Red Level students: This is for the birds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When the Eastern bluebirds in the Conecuh National Forest needed new homes, biologist Dr. Mark Garner knew exactly where to look – in Red Level.

While the location may seem strange, it’s not, Garner said.

“It’s that time of the year where there is a lot of bluebird activity,” Garner said. “The birds are building nest and preparing for their first clutches. David Clark, the agri-science instructor at Red Level High School and his senior framing class were the first people I thought of when looking at this project.

“They’ve helped us many times through the years; they’re pleasant to work with and always conclude with excellent products,” he said.

In this case, that meant 45 Western cedar birdhouses, Clark said Tuesday. It took two weeks for the senior class to construct the shelters, which are to be installed in the coming weeks.

“We have what we call a diversified program,” Clark said of his classes. “We teach a good bit of woodworking, a lot of welding, some small engine work and landscaping. We try to do a little bit of everything.”

Clark said he and students used a Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries plan for the birdhouses.

“Once we got all the materials, it took us about two weeks to get them finished,” he said. “There were birdhouses everywhere.”

Clark said students have also constructed owl nesting boxes and an office podium for use in the Conecuh.

So why do bluebirds need birdhouses in the forest?

Research shows that between the 1920s and the 1970s, the bluebird population declined by an estimated 90 percent. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main ones are loss of habitat and competition from other species.

The bluebird is a cavity nesting bird, which means it prefers to build its nest in a tree cavity. Unlike the woodpecker, however, the bluebird’s beak is not suited for excavating. It depends on natural cavities, or ones made by other birds – hence the need for the birdhouses, Garner said.