Making A Home For Bluebirds

Glendale firefighter helps Scouts craft bird houses

Cub Scout Peter Lasater gets help with his bird house from his mother, Julia Lasater, and Lt. Mike Blevins of the Glendale Fire Department. "Build the houses and they will come," said Blevins of the bluebird, the state bird of Missouri. photo courtesy of Cub Scout Pack 360 (click for larger version)
March 30, 2012
Spying a bluebird is like glimpsing a bit of heaven. The state bird, after all, epitomizes happiness, eternal and otherwise.

If bluebirds equal bliss, then the area needs a pick-me-up. No longer common in the St. Louis inner ring, bluebirds have diminished, largely due to a lack of nesting sites.

Aided by a bluebird aficionado -- Glendale Fire Department Lt. Mike Blevins -- Pack 360 Den Leader Paul Luther and his third grade Cub Scouts took action to reverse that trend.

Some 19 boys and their parents/siblings in the Pack's Bear dens spent two days in February sawing boards, drilling holes and nailing boards together at the Glendale Fire House to give bluebirds what they need to return -- houses.

As a result, 21 Glendale residents, along with the Scouts themselves, now sport bluebird houses on posts or trees at home.

Glendale Cub Scouts from Pack 360 watch Lt. Mike Blevins explain how to make a birdhouse. photo courtesy of Cub Scout Pack 360 (click for larger version)
The recipients of the birdhouses are as eager as the scouts to see the state bird settle back in to the area they once called home, said Den Leader Luther. Luther and his wife Gail have two Scout bird house builders--Gregory and Nathaniel.

"It was a fun project," said Luther. "Many of the boys had never used tools, so they were satisfied to build something so important in the natural world."

The project started with Scout Mom Leslie Mosblech contacting Lt. Blevins, who owns a 300-acre farm in Perry County. He and his wife use the farm for income production and wildlife management, Blevins said.

Having insect problems around a three-acre lake in front of his home, Blevins looked for help to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

An official told him about bug-eating bluebirds.

According to info on the department's website, (search bluebirds), the bird was given state bird designation in 1927 because it was common, and it evoked happiness.

However, "the removal of dead trees and branches for firewood or neatness continues to eliminate existing or potential nest cavities," according to the Department of Conservation.

Thus, bluebirds in the naturally spare suburbs have become rare indeed.

Blevins said bluebird houses placed around the lake and elsewhere on his farm brought the birds back.

"We placed over 50 houses on our property," Blevins said. "Each year, we see more and more bluebirds. Build the houses and they will come."

Toward that end, Den Leader Luther brought several Cubs before the Glendale Board of Alderman to seek the city's sponsorship. The board, in turn, let the Pack publicize the project on the city's website.

Plans included production of 21 houses, given to the first residents that responded, Luther said.

Lt. Blevins provided cedar wood from his farm, cut into boards at a Perry County mill.

During construction in February, the Scouts took turns on day one holding boards and sawing them into pieces, Luther said. They nailed the pieces together on day two and delivered the done deal to recipients just recently (bluebirds nest in March).

Blevins, other firemen, and Scout parents supervised the construction scene, Luther said.

Key to a cozy and safe bluebird house is the smaller hole -- only one and a half inches around, according to the Department of Conservation.

Several birds, including house sparrows, starlings and wrens, compete with their blue buddies for nesting sites. Those other birds need bigger entrance holes on houses.

Den Leader Luther said he's never seen a bluebird in Glendale, but he and the Scouts are looking forward to their first sighting.

Next year, they'll teach the new Bear Scouts how to clean the birdhouses just given away. He said he hopes the Scouts can build more houses as well.

"Bluebirds have been here before, and given the right housing, they'll be back," Luther said.

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