LACONIA — Despite stiff competition for seasonal housing from aggressive sparrows, several pairs of eastern bluebirds nested at the Transfer Station off Meredith Center Road again this year.
In 2011, 10 bird houses were erected at the Transfer Station as part of an initiative taken by the city, Waste Management Inc. and the Wildlife Habitat Council to add the 25 acres to the 73 other transfer stations, landfills, and disposal sites certified by the council as providing food, water, shelter, cover and space suited to wildlife. Some 30 members of local 4-H clubs and Scout troops erected bird houses and bat boxes on the property with direction from Scott McPhie of the Planning Department and members of the Conservation Commission.
Ever since, two or three pairs of bluebirds have taken up residence each year, while barn swallows and house wrens fill the remaining vacancies. Al St. Cyr of Waste Management Inc., who has been recording the comings and goings of the bluebirds with his camera, said that apart from the birds, he has even found a young flying squirrel in one of the bird houses. "I opened it up to clean it out," he recalled, "and this little flying squirrel jumped out, went into a tree and sat looking at me for five minutes."
Bluebirds are about 6 1/2 inches long. The brilliant, royal blue back, wings, tail and head above a rusty breast and white belly distinguish the male while his less flamboyant partner accents her buff back, crown and throat with flashes of blue in her wings and tail. Bluebirds prefer open spaces, fields and meadows, perching above them, with an alert, upright posture, on utility wires, fence posts and low branches from where they search for prey below. With a fluttering of wings they drop from their perch to seize insects, showing a preference grasshoppers, crickets, katydids and beetles.
Once common as robins, eastern bluebirds have dwindled in number as house sparrows and European starlings have taken their nest sites. Bluebirds are cavity nesters, making their homes in holes abandoned by others, which makes them ideal tenants for bird houses.
McPhie said the persistence of the bluebirds is remarkable in light of their annual struggle with the growing number of sparrows at the Transfer Station. Sparrows will invade the bluebird's nest, destroy the eggs or kill the chicks, and occupy the bird box.
CAPTION: A male bluebird flashes his colorful wings as he returns to his next in one of 10 bird boxes art the Laconia Transfer Station. Each year bluebirds take up residence in three or four of the boxes. (Courtesy photo. Al St. Cyr, Waste Management Inc.)
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