FORT RILEY, Kan. - Each year as the weather warms and the first green appears on the trees, people keep an eye out for another of nature's reminders that spring is on its way. This reminder is small, blue and feathered, and is known as the Eastern bluebird.

To help coax the animals back to post, Boy Scouts Troop 60 from Fort Riley built 27 bluebird boxes. With the help of Mike Houck, a threatened and endangered species biologist with the Directorate of Public Works, the boxes started going up on Fort Riley March 17.

According to Houck, the reason the boxes are necessary is because the tree cavities the birds make their nests in have been becoming scarcer since the days of the pioneer, when early settlers cut down trees to use for their settlements. In the 1960s and 70s the use of pesticides and herbicides also threatened the bluebird.

In the late 70s and 80s, bluebird houses made an appearance, and the birds' numbers began to climb again. The boxes made the birds less dependent on finding trees with woodpecker cavities in them.

"It's a big success story," Houck said.

He said the best time to put up bluebird boxes is from late February to mid March, since the birds will have the first of two to three broods shortly after, laying three to six eggs each time.
Scouts Roderick Hopson, Justin Jackson and Morgan Ling were assisted by Scout Master Vincent VanCleave and Houck as they put up the first boxes.

It took 19 people about six hours to complete the houses. While hanging the boxes, the Scouts asked Houck when he could have another project for them.

"It was kind of fun," Hopson said.