People passionate about nature

Friends Of The Bluebirds Update

Friends of the Bluebirds (FOTB) - Who are we? 

  • About 130 volunteer caretakers of over 2,000 bird nesting boxes in SW Manitoba for over 50 years
  • A fun team of birders trying to help our neo-tropical migrants nesting success
  • 1 of 61 similar clubs in North America under the umbrella of the North American Bluebird Society (NABS)
  • Stewards of over 60,000 birds fledged from our boxes since 2013 with nesting and egg success rates both exceed 75% with the exception of 2021 and 2022.  Field data of FOTB  monitors documented a calamitous decrease (approximately 75%) in returning Bluebirds from their wintering grounds in 2021.  This was confirmed with similar data from 2022. 
  • Volunteers whose in-kind annual expenses exceeded  $25,000 prior to gas price increases…total volunteers hours unknown but considerable
  • We monitor nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens and the occasional  Chickadee.
  • We cooperate with over 100 landowners, dedicated to wildlife and agricultural conservation who let us put our boxes on their property. These efforts are complimentary to the current thrust by producers and conservation groups to protect the remaining vestiges of native grasslands.
  • The State of the Birds 2022 report for the United States focuses on the wane of bird populations across every habitat except wetlands. Among the groups in the fastest decline are grassland birds.
  • The data provided by FOTB monitors is a valuable contribution to citizen science on continent wide population tracking


FOTB Partnerships

In spring of 2019 a partnership was formed with the Westbran Training Centre in Brandon under the provincial Industry, Training and Employment Services program.  Unskilled workers are trained in the use of tools and wood construction.  The agreement is that if FOTB supplies the materials, the training project students will build the bluebird boxes according to plans supplied by FOTB.

A Westman Training Center Student with a nest box she has just completed.  Some students chose to personalize their work with drawings.

Further partnerships were developed in 2021 when the “Brandon Seniors for Seniors Men’s Club” and the “Minnedosa Men’s Shed” seniors group agreed to construct nest boxes for our club if we covered the cost of materials.

Pictured in the Minnedosa Tribune in the May 6th 2022 edition clockwise from the left:  Herb Goulden (FOTB), Wayne Cowan (FOTB), Tony Mullie (Men’s Shed), Warren Pearson (Men’s Shed) and Phil Weiss (Chair, FOTB).  This was part of an article by Karen Mitchell titled  “Minnedosa Men’s Shed Donates Bluebird Boxes”.

Thanks to grants from Nature Manitoba’s Bluebird Fund established by the late Guent and Elva Saltzmann, FOTB has the funds to cover the cost of materials for the construction of new nest boxes.  Many FOTB members build their own boxes. Many of the original nest boxes are in need of replacement after 20 plus years of service.  On a personal note, Herb Goulden has just constructed his 700th nest box for the FOTB.


Succession and New Energy

Due to the stresses of the pandemic and the need for a healthy leadership succession regime, a number of executive positions  are in transition.  Some of our hard working leaders felt it was time to offer others  an opportunity to step into a leadership role in FOTB. These transitions were be formally adopted by the FOTB it’s October 30, 2022 meeting…. the first face to face meeting since fall, 2019.  In addition, FOTB have attracted a number of recent retirees from the field of natural resource conservation in Manitoba.  These individuals bring new energy and a wealth of experience to the organization.  They are examining our line management and data system with updates using current technology.  They have also refurbished a numbers of old nest box lines and established several new ones in habitats not serviced to date. This is all good news for cavity nesters and FOTB.

by Herb Goulden and Phil Weiss