Nesting Box Project for Bluebirds at Blue Marsh Lake, Eastern Pennsylvania

Authors: Marie Smoyer*, Army Corps of Engineers, Mario L. Cardozo, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Richard S. Courtney, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Animal Geographies, Environmental Science, Physical Geography
Keywords: Eastern Bluebird, Environmental GIScience, Conservation,
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) population, native to Pennsylvania, was harmed by the introduction of the English Sparrow and the European Starling in the 1800s and, more recently, the use of pesticides, including DDT (banned in the U.S. in 1972). In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society was founded to promote the preservation of bluebirds. Our study area, Blue Marsh Lake, is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project area in Eastern Pennsylvania. The area has a nesting structures program for the Eastern Bluebird. This program was developed in the mid-1990s with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Bluebird Society to locate nesting boxes in preferential habitats for this species. Wrens and tree swallows may also use the boxes without affecting bluebirds in the area. Aggressive sparrows and starlings are unwelcome and removed from boxes when sighted. Boxes for bluebirds were placed in close proximity to pasture land cover, the species’ preferential habitat, and consistently monitored by park rangers and volunteers since 2012. Based on field visits and data on boxes’ location and bird surveys during 2012-2017, this study explores the influence of GIS-derived spatial factors on bird species’ nesting preferences, including terrain elevation, and distance to roads, water, forest, and buildings. Results of statistical analyses suggest that the most influential factors in determining bluebirds’ nesting success are accessibility measures: Bluebirds appear to prefer the middle area between roads and water. This study is relevant to management plans evaluating future placement of bluebird nesting boxes.

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