Can Bluebirds learn to be better housekeepers?
A fascinating little experiment that could have big repercussions for the recovery of the Eastern Bluebird, a favourite among bird-watchers, is now being conducted by Magog ornithologist, André Dion. Mr. Dion set up twelve Bluebird nesting boxes at Bleu Lavande, six regular boxes and six that contained sprigs of lavender and had lavender attached to the top of the box, to see which nesting boxes, if any, would attract a nesting pair of Bluebirds.
Mr. Dion first read about birds using lavender in their nests to ward off parasites in an extensive article that appeared about ten years ago in the French publication L’Express. “When the nesting chickadees used lavender in their nests, they had no maggots, fleas or any other parasite. In a second experiment, when the lavender was removed from the nests, the chickadees quickly replaced it with more. This inspired me to do an experiment like this with chickadees at Bleu Lavande,” explained Mr. Dion in an interview with the Stanstead Journal.
Although a first experiment that began earlier in the summer with twelve nesting boxes for chickadees, six with lavender and six without, did not attract any chickadees, probably because of the timing of their placement, Mr. Dion decided to try the same experiment with nesting boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, a bird that is much rarer than the chickadee. “If the chickadee uses lavender, why not try it with the Bluebird which is known for having very ‘dirty’ nests,” commented Mr. Dion.
So far, to the delight of Mr. Dion, one of the ‘lavender’ bluebird nesting boxes was chosen by a nesting female. “The male Bluebird finds the houses and it usually takes about a week before the female agrees to one. She is always very reticent at first; she likes to make him beg. And as David Thoreau wrote, it’s a celebration when the female chooses the cabin.” But what’s more interesting is whether the Bluebirds will learn to use lavender in their nests to give their young ones, often threatened by parasites, a greater chance of survival. “Can we teach our Bluebirds? This experiment could be very enriching for them,” said Mr. Dion.
Lavendar filled Bluebird nesting boxes may prove
helpful in the recovery of the Eastern Bluebird.