The 2023 summer also saw the project’s first transfer, or translocation, of a bluebird family to San Juan Island in five years. In the translocation process, which took place in June, a new family of bluebirds was captured from an existing, well-established population in the South Sound and transported to the islands.
Given a lower number of returning adults this spring than in previous years, SJPT translocated one pair of bluebirds and their young offspring from Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) near Olympia (where the northernmost large breeding population occurs in the prairie ecosystem; this was our source population of Western bluebirds for the initial phases of the project). The pair had three young when they arrived. The family was held for a few weeks of local “homing” in an aviary constructed by Preservation Trust staff and Bluebird Project volunteers. All were released from the aviary at the end of June and, since then, the adult pair has renested in the vicinity and produced a new brood of eggs.
Translocating bluebirds from JBLM has been successful strategy over the years, as it “fixes” the adults here as they care for recently fledged young and often stimulates them to breed again, which they did in this case. Translocations have also occurred on Vancouver Island, where a partner project has started. Historically, these birds likely “mixed it up” (and indeed, we have found “Canadian” bluebirds in our population and vice versa), so as their population begins to grow it will benefit ours as well. This is something we will continue to monitor in the future.