Gene Clifford Bluebird Trail

100 Bluebird Houses in NWI

We call it a "Trail", but it's more like a Bird Nesting Treasure Map!

WELCOME to the Gene Clifford Bluebird Trail citizen science project

If you have time and interest, but no extra funds to purchase a nesting box at this time...Complete this form and we will contact you about receiving a bluebird nesting box for your yard, compliments of the NIPSCO Environmental Action Grant.

The Trail project is hosted by the Porter County Chapter of Izaak Walton League of America. Through its partnership with the NIPSCO Environmental Action Grant, the program allows us to place birdhouses at the homes of citizen scientists in northwest Indiana.

Goal is 100 houses by Fall, 2024

If you are READY TO RECORD your data, skip down to the RECORD WHAT YOU SEE section of this newsletter below.

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Do you already have a bluebird nesting box in your yard?

Citizens with nesting boxes currently in their yards are invited to join us on the Gene Clifford Bluebird Trail in 2023 or become prepared now for 2024.

Izaak Walton League's Porter County Chapter and NIPSCO invites you to register your bluebird nesting box with the Gene Clifford Bluebird Trail by following the instructions below in the RECORD WHAT YOU SEE section of this newsletter.

Gene Clifford was a nature writer, bird watcher, IWLA-Porter County Chapter member and lived his whole life in NW Indiana. His goal was to spread the joy of watching bluebirds in the yard by making nesting boxes available to local citizens. He spent countless hours cutting bird house pieces and teaching young people how to build and use them.

Through the support of the NIPSCO Environmental Action Grant, we are carrying on his vision and expanding it to include documenting bluebird activity with Cornell University Labs Nest Watch data collection program. As a citizen scientist, you can contribute too!

After registering your bluebird box with us, we'll teach you how to collect data. PCC's administrators can help you upload your findings to Cornell Lab Nest Watch or show you how to do it yourself. As a back yard bird scientist, you'll also learn to maintain a healthy bluebird population in your own neighborhood.

SUMMER, 2023 * Year 2 * 43 boxes logged; 94 eggs (and counting...)

Commitment to Nest Watch

You have agreed to watch activity at your birdhouse, open the house for inspections and record your findings about nests, eggs and young throughout the season. YOU are a citizen scientist!

Also, you agree to follow Cornell University's Code of Conduct during monitoring. Your recorded data would then be uploaded to the Cornell Univ. Ornithology Labs NestWatch data hub. You are encouraged to continue the monitoring through the project's 2 year cycle which ends fall of 2024. If you monitor beyond that, it would be a priceless gesture.

Americans across the country are taking part in helping scientists keep track of our bird populations. You will actually be watching your birdhouse for a few cavity nesting birds. Tree Swallows and House Wrens will also use a house like this, and that's fine. But, it's a special time when the bluebirds come to roost and that's what we are trying to encourage. LOOK below to be sure you have the right space.

Our group is working with Cornell Univ. Labs of Ornithology to create a special "NestWatch Chapter" just for the data collected along the CLIFFORD BLUEBIRD TRAIL. That's where your data will be stored for use in migratory and reproductive research of wild songbirds.

USE THIS FORM to collect data, then watch for our announcement about the the Clifford Bluebird Trail NestWatch Chapter for data entry connection coming soon. If you need assistance with uploading data, we will be happy to support you.

Do you have the right space?

Bluebirds prefer more open areas like long lawns or prairie. If your yard is heavily wooded you'll enjoy many other nesting birds, but probably not bluebirds. Please let us know if you DO NOT have an open space that is conducive to bluebird nesting. On birdhouse "pick-up" day, please bring a picture of your yard to show us so we know it's a good fit for bluebirds.

Evicting Invasive Nesters

This is the hardest thing we will ask of you...English Sparrows (or House Sparrows) may try to nest in your birdhouse too, but they are invasive and we do not allow them to reproduce in these boxes.

It is an aggressive species that will take over the nesting sites, territories, and food sources of native birds. Therefore; it is an invasive, non-native species that is very difficult to manage.

You would have to be able to evict a sparrow's nest, eggs or young to help reduce invasive bird numbers. Even under U.S. federal law, House Sparrow nests, eggs, young, and adults may be legally removed or destroyed. You'll learn the difference quickly between egg colors and nest styles to tell the difference.

