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A bluebird family perches on a tree branch in White Bear Lake, Minn.

Bluebird recovery program will be in Red Wing Saturday

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outdoors Red Wing,Minnesota 55066 http://www.republican-eagle.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/26/0613/george-brown.jpg?itok=m73vjtAq
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Bluebird recovery program will be in Red Wing Saturday
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

When the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota began in 1979, the group's 11 members fledged -- or raised until they left the nest -- 22 bluebirds chicks.

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In the last 30 years, the group has grown to more than 1,100 members. And the number of birds they fledge each year has also ballooned: In 2011, members were able to get 21,634 baby bluebirds off to a good start.

"They were endangered," said Carrol Johnson, one of the program's state coordinators. A depletion of the birds' nesting areas - wooden fences and dead trees - led to a decline in numbers.

"But now we're getting them back into a respectable population," he said.

Still, the program isn't done helping the bluebird population. Their efforts are ongoing, and this weekend - in conjunction with the Goodhue County Horticultural Society's Fall Garden and Flower Show - the program will come to Red Wing.

"One of the things gardeners promote is supporting wildlife and attracting wildlife to your garden," GCHS secretary Cindy Peterson said. "So (the bluebird program) went along with the theme."

The bluebird program's booth will be set up just outside the flower and garden show in Colvill Park. Bluebirders will be on hand to explain how the program works and what members do.

"Education is our main concern as in the dos and the don'ts of bluebirding," Johnson said. "We will be one-on-one with the people who come by."

Every year the program's members set up specially made bluebird nest boxes and track and record any activity.

"If you put out houses, you should check them on a weekly basis," Johnson said.

Things to watch out for include wet nests (swap out the wet nest with dry grass) and dead baby birds (remove dead chicks so other babies aren't contaminated).

Members also keep track of how many eggs - if any - are laid, how many hatch and how many bluebirds actually fledge.

"They'll fly within 16 days," Johnson said, adding that many members check boxes more than the once-a-week minimum.

At the end of the nesting season, members send in their individual reports, and the program compiles the data into a single report and analyzes the numbers.

Johnson said they monitor how each member does from year to year. The group likes to see each member fledge more birds than they did the previous season.

"That means you're doing a good job of locating your nest boxes, and you're also doing a good job of monitoring," he said.

Nest boxes can be located either in the city or rural areas, Johnson said. But they need to be placed in areas where there are no wrens, which destroy bluebird eggs and kill any hatched babies.

"Wrens are feisty," Johnson said.

The program hasn't yet finished calculating how many birds were fledged this past nesting season. But Johnson said based on preliminary numbers, it will be the program's "best year ever."

"Well in excess of 25,000, maybe even more," he said.

Considering the bluebird's lifespan is only one to three years, helping as many birds as possible is important, Johnson said.

"If they have a failure in their nesting, that may have been that bird's only chance to duplicate," he said. "All the help we can give them, they deserve it."

The details

The Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota will be providing information and selling specially made bluebird nest boxes Saturday outside the gates of the Goodhue County Horticultural Society's Fall Garden and Flower show. Memberships to the program - which start at $12 -will also be for sale; no birding experience is required.

What: The Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota

Where: Colvill Park, 480 Nymphara Lane

When: 8 a.m. until early afternoon

More information: bbrp.org

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Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.
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