Western Bluebirds of the Willamette Valley

  • Location
    Salem, Oregon
  • Status
  • Age Level
    Any Age

The Problem

Our community is expanding. A few years ago, our school was surrounded by trees and large grass meadows. Within the last year, we now have apartment buildings surrounding our school. The trees have been cut down to make room for housing, and the grass fields are few. Through the years our students have been fortunate to make observations of the Western bluebird, which is a threatened species in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Without the proper nesting cavities for these beautiful birds, they will perish. We want to fix this problem by adding Western bluebird nesting boxes on campus. This will provide temporary nesting cavities until the trees in the subdivision age. We plan to design feeding stations and provide mealworms as a supplemental food source while they are raising their brood. In our raised garden area, we plan to add places where the Western Bluebirds can have a viable water source in case our local stream is not accessible. With these added features, we hope that the Western bluebirds will continue to reproduce and thrive in our community.

Our Plan

First, we will research what the Western bluebirds need to survive in the Willamette Valley. We will add at least four Western bluebird nesting boxes, feeding stations, and extra water sources to ensure that we have created the correct habitat. We will ask our local Audubon Society for additional information and assistance when needed. We will keep data on nesting boxes and report fledging to the Oregon Wildlife Foundation. Heritage School will create a flyer and make the information and our data available to the Pringle Creek Community as an educational resource.

Themes Addressed

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    Animal Welfare
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    Biodiversity Loss
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The Benefit

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Here is how the project went:

The students were excited to help this threatened species. After researching the needs of the Western Bluebirds, the students wrote a book to share with the community. Next, they placed four nesting boxes in a variety of locations where the students noticed where bluebirds were seen last year. The students continue to monitor the boxes. At this point, it is too early to predict if the population will use the boxes. We will continue to monitor the boxes and provide data on the results.

Through this project I/we learned:

Our bluebird project gave us hope amidst the encroaching shadows of the loss of this species due to encroaching housing development. It reminded us of the power of collective action and the resilience of our planet. This project taught us that it is important to keep older trees for nesting sites. We have had many of our trees cut down for nearby housing developments. Yes, the developers planted trees, but the trees will take decades to grow to the size in which Western Bluebirds can nest. Our focus is to get future development to provide habitat for species that depend upon their survival within large-growth trees.

What I/we might change:

We would love to expand the nesting boxes into the multiple apartment complexes that have been built around the school. We also know that the City of Salem is planning to create a natural park close to our school. It would be exciting to see if we could add a nesting box within the newly established area. This way our project would expand out to a larger community.

My/our favorite part of this project was:

Our favorite part of the project was deciding where the nest boxes should be located. There were many factors involved with proper placement. The students felt empowered because it was their decision on the nesting box location.

Some tips, tricks or fun facts about the project:

If you are ever in the Salem, Oregon area, please visit Heritage School. We encourage you to notice patterns in nesting box locations and listen to the beautiful song of the Western Bluebird. We will continue to collect data over the years. This is not a project that can ever be completed.

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