To dissuade sparrows from your box, sprinkle red pepper powder in the bottom of the box. Also, hanging a few feet of monofilament fishing line around a bluebird house's entrance hole may spook House Sparrows due to their poor eyesight, which, ideally, will be enough to keep them from using the nest box. Bluebirds, and other native cavity nesting birds, are typically insect-eaters with good eyesight.

Coaxing in Bluebirds:

Meal worms are the best food to feed bluebirds and they will readily eat them year-round. During the breeding season, it is nice to feed meal worms because the harried parents will gratefully accept them to help feed their ravenous young.
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SIMPLY Identifying Your Birds

There are 4 native "cavity nesters" that will use your box.

*House Wren

*Tree Swallow

*Eastern Bluebird


These are all tolerated and encouraged. As you find a wren making a nest in your birdhouse, stay calm. We still want you to add what you see to the "Clifford Bluebird Trail" map project. Native birds are always welcome in our boxes. We hope for the Eastern Bluebird because it eats off the ground and eliminates the need for chemical insect control on the lawn. Maybe next time you'll get a bluebird family.

As you can see from Gene Clifford's Comparator Box below, the House Wren makes her nest out of sticks. The Tree Swallow uses meadow grasses and feathers. Bluebird builds a nest of solely grass while the Chickadee adds moss. You'll be able to tell the difference between birds even you can only see the nest.

It is ONLY the House Sparrow that is not allowed and should be evicted immediately. See above for advice on Sparrows. It's nest is made out of found garbage; cellophane, string, cigarette butts + some natural nesting materials like leaves and grass. Red pepper sprinkled in your box will dissuade sparrows. We're told that other birds don't mind it.

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"Sign-in" at top right corner of screen

Group User Name:100 Bluebird boxes IWLA-PCC


Password: 2022Clifford

Contact: Annette Hansen of Izaak Walton League's Porter County Chapter

NOTE: Inside "nesting attempt" please add to the "Group": Clifford Bluebird Trail

Email Annette if you have any questions


Start a Nest Attempt

Then, watch a video on registering a nest attempt.

This is the data you'll record when you see a nest being built, when you find eggs or other collectable information about the bird's activity. Continue to add your sightings until the birds are no longer using the nest to raise young. Make a new "Nest Attempt" each time birds use it for a new brood.

How to install your bluebird house..

Follow along with these simple directions as demonstrated by PCC members Bobby and Bill.

(If you receive a predator guard, follow attached instructions for mounting below house on post)

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Our goal is 100 Bluebird Boxes by 2024

In the program's start-up year, 2022, we were able to add 38 boxes to our trail map, with a goal of 100 monitored boxes by end of nesting season in 2024. When we call it a trail, it's really more of a map, no one is expected to be trailing at all the locations. Some are private residences and we ask that you respect their privacy.

IWLA-PCC's own Frame Family Little Calumet Conservation Area is where there are currently 20 boxes in place on 60+acres, this is an actual "trail". The public is invited during daylight hours to visit the trail at 1294 No. County Line Road, Michigan City, IN. (Please birdwatch only, do not disturb bluebirds, nesting boxes or other wildlife)

Bluebird houses are available for citizens who cannot afford to purchase one, but have the time and interest to monitor a bluebird nesting box. Register today to take part in this interesting citizen science project.

Get involved in Citizen Science!

Citizen Science is the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

As a member of the Clifford Bluebird Trail, you will learn to check the box regularly and record nesting attempts by native cavity nesters. "Cavity-nesting" is a term that describes birds that build nests, lay eggs and raise young inside sheltered chambers or cavities. Indiana's native cavity nesters may also use the birdhouse and may be included on the project in You will learn to tell the difference between birds, their nests and eggs. You keep track of data in the field with a paper datasheet. You commit to checking the box every week or two, then record what you see. We'll only ask you to evict the invasive House Sparrow.

Maybe you received a box in 2022, but still need to install or include it on our map.

Some of you may have received a Bluebird nesting box from PCC/NIPSCO in 2022, but have not yet logged it into the Clifford Bluebird Trail map in Please see the directions here and make it a priority today. Remember your committment to a healthier Bluebird population in northwest Indiana.

COORDINATOR Annette Hansen at 219-241-7431

Thank you Chesterton Feed & Garden

Your bluebird house came from Chesterton Feed & Garden and is MADE IN AMERICA!

If you need bluebird treats, more houses or good advice on wild birds, please feel free to ask the professionals at CF&G.

Chesterton Feed & Garden Center
400 Locust Street
Chesterton, Indiana 46304
P. (219) 926-2790
F. (219) 926-7412