Tucson Audubon Society

 
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Win-Win for Azure Bluebirds and Arizona Vineyards

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Tucson Audubon is an affliate of the North American Bluebird Society

Bluebirds across America have benefited from nest boxes since colonial times. In the early 1930's Dr. T.E. Musselman began setting up entire "trails" of boxes when he noticed Illinois populations of the beloved species suffering. Millions of boxes and many bluebird trails now exist all around the country—but not in southeast Arizona!

Azure (or Mexican) Bluebirds (Sialia sialis fulva) are a subspecies of the Eastern Bluebird limited in range to northern Mexico and southeast Arizona. Here they nest primarily in the Patagonia and Huachuca Mountains, often visiting the grasslands surrounding these Sky Islands. Due to its strict habitat requirements, the Azure Bluebird is listed by Arizona Game & Fish as a "Species of Greatest Conservation Need" and "Vulnerable."

In partnership with the Sonoita Wine Guild and several other organizations, Tucson Audubon is launching an Azure Bluebird conservation project. We will install nest boxes on the vineyards of the Sonoita grasslands and in the Patagonia Mountains. Though breeding in the grasslands is historically documented for Azures, eBird and first-hand accounts reveal that the breeding range and population numbers have decreased. Research states lack of adequate nesting cavities to be the population's primary limiting factor.

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Re-opening the grasslands as breeding territory will not only strengthen the population, but also increase species resilience to climate change and potential loss of habitat through mining and agriculture. This project will also model the innovative principle of reconciliation ecology—intentionally designing human land use to actively benefit sensitive species. In this case, the vineyards hosting nest boxes will benefit by hosting a beautiful, blue-feathered, insect-eating army to protect their grapes.

We need your help! Teams of nest box builders and monitors will be crucial to success. Volunteer to be a part of this effort.

We are seeking financial sponsorship. We have applied for a national grant, but in the mean time, if you could assist with the funding for this project we would be able to move forward now. Contact Restoration Ecologist, Jonathan Horst ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or the Paton Center Coordinator, Keith Ashley ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) to learn more and get involved.

Check out these articles for more information about bluebirds and vineyards as well was Azure bluebirds.

Azure Bluebird images by Lois Manowitz