University of North Georgia student Josie Orr has recently gathered data from 20 birdhouses around the Gainesville campus to examine the effects of human presence on nesting Eastern bluebirds.
While Orr picked out the birdhouse patterns and final locations, Gainesville Facilities, specifically Phil Patterson, built and mounted 12 boxes near the center of campus and eight more in the woods behind the Nesbitt building.
Orr teamed up with biology professor Dawn Lubeski to track and record data from each birdhouse. They are hoping to compare overall data to see if the number of people nearby affect the birds.
Orr checks the birdhouses once a week for nests; if there are eggs, she’ll count them and then eventually count how many hatch. She writes this data on a piece of cardstock called a nest box card and later logs it into an Excel document. To record the number of people near the birdhouses, Orr tallies the number of students during both busy class changes and slower periods. Sometimes, she uses a drone to help her keep count of people passing by the birdhouses.
“I’ve gotten some drone footage showing people walking around [near the] student center and Nesbitt building to illustrate how busy a campus actually is,” said Orr.
Orr says she plans to create a video of the aerial footage to post on YouTube and take to scientific conferences.
The nesting season for the Eastern bluebird is from April to August. Lubeski says each bluebird can have three to four nests and up to 15 young.
“That means the baby birds would be there from around the end of May all the way to mid-August,” said Lubeski.
This year, Lubeski says a total of 40 baby bluebirds came from Orr’s birdhouses. Interestingly enough, another species of birds called the brown-headed nuthatch used one of Orr’s birdhouses to nest. Orr and Lubeski also got a picture of a flying squirrel using one of Orr’s birdhouses as its home.
Orr and Lubeski are seeing a trend in their data where the birds in birdhouses further away from the center of campus are nesting a week sooner than those which are closer. Orr says she plans to leave the birdhouses up until they need to be replaced, and she may even add more for different species.
Orr says the hope for her project is that people will see it is possible to incorporate wildlife into a heavily populated area like a college campus.
Correction: The previous version of this story said that Orr constructed and placed the birdhouses around campus. It has been changed to reflect that Gainesville Facilities built and mounted the houses.