Florida Bluebird Society Principles and Nest Box Monitoring Protocol
The Florida Bluebird Society (FBS) has been issued a Scientific Collecting Permit by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The FWC permit issued to the FBS states: “Permittee(s) are to inspect nest boxes without disturbing (touching) nests, eggs or young during the breeding season. Permittee(s) are to clean out the nest boxes after the nest season has passed in order to allow re-nesting in subsequent years.”
In adhering to existing state legal guidelines, the Florida Bluebird Society’s General Birding Principles and Code of Ethics for Monitoring nest boxes may differ from practices publicized or advocated by the North American Bluebird Society, other state bluebird organizations, and on Internet web sites.
All individuals, and particularly member of the Florida Bluebird Society, should exercise a sense of responsibility in all interactions with birds. Realizing others learn from example, members of the Florida Bluebird Society should adhere to the following principles:
- Always put the interest of the birds first. Be conscious of their welfare at all times as they are the highest priority.
- Consider the impact of all activities on the birds before taking action.
- Do all possible to ensure that nest boxes and other structures provided for birds are safe.
- Obey bird protection laws. Do not touch nests, eggs, or birds.
- Keep disturbances to a minimum. Only open a nest box when necessary to collect data. Follow the Florida Bluebird Society’s Nest Box Monitoring Protocol.
- The Florida Bluebird Society’s Nest Box Monitoring Protocol has been distilled from a number of sources, including the North American Bluebird Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch Nest Monitor’s Code of Conduct, the American Birding Association Principles of Birding Ethics, state bluebird organizations, and web sites such as Sialis.org.
The Florida Bluebird Society’s Protocol seeks to adhere to two guiding principles:
- The Florida Bluebird Society recognizes the need to provide nest boxes if there is to be a healthy population of Eastern Bluebirds in Florida. Members of the Florida Bluebird Society will, as much as possible, confine their role to that of providing nest boxes and refrain as much as possible from assuming a caretaker role.
- The Florida Bluebird Society promotes the monitoring of nest boxes with minimal disturbance to help insure bluebird nesting activities remain as “natural” as possible, and that the bluebirds retain their “wild” status.
FLORIDA BLUEBIRD SOCIETY NEST BOX MONITORING PROTOCOL
- Do All Possible To Ensure the Safety and Well-being of the Birds:
- The first principle of monitoring a nest box is that no observation should jeopardize the safety and well-being of the birds. All activities associated with the bluebird nesting box should be done as quickly, quietly, and carefully as possible.
- When monitoring nest boxes strive to avoid stressing the birds, and do everything possible to ensure the least amount of impact upon the birds. Monitoring activities must not jeopardize the nesting success of the birds. Everything the monitor needs to know can be obtained in a few minutes or less. When taking photographs, there is no reason to keep the nest box open for a prolonged period of time.
- Plan Ahead to Minimize Disturbance:
- Nest boxes are monitored only for data collection. Planning is important to maximize monitoring efforts and to minimize time at the nest box.
- Learn to identify the nests of different species. This will enable the monitor to know what to look for when opening the box.
- Learn the normal time frame for the nesting events.
- Plan a regular schedule of visits to the nest box in order to obtain an accurate record of the nesting events. Prepare in advance the field data sheets to record the information.
- Move away from active nest boxes when recording the data to avoid unduly stressing the birds.
- Caution is the Key
- Monitors should make their presence known before opening the nest box. In many instances bluebirds will flush from the nest before the monitor arrives at the box. When this does not occur, lightly tap the side of the box before opening it very slowly. When opening the box stand to one side, not in front of the box. This will help prevent the monitor from being surprised by any “unusual” occupants of the box. It also will give an adult bird remaining on the nest the opportunity to safely fly out of the box. If the adult does not leave the nest, carefully close the box and leave the area.
- Hands OFF
- When monitoring the nest box do not handle the bluebird nest, eggs, nestlings or parents during the breeding season. In Florida, individuals who want to handle the bluebird nest or its contents during the breeding season need to posses the proper federal and/or state permits.
- It is recommended that a mechanic’s mirror or dental mirror be used to view the inside of the nest to count the eggs or nestlings. If unable to make an accurate count of the eggs or nestlings, indicate it is a minimum number rather than handle the nest contents.
- Nest boxes should be cleaned out at the end of the nesting season and necessary repairs made during the off-season. The nest boxes should be inspected again immediately prior to the start of a new nesting season to ensure that they are ready to be used by bluebirds.
- English sparrows and starlings are not protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. They should be removed if found in a nest box. House sparrows are small enough to enter a nest box through a 1½” entry hole and will destroy bluebird eggs. They will attack and kill both nestlings and adult birds trapped inside a nest box. It is important to recognize the birds and nests protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act and those non-native species which are not protected.
- How Often and When?
- Nest boxes should be monitored at least once a week in order to obtain accurate data, to inspect and make any necessary repairs to the nest boxes, to determine the status of the nestlings, and to avoid interfering with the natural nesting schedule of the chicks. Monitoring weekly is sufficient to gather all the necessary information and to determine the status of the nest box and the chicks.
- Regular monitoring also helps identify and address potential problems, such as house sparrows nesting in the nest box or fire ants nearby.
- Nest boxes opened too frequently can cause a number of problems including: abandonment, increased predation, and premature fledging.
- There also are certain times when nest boxes should not be opened. DO NOT OPEN when:
- nestlings are more than 12 days old. This underscores the importance of regularly scheduled monitoring and the necessity for keeping accurate records of when the eggs are laid and hatch.
- it is raining in order to keep the nest from getting wet.
- the female is laying eggs during the early mornings.
In adhering to the above Nest Box Monitoring Protocol, members of the Florida Bluebird Society should serve as examples to other individuals who are interested in helping insure a brighter future for bluebirds in the Sunshine State.