Western Bluebirds are once again breeding on Vancouver Island after being considered locally extinct for almost 20 years! Since the project began in 2012, each spring a small but growing number of reintroduced bluebirds and their offspring return to the Cowichan Valley to nest.
Donations are needed to continue the translocations of breeding pairs that will sustain population growth at this critical stage. With your support, we can raise the funds needed to reintroduce bluebirds, work with landowners to install nestboxes and improve habitat, and monitor breeding pairs and their nests.
Together, we can build on 4 years of success to restore a large, self-sustaining breeding population of Western Bluebirds to their historic Garry Oak habitats of southwestern BC.
Donate now, or scroll down to learn more about the Bring Back the Bluebirds Project.
The goal of Bring Back the Bluebirds is to re-establish a breeding population of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) on southeastern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands, by:
Our project is focused in the Cowichan Valley, near Quamichan and Somenos lakes, where we have been releasing bluebirds since 2012. We are continuing translocations of up to 10 pairs of bluebirds each year until 2016, towards our goal of releasing a total of 90 adult bluebirds over the course of this 5-year project. Each spring, in addition to the bluebirds we release each year, we have seen adult and juvenile bluebirds returning to the Cowichan Valley. They are all successfully establishing breeding territories in suitable habitat, finding mates, and raising broods of their own. Read more about the project background and techniques in our Bring Back the Bluebirds project overview (2015) (PDF).
Bring Back the Bluebirds is an ambitious species recovery project, bringing together a suite of project partners, landowners, and citizen scientists to restore Western Bluebirds to our area.
As recently as 60 years ago, Western Bluebirds were common in Garry oak meadows and savannahs throughout Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands, and nearby areas in Washington such as the San Juan Islands. By 1995, Western Bluebirds were no longer breeding in southwestern BC and were rarely seen, and this population was placed on the Red List and considered extirpated (locally extinct) in BC.
Their rapid decline both here and in areas of Washington and Oregon was probably due to a combination of loss of Garry Oak habitat, removal of standing dead trees that provided cavities for nesting, and competition for remaining nest holes with exotic bird species such as European Starlings and English House Sparrows.
Bring Back the Bluebirds is part of an international effort to restore bluebirds to the Salish Sea area. We are using a two-pronged approach to restoring a population of this native songbird. Bluebirds are cavity nesters, meaning they rely on safe holes in large, old trees to build their nests. We work with private landowners throughout the area to mount and monitor nestboxes in suitable habitat. We are also capturing Western Bluebirds from a healthy population in Washington, and releasing them in the Cowichan Valley, a conservation technique called translocation.
Our goal is to re-establish a breeding population of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) on southeastern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands, and this phase of the project (2012-2018) is focused in the Cowichan Valley, near Quamichan and Somenos lakes. In a previous phase, our project partners successfully re-established a breeding population of Western Bluebirds on San Juan Island.
In 2012, we released the first pairs of bluebirds, and one pair nested at their release site—these were the first Western Bluebirds known to have hatched on Vancouver Island since 1995! Since then, each spring we have seen adult and juvenile bluebirds returning to the Cowichan Valley. They are successfully establishing breeding territories in suitable habitat, finding mates, and raising clutches of their own. We are continuing translocations of up to 10 pairs of bluebirds each year until 2016, towards our goal of releasing a total of 90 adult bluebirds over the course of this 5-year project. Active translocations will be followed by several years of population monitoring and ensuring that there are enough nestboxes in suitable habitat, and sufficient community and volunteer support, to sustain the population over time.
Keep your eyes peeled for bluebirds in fields and Garry Oak ecosystems near you!
Additional partners include: American Bird Conservancy, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Jim Lynch), Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (Dr. Karen Wolf), Rocky Point Bird Observatory, Salt Spring Island Conservancy, San Juan Preservation Trust, and Victoria Natural History Society. Also Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service), Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Project funders for 2015 include: The Baillie Fund of Bird Studies Canada, Canada Summer Jobs, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, The McLean Foundation, MEC, North American Bluebird Society, Public Conservation Assistance Fund, Sitka Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment, Victoria Natural History Society, Science Horizons Youth Internship Program, and private donors.