A Study to Determine the Preference for Nesting Box Design of Sialia sialis (Eastern Bluebird): Comparison of the Traditional Nesting Box and the Peterson Box

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Virginia Tech. Powell River Project


For the 2012 nesting season along the trail at the Powell River Education Center, nesting preferences were studied comparing the traditional box design and the Peterson box. Peterson boxes differ from the traditional boxes in that they have a lower internal volume, requiring less material for nest construction. By decreasing the amount of energy that the parents would have to put into nest building, they would have more energy available for rearing young, hence increasing fledgling success. The Peterson box was found to be an acceptable design by the three species that nest along the trail. Bluebirds, tree swallows and chickadees utilized the Peterson boxes; however, bluebirds built most of their nests in the traditional boxes (six clutches in traditional boxes to one in a Peterson box). Chickadees produced four nests, three of which were in traditional boxes. Both tree swallow clutches were in Peterson boxes. Egg and chick loss due to predation was high this season (11 eggs and 8 chicks) making it difficult to conclude whether the design of the Peterson box affected fecundity. Student volunteers from both the general biology and human anatomy and physiology classes at Mountain Empire Community College assisted in the installation of the Peterson boxes and the monitoring of nesting activity during the course of the breeding season.