Bluebirds Thriving at Tufton Farm

Posted by Keith Nevison
Photo credit: Harlow Chandler

Efforts to support bluebirds at Tufton began several years ago through concerted involvement from Ron and Priscilla Kingston and members of the Monticello Bird Club who erected bluebird boxes in the display garden of the Center for Historic Plants. For those who have visited the Center for Historic Plants at Jefferson’s Tufton Farm, you have probably caught glimpses of our resident Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis). Tufton Farm provides ideal managed habitat for bluebirds with its abundance of pastures, fence perches and variety of tree species that provide food for birds through fall and winter.

Photo credit: Keith Nevison

Recently, volunteer Jamie McConnell built, donated and installed “Carl Little” bluebird boxes that are scattered about Tufton Farm.  Within one week of installation, these structures were already hosting bluebird eggs that later hatched. Now, these boxes support thriving baby bluebirds. (In the picture above, the stovepipe pole guard deters snakes, raccoons, opossums and cats from accessing the nest.)

Photo credit: Jamie McConnell

With such success, our goal is to increase the amount of bluebird boxes at Tufton to eventually have a true bluebird trail with boxes placed every 100 yards or so. Future plans also include installing additional bird boxes for smaller and larger birds including, wrens, chickadees, kestrels, screech owls and wood ducks. We look forward to seeing guests leisurely strolling across our property and marveling at the amazing sights and sounds. We’ll keep you posted!

If you are interested in building a nesting box and raising bluebirds in your own yard, consult the Virginia Bluebird Society’s website and consider joining the North American Bluebird Society. After installing your bluebird box, remember to regularly monitor throughout the nesting season; as nests can be infiltrated by snakes, mice, paper wasps and unwelcome birds species, such as house sparrows and English starlings, two common nest box interlopers.

Although Tufton Farm is not regularly open to the public, participants in the Heritage Harvest Festival pre-event at Tufton Farm will have a unique opportunity to see our new bird boxes and many other recent on-site habitat improvements. “Jefferson’s Tufton Farm: Strong Roots, New Growth” will take place on Thursday, September 20th from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. and will feature a behind-the-scenes walking tour describing Tufton’s archaeological past and future plans to restore farming to Monticello through the launch of an experimental farming center. Browse the Heritage Harvest Festival site for more information on all events.

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