Bluebird nest boxes help connect with nature, wildlife

HARRISBURG — It’s time to say goodbye to winter and hello to spring.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Howard Nursery wants to help you spring into the season and connect with wildlife in your backyard.

Bluebird nesting boxes built by staff at Howard Nursery are available for sale at the nursery office, as well as the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, region offices, and the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Nesting-box kits also are available.

Nursery staff build bluebird and other nesting boxes during the winter for annual sales to the public. A single box sells for $11.66, including sales tax. When purchasing two or more boxes, the cost is $10.60 each, including sales tax.

Customers can select pre-built boxes or choose kits that can be assembled as a wood-working project. The kits provide a great opportunity for Scout troops, summer camps and other conservation groups to get involved with helping wildlife. Special pricing is available for organized educational activities. Call the Howard Nursery or region offices for details.

“Building and placing nesting boxes is a great project for individuals, families or civic organizations interested in connecting with wildlife in a natural way,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “What better way to usher in spring than attracting bluebirds to backyards and properties.”

A brochure of the Game Commission’s bluebird nesting boxes and other wildlife structures is available online by navigating to the Howard Nursery page at www.pgc.pa.gov.

The Game Commission’s Howard Nursery has been manufacturing bluebird nesting boxes and box kits for more than 30 years. Each year, the nursery produces an average of 4,000 bluebird boxes and 10,000 kits. In addition to being sold to groups and individuals, they are also available to cooperators in the Game Commission’s Hunter Access Program.

The nesting boxes constructed at the Howard Nursery are approved by wildlife biologists, and have been proven to attract bluebirds and other native species, such as tree swallows and house wrens. Bluebirds are beautiful songbirds native to Pennsylvania. They are cavity nesters that became less common because of a lack of suitable nest sites. Many nest sites have been lost through changing land-use practices, as well as urban and suburban sprawl. The decline in bluebird numbers is also due in part to non-native species, such as starlings and house sparrows, taking over bluebird nesting cavities.

Bluebirds are early nesters, and according to Game Commission biologists, now is the time to place new nest boxes, as well as to clean and repair existing boxes.

Boxes should be placed on a free-standing pole 3 to 5 feet above the ground, facing south, if possible, and facing a nearby tree or fence where young birds can safely land on their initial flights from the box. To reduce predation and competition from other species, no perch should be placed on the box; bluebirds do not need one.

Nesting boxes can be ordered and shipped directly from the Howard Nursery by calling 814-355-4434. Shipping and handling costs will apply. Shipping is not available from other Game Commission office locations. All purchases can be made with cash, check, money order or credit card. Sales will continue while supplies last.

The Howard Nursery is located at 197 Nursery Road in Howard. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Game Commission headquarters is at 2001 Elmerton Ave. in Harrisburg.

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