Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The Bluebird Project

Master Gardener Program
Erika Johnson, Program Coordinator
(564) 397-5738

TEXT-ONLY version of our bluebird journal.

Bluebird Logo

Hi! I’m Erika Johnson, coordinator of the Washington State University Master Gardener program in Clark County, Washington. In the summer of 2011, two Western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) were spotted at the Heritage Farm. Not commonly seen in this area, this page documents the attempts to support their nesting and use of the 79-acre farm property as well as other suitable habitat in Clark County.

If you spot Western bluebirds in Clark County, please contact the WSU Clark County Extension office and let me know!  We would love to encourage them and develop habitat for them in this area!

Erika Johnson, Master Gardener Coordinator
WSU Extension Clark County
(564) 397-5738


Journal Entry 1

Bluebird Journal May 2011. Discovered bluebirds, but puzzled they are out of their normal range. Photos of bluebirds and range map.

Western Bluebird Range

See the Western Bluebird range map. And check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website to learn how to ID bluebirds, about their habitat, and their food preferences.

Fun Fact Western Bluebirds are among the birds that nest in cavities—holes in trees or nest boxes. But look at their bills—they’re not equipped to dig out their own holes. They rely on woodpeckers or other processes to make their nest sites for them. This is one reason why dead trees are a valuable commodity in many habitats.

Journal Entry 2

Bluebird Journal June 2011. Hubert Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project donated nesting boxes. Info about nesting. Photo and drawing of nesting boxes.

Nesting Box Placement Is Important

Hubert Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project shared that boxes should be about 150 yards apart from each other, facing an open, grassy, mowed area. And, in order to make the boxes just right for the cavity-dwelling bluebirds, the access holes should be small, with a 1-9/16” round opening entrance.

Nesting Box Plans

If you wish to build a Bluebird nest box yourself, there are plans available at Hubert Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project or at the North American Bluebird Society website.

Journal Entry 3

Bluebird Journal Feb. 4, 2017. Found 4 dead male birds in nesting box.

Journal Entry 4

Bluebird Journal Feb. 2017. Spotted a female, but she flew off. Identify bluebird nest because they are made exclusively of grass. Photo of female bird and nest.

Western Bluebird Eggs

Bluebird nest with blue eggs.

This is what we’re hoping for in the way of nests inside of our boxes — with eggs!

Learn about the types of nests other birds build at NestWatch.

Journal Entry 5

Bluebird Journal Spring 2017. Monitoring birds. Recent Columbian article noting confusion between bluebirds and scrub jays. Photos of male bluebird and scrub jay.

Get To Know Western Bluebirds

The Western bluebird male is known for its bright cobalt blue feathers, combined with a rust/red band around its neck and on its upper chest that is unique to the bluebirds. Females have gray/blue coloration with an orange/chestnut wash on their chests.

Adding to their appeal, the Western bluebird’s song is very pretty.

Compare Western Bluebirds to Jays

Stellar's jay. Blue body with black crest, head and shoulders.
Photo: Becky Matsubara

Western bluebirds are smaller than the blue and gray scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica), see photo in journal entry artwork above, which are more abundant in this area. Scrub jays have a raucous vocalization style compared to Western bluebirds’ quieter, more musical call.

Also prevalent locally, especially in wooded areas, are the deep blue and black-headed Stellar’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) which are much larger than Western bluebirds and sport a pointed topknot on their heads.

Journal Entry 6

Bluebird Journal Summer 2017. Violet-green swallows are using the nesting boxes instead of bluebirds. Allowing it since they are native birds. Photos of swallow and their nest with white eggs.

Journal Entry 7

Bluebird Journal October 28, 2017. MGs and friends installed 10 bluebird boxes at a new property east of Heritage Farm. Photo of 2 women placing nesting box on post.

Journal Entry 8

Bluebird Journal March 15, 2018. Planted native berry shrubs to create better bluebird habitat. Photo of planting team and illustration of bunchberry.

Western Bluebird Habitat

Western bluebirds like open woodland areas, both coniferous and deciduous. They nest in tree cavities including old woodpecker holes, natural cavities, and of course, nesting boxes.

They like a perch 40-100 feet from the front of their nesting box. It provides a safe place for babies to land when learning to fly, and is also a place for parent birds to guard the box to avoid predation.

Bluebirds’ diet consists of insects, earthworms, snails, and small berries and fruits. So we planted native shrubs to provide food and habitat not only for the birds, but for the insects they eat.

We planted these shrubs:

Cascara tree twig, leaves, and berries.
Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana). Photo: Jesse Taylor

The black fruits of an Indian plum shrub hanging from bright orange stems among green leaves.
Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis). Photo: Leslie Seaton

Close up of white unopened buds and open flowers with yellow stamens.
Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii). Photo: Oleksandra Deriy

Red-osier dogwood leaves slightly colored purple in autumn with red stems that held berries (2 white berries hanging on).
Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea). Photo: Sulfur at the English language Wikipedia

Small bunchberry flowers with bright green leaves nestled among pine needles on forest floor.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson

Green holly-like leaves and blue berries of tall Oregon grape.
Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Photo: Meggar at English Wikipedia

Pink flowers of red-flowering current with bright green leaves.
Red-flowering current (Ribes sanguineum). Photo: J Brew

Double black berries with bright purple-red bracts attached to stem hanging among dark leaves.
Twinberry Honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata). Photo: Katja Schulz

Learn more about landscaping with native plants.   


We are still hopeful that bluebirds will return for a visit!

Journal Entry 9
Introducing a New Contributor

McKenzie McCann is an M.A E.d in Environmental Education student at Prescott College in Prescott, AZ. She is interning with the Master Gardener program and its Western bluebird project as a part of her coursework. Stay tuned for some great blog entries from McKenzie over the next few months!

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. Introducing new contributor; painting of male bluebird.

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. page 2 with female bird painting; text about not being an artist but the importance of learning from making the painting.

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. page 3 continuing text about drawing shrews in class.

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. page 4; noticing nuances in the drawings; this is what making the drawings is about.

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. page 5; things to notice about bluebirds.

Bluebird Journal October, 2018. page 6; more about painting and noticing things; end of this entry.

Journal Entry 10

Bluebird Journal November 2018. More text mentioning what the author knows about birds already.

Bluebird Journal November 2018. More text including a rant about human caused habitat loss; and continuing on about bird observation.

Bluebird Journal November 2018. More text going into using cell phone, guide book and Google, along with photo of phone and guidebook.

Bluebird Journal November 2018. More text talking about field marks and observation.

Bluebird Journal November 2018. More text about typical field mark terms and a drawing showing parts of a bird the terms belong to.

Bluebird Journal November 2018. Last page of this entry about field notes; photos of blue jay, scrub jay, western blue bird.

Journal Entry 11

Bluebird Journal December 2018. This entry is about monitoring.

Bluebird Journal December 2018. This entry is about monitoring.

Bluebird Journal December 2018. This entry is about monitoring.

Bluebird Journal December 2018. This entry is about monitoring.

Bluebird Journal December 2018. This entry is about monitoring.

Journal Entry 12

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.

Bluebird Journal January 2019. This entry is about niche, and Bluebird niches.


Our pages provide links to external sites for the convenience of users. WSU Extension does not manage these external sites, nor does Extension review, control, or take responsibility for the content of these sites. These external sites do not implicitly or explicitly represent official positions and policies of WSU Extension.

WSU Clark County Master Gardener Program
1919 NE 78th Street • Vancouver, WA 98665
(564) 397-5738

Answer Clinic ButtonGardening in WA button