
  • 40 juveniles banded, plus a handful more that were unbanded (more on this later!) 
  • Two adult females from outside of original population returned for a second year of nesting (one female from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the other from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island)

The Good News: 

  • Nest success (percent of nests that fledged young) is holding steady, despite early-season losses.
  • There was a reduction in predator attacks, with no nests lost to raccoons this year and only one possibly lost to house sparrow or another avian predator.
  • And the biggest news of all: For the first time during this project, we witnessed bluebirds nest in a natural oak cavity—something that they had evolved to do (and why they are closely tied with Garry oak ecosystems). This mated pair raised not one, but TWO broods successfully. Likely seven or eight nestlings fledged, possibly more. We look forward to the return of these pioneering birds next year!

The Less-Good News:

  • Our local adult population took a nosedive: We counted about 50% fewer breeding adults this year than in 2021.
  • Canadian population numbers are also plummeting, as COVID-19 and avian flu have thwarted attempts to translocate more and monitor as normal.
  • Nonetheless, the multi-year trend points to a relatively stable adult population on San Juan Island.

Here and above: Male and female bluebirds that nested in a Garry oak tree | Photos by Phil Green


  • We hosted our annual bluebird volunteer appreciation party in September, when we celebrated the year’s high points and also had a great presentation on Garry oak trees and their importance in wildlife conservation in our islands.
  • Kathleen handed out our traditional Golden Nest Box Awards to two of our stellar volunteers. Read about them here.
  • View some photos of the bluebird party below. It was a beautiful evening out at Red Mill Farm on southern San Juan Island!

Important reminders for nest box hosts and other bluebird volunteers: 

Want to volunteer, or know someone who does? 

We always need volunteers, especially in the early spring when the birds start arriving (usually by late February or early March). We need folks who can help check and clean our nest boxes, and also monitor for bluebirds.

Please contact SJPT Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator Jack Russillo (jack@sjpt.org) if you are interested!