When bluebirds begin searching early next year for places to build their nests and raise their young, they’ll find many more suitable locations to choose from in Hitchcock Woods.
The South Carolina Bluebird Society put up 50 new bluebird nest boxes in the urban forest Friday. Before then, the organization had been maintaining only 16 such boxes there.
“We wanted to have the new boxes up by mid-February because that’s when bluebird start looking for places to nest and actually start choosing boxes,” said Ron Brenneman, who is on the society’s Bluebird Trail Committee. “Based on everybody’s schedules around the holidays, this seemed like a good time to do it.”
Bluebirds like to nest in cavities in trees that have open land around them. During a visit to the Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area, members of the society learned that they weren’t taking full advantage of Hitchcock Woods in their efforts to provide man-made housing for bluebirds to supplement what is available naturally.
“A couple of biologists spent about half a day with us, and they showed us places with longleaf pines where they had cleared out all the underbrush,” said Bluebird Society President Jim Burke. “They decided to try to attract bluebirds there, and they were having great success. When we saw that, we thought, ‘Shazam! Hitchcock Woods does prescribed burns to get rid of the underbrush where the longleaf pines are.’”
Sixteen Bluebird Society members showed up to install the new nest boxes, and Eric Grande, a Hitchcock Woods employee, assisted them.
They drilled holes in the ground for metal poles and attached nest boxes and baffles to the poles. The baffles prevent raccoons and snakes from climbing all the way up the poles to find eggs or young birds to eat.
The new boxes are in the western portion of Hitchcock Woods near Hitchcock Parkway.
“We knew there were bluebirds out there looking for homes that were having trouble finding a spot because some of them used owl boxes that we had installed,” Burke said.
Many people enjoy seeing bluebirds because the males are so brightly colored, but the animals also have other attractive qualities, according to Burke.
“They’re nice birds,” he said. “They are very entertaining. They seem to like being around people, and they will get pretty close to you if you put food out and then sit and behave yourself. They also have great family units. Like the females, the males are very much involved in feeding and caring for the young. If humans were more like bluebird families, we would have a lot fewer problems in the world.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.