Building Homes for Nature

Project two participants, from left to right: Curt Kamada, John Gordon, Bridget Robson, David Prewitt, Leslie Gordon, Gary Traux, Jim Hoagland, Bill Robson, and Bob Bohacik

James A. Hoagland

The SaddleBrooke Ranch Woodworking Club was busy in January building nest boxes for our local Lucy’s Warblers and the Tucson Audubon Society (TAS). Twelve volunteers joined Jim Hoagland, Birdman of SBR, on Jan. 26 and Jan. 29 to build more than 63 nest boxes with two different designs.

Unlike last year when the club built the boxes for the Tucson Audubon Society to sell in their Nature Store, these boxes will be used by the TAS for research and development on the Lucy’s Warbler nesting habits. According to Olya Weekley, Applied Conservation Project Manager for Tucson Audubon Society, the first box design with a hinged top will aid in studying the Lucy’s Warbler by banding adults and young Lucy’s Warblers. She went on to further say, “Our pilot year was 2021 where we banded 12 Lucy nestlings. It proved to be difficult to get them out of the traditional triangle design so for this year we are replacing them with the hinged roofs to better access the chicks and minimize our time doing it.” For this project the club made 23 boxes.

On the second project, the TAS has continued to study and come up with a better design of the nest boxes for Lucy’s Warblers. Olya said, “By reducing the size of the opening holes on both sides we hope to reduce access to nest parasites like Brown-headed Cowbirds, who lay eggs in nests of other species, as well as reduce predation by snakes, birds, and small mammals. For this project, the club made 40 hinged lid boxes with 1-inch holes. TAS will need to ensure that the Lucy’s do indeed use this type of box.

To begin each session, the purpose of making the boxes was explained along with the breeding range and timing of the Lucy’s Warbler. It is limited mainly to the Southwest from mid-March until departing in the late fall to the Pacific slope of Mexico, rarely going south of Oaxaca for the winter. Most of the nesting in their habitat range occurs in April and May.

The Lucy’s Warblers have been seen here at the Ranch along the Nature Trail, in the arroyo behind the dog park, and in the trees between the Ranch House Grill and the Creative Arts & Technology Center.

Lucy’s Warblers were named in honor of Lucy Hunter Baird, the daughter of ornithologist Spencer Fullerton Baird, the second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Olya added, “On behalf of Tucson Audubon I would like to thank the SaddleBrooke Ranch Woodworking Club for lending their skills and resources to help us on this important project. Community support is truly what allows us to continue our work and contribute to scientific knowledge of Lucy’s Warblers. We’re excited for another season studying these birds.”

A big thanks to the construction volunteers: Dan Anderson, Bob Bohacik, Peter Bratz, Jim Mulhall, David Prewitt, Leslie Gordon, John Gordon, Bill Robson, Bridget Robson, Curt Kamada, and Scott Saxon. A special thanks to Gary Traux for teaching and guiding the volunteers in the use of the equipment.