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This Week’s Creature Features ... Making a Safe Home for Baby Bluebirds

At Annmarie Garden, nature and art live in harmony

The girls of Lusby Brownie Troop 1244 help guard bluebird houses at Annmarie Garden.

Among art from the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons stand seven houses occupied by bluebirds.
    Bluebirds are masterpieces in the world of gardening, both for their beauty and for their appetite for garden bugs. So Annmarie is more than happy to host them. To encourage the birds to add life to art in the garden, staff artists have hand-painted the houses. Baby bluebirds are now growing feathers amid the woven grasses and pine needles that make up bluebird nests.
    Adorable as nestling bluebirds may be, their survival is a fragile enterprise. In the several weeks it takes for them to fledge, snakes and raccoons can eat them. Their blood can be sapped by blowfly maggots that thrive under their nests. They are even under threat from other birds. Sparrows are notorious for killing bluebirds, young and old, and building their nests right atop the bodies.
    Assisting the mother bluebirds in staving off these potential dangers are the benevolent girls of Lusby Brownie Troop 1244, the houses’ designated protectresses.
    More broadly, these houses are part of the decades-long effort to provide habitats for a species whose population was devastated in the 1960s by the introduction of the grackle to North America. Blue birds’ natural habitats remain vulnerable to threats both natural — from opportunistic predators to weather patterns — and manmade, like pesticides.
    With houses like these, however, bluebirds have a safe haven.