Kentucky Horse Park Blue Bird Trail

By Vickie Reed, KHP Volunteer & KHP Garden Club Member

Who doesn’t love the sight of horses at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park? But the next time you walk around the Park, look closely and you may see a flash of blue and the trill of a song. The Park has long been a haven for a variety of wildlife and bluebirds are one of the flashier ones to come your way.  To accommodate them, you’ll see lots of bluebird boxes installed in various places around the Park. How many you ask? One-hundred and eight at last count!

Years ago, these boxes were installed by Wayne Davis, “Mr. Bluebird” of Kentucky. When bluebirds almost disappeared from the state in the early 1970s, Wayne stepped in to help. He experimented with many designs and found the most success with the ones he made out of old oak plank fencing from UK’s Coldstream Farm. He is credited with installing over 3,000 boxes in the Bluegrass, including those at the Kentucky Horse Park. Mr. Davis passed away in 2017, but his well-built boxes have endured.

In past years, members of the Kentucky Horse Park Garden Club have cleaned out the boxes at the end of the nesting season, so they are ready for the bluebirds when they arrive in the early spring. This year the club has broadened their scope and are participating in “Nest Watch”, a citizen science project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The boxes have been sprayed with a bleach mixture to keep out parasites, the top of the boxes soaped to prevent wasps from nesting, and each box numbered, and GPS coordinates noted. Some nesting activity has already been spotted. A few partial bluebird nests were observed and a tree swallow feather, their way of saying “this box is taken!” has been found. Although the boxes were designed for bluebirds, they gladly welcome other cavity nesters like tree swallow, chickadees, and Carolina wrens.

Once a week, the volunteers will inspect the boxes and record any activities including the building of nests, arrival of eggs, number, and status of any hatchlings. They will also try to keep away nuisance birds such as house sparrows. All this information will be dutifully recorded on log sheets.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Kentucky Horse Park Garden Club, contact annie.martin@ky.gov