The St. Olaf bluebird nest box trail is monitored from early April until nesting activity concludes in late July – early August. Students walk the trail 2-3 times per week opening each box and recording detailed information on nest building activity, number of eggs and/or number of chicks in the box. In addition to bluebirds, data are collected for all native species using the nest boxes, such as tree swallows, house wrens and black-capped chickadees. Nest construction by non-native species, such as house sparrows or European starlings is discouraged by removing and destroying the nest.
By maintaining detail records of the information listed above, we are able to determine growth rates, fledging success, predation, etc. of nestlings on a yearly basis. When eggs appear in a nest, we generally either wax the metal pole or smear grease on it to deter climbing predators such as raccoons and house cats. Chicks of all native species inhabiting our nest boxes fledge in just 14-16 days after hatching. This rapidgrowth rate requires a steady and reliable source of a high quality protein diet. Insects meet this requirement but they are dormant in cold wet weather.
Our data are sent to the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota. This organization records bluebird data from bluebirders all over the state and country respectively. Rice County reports more bluebirds fledged than any other county in Minnesota.