A banded Western Bluebird perched, San Juan Island, April 2023 | Kathy Finholm

The seventeenth(!!!) year of the San Juan Islands Western Bluebird Project was busy as ever, with a few notable narratives happening over the course of the year. As we’ve reached the end of the 2023 field season, here’s a recap of what we found.


  • 14 total breeding adults, including one pair translocated from oak prairie at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • Seven territories produced nine successful nests
  • 47 juveniles were banded; there were also at least two more juveniles that went unbanded due to an undiscovered nest
  • Numbers of birds holding steady compared to a decline over the past few years


  • In partnership with Ecostudies Institute, SJPT translocated an adult pair with three young in nest from Olympia to Two Barn Farm on San Juan Island. The family was held in a temporary aviary for two weeks until all of the young had been released. The mated adult pair then nested once more nearby and raised six more young!
  • After a number of years of waiting (delays caused by Covid-19 restrictions and then avian flu outbreaks), Vancouver Island received several pairs with young and wound up having a successful nesting season. Success there means increased chance of success here, as population builds regionally and encourages movement.

The bluebird aviary being assembled on San Juan Island | Staff Archive


The San Juan Island Brewing Company hosted us as we celebrated our annual bluebird volunteer appreciation party at the end of August, when we celebrated the project’s progress over the past year and socialized over birds, beverages, and bites to eat.

SJPT Special Projects Director Kathleen Lewis handed out our traditional Golden Nest Box Awards to two of our stellar volunteers. Please join us in thanking Marcia Wood and Cynthia Todd for their incredible enthusiasm and commitment to the Western Bluebird Project, the 2023 Golden Nest Box Award winners.

Cynthia and Marcia were both new to the project this year and they were a truly dynamic duo of who hit the ground running when they initially showed up at our first Bluebird Blitz event in the spring. This is an event where we send volunteers out to scout locations around San Juan Island in search of bluebirds returning from migration.  As Kathleen recalls, neither had met each other before, nor had seen a western bluebird before this event, but they found a pair of bluebirds on their very first assigned territory. After the discovery of the nesting pair, the team worked diligently together, sharing ladders and spotting scopes, and tag-teaming the observations so that someone was able to keep track while the other was off-island.

Golden Nest Box Award recipients, Cynthia Todd and Marcia Wood | Staff Archive

Thanks to their great teamwork and observations, we were able to see the pair through a successful nesting attempt. We may have some newly converted bluebird lovers for life now!

View some photos of the bluebird party below. After a few days of thunderstorms, it was a wonderful evening out at the Brewery!

Important reminders for nest box hosts and other (potential) bluebird volunteers: 

  • If you are hosting a nest box or monitoring a nest box, now is the time to clean it out! This training video shows you how and here are some more helpful reminders on how to maintain the nest boxes. 
  • Please let us know if you, or someone you know, may be interested in helping us out with cleaning nest boxes or any other aspect of the Western Bluebird Project! We always appreciate the help and we like to think the bluebirds do too.
  • You can reach out to Bluebird Project Manager Kathleen (kathleen@sjpt.org) for any technical questions or to Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Jack Russillo with questions about volunteering or any other SJPT-related topic.

Want to volunteer, or know someone who does? 

We always appreciate more 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!