June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Getting color back: Society preserves Ohio bluebird

A bluebird sits atop a nest box erected by York Township resident Dale Rabung. (Photos by Jeanne Jakubchak)

A bluebird sits atop a nest box erected by York Township resident Dale Rabung. (Photos by Jeanne Jakubchak)

Chuck Jakubchak | Special to The Gazette

Many years ago, Dale Rabung’s father taught him the difference between a blue jay and a bluebird, and that lesson led to a lifetime of caring about Eastern bluebirds.

Since then, Rabung has built, erected and monitored countless nest boxes throughout Medina County, and he thinks of his father every time he spots a bluebird, grateful for that early nature lesson.

Eastern bluebirds, a species native to Ohio, encountered problems throughout the state in the 1970s when they lost nesting sites, victimized by the invasive house sparrows and starlings that commandeered valuable habitat.

The problems for bluebirds increased when new and improved pesticides negatively impacted insect populations, the primary food for Eastern bluebirds.

Rabung, 68, of York Township, and members of the Ohio Bluebird Society stepped up to preserve this species by building nest boxes and monitoring them to ensure the successful fledging of nestlings.

York Township resident Dale Rabung erects nest boxes for Eastern bluebirds around Medina County. (Photos by Jeanne Jakubchak)

York Township resident Dale Rabung erects nest boxes for Eastern bluebirds around Medina County. (Photos by Jeanne Jakubchak)

Rabung’s volunteer efforts began in 1983 with the construction of special bluebird nest boxes  from empty grape crates that had been discarded by a local grocery store.
Every year since, Rabung has continued to build nest boxes and has helped bluebirds fledge throughout Medina County. He has helped preserve this delicate species but also has given the county’s residents the opportunity to enjoy these birds for 31 years and counting.

Golfers at Bunker Hill Golf Course in Medina County probably notice the bluebird nest boxes placed throughout the course.

Rabung’s relationship with Bunker Hill began in 1984 and he maintains 12 nest boxes on the course.

“The owners of Bunker Hill have been very supportive of the bluebird project, and I am grateful for their decision to place nest boxes on the course,” Rabung said about his 30-year association with Bunker Hill. “Those boxes have benefited both the birds and the golfers.”

Rabung also maintains 37 other boxes throughout the county, and he will help anyone erect a bluebird box on their property, assuming they have proper habitat and agree to maintain it in accordance with standards set forth by the Ohio Bluebird Society.

“If someone wants to help bluebirds by putting up a nest box, I will gladly mentor them and provide the necessary guidance,” Rabung said.

Each of the nest boxes that Rabung erects successfully may fledge, on average, three or more bluebirds during the summer nesting season, and that motivates many bird enthusiasts to want a nest box in their yard.

When asked about the high point of his volunteer career, Rabung said: “I love doing educational programs for schoolchildren and have many fond memories of teaching children about bluebirds. Something magical happens when you tell children about birds.”

One of his recent success stories is his involvement with a Christian summer camp where he helped seventh- and eight-grade students build nest boxes and later trained them in how to monitor the boxes.

Children attending Medina County’s Earth Day celebrations during the past 18 years probably met Rabung because he has hosted a display booth at each one.

“I am proud to be a Medina County resident and pleased to have the opportunity to promote the preservation of Ohio’s Eastern Bluebird for our residents to appreciate,” Rabung said.

The attraction to Eastern Bluebirds has spread through Rabung’s family. He has involved his children and grandchildren in appreciating the birds’ beauty, and his wife, Diana, offers support and encouragement.

Asked about his proudest achievement, Rabung didn’t mention the thousands of birds that fledged from his boxes. Instead, recalled the times he showed someone a bluebird for the first time.

His eyes sparkled as he recalled the moment someone’s eyes would locate the brilliant blue and reddish brown bird. Their gaze, mesmerized by the little bird, said it all.

Contact Chuck Jakubchak at areanews@medina-gazette.com or (330) 721-4065.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.