The last time Jim Marshall gathered volunteers to prepare for the upcoming eastern bluebird breeding season, COVID-19 was a new vocabulary word just starting to concern him. 

Three years later, on Feb. 16, three dozen bluebird enthusiasts met inside the Botanical Research Institute of Texas building to celebrate their first kickoff party since the pandemic began. Project Bluebird previously met inside the nonprofit Streams & Valleys office but had to find a larger space to accommodate its growing membership. 

Marshall, who started Project Bluebird in 2007 with five nest boxes along the Trinity Trails, never imagined such a large group would volunteer their time to expand the Fort Worth area’s eastern bluebird population. 

Jim Marshall checks a bluebird nest box in Fort Worth. Marshall founded Project Bluebird in 2007 with five nest boxes along the Trinity Trails. (Courtesy image | Jim Marshall)

“When I first set up those boxes, I told Streams & Valleys: ‘I want to help out. I’ll put up the boxes, but then I’m done. I’m hands off,’” Marshall said. “Well, all these years later, it’s gone on because if you’re monitoring, and you see the nest being built, the eggs hatching, the chicks, it’s a fun thing. It’s satisfying.” 

That satisfaction has driven more Tarrant County retirees and naturalists to set up bluebird nesting boxes near their homes, neighborhood parks or other open spaces with the low grass and perches that bluebirds prefer for hunting insects. 

Throughout the nesting season, which lasts from late February through late July, volunteers visit their boxes at least once a week to count the number of eggs, hatchlings and young bluebirds that have left, or fledged, the nest. 

Monitors make necessary repairs to the wooden nest boxes, especially after severe weather. (Boxes are also mounted on smooth round pipes, to make it harder for predators to climb and reach the eggs).

Get involved

Looking for more information about Project Bluebird or bluebird boxes? Contact Jim Marshall at If you’re interested in setting up your own box, resources and nest boxes for purchase are available on the Texas Bluebird Society’s website.

While there’s little scientific data kept on the number of eastern bluebirds in North Texas, Project Bluebird tracks growth in the region’s bluebird population through submitting data to NestWatch, a nationwide nest-monitoring network run by researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

NestWatch data has shown a steady increase in bluebird habitats, with the largest concentrations of habitats located near Benbrook Lake, the Trinity Trails near the Clearfork development and in the northeastern suburbs of Keller and Southlake. 

Kimberlie Sasan, a herbarium and research assistant at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, monitors about 50 bluebird nest boxes in Keller. Her efforts began in 2018, when she noticed nests near her home that weren’t being regularly monitored. 

In 2019, Sasan realized she needed to move the boxes into clusters at parks to increase their chances of success – measured by the percentage of chicks that fledge the nest. Between 2018 and 2020, her fledge rate improved from 55% to 89%. 

Now, Sasan coordinates a group of neighbors and people trained as Texas Master Naturalists to monitor boxes in their neighborhoods. Her skills are in high demand. In January, she presented an hour-long session on bluebird nest boxes to members of the Dallas Public Library. 

YouTube video

Sasan’s passion stems from learning new elements of the birds’ behavior and communication patterns. In the past, she snapped photos of parents teaching their chicks how to hunt outside of the nest. 

“It’s like being an explorer, it’s just so fascinating,” Sasan said. “Once you start checking the boxes and those little beaks gaze back at you – they’re my little babies. I look forward to it every spring because I’m so excited to get out there and see them.” 

At the kickoff party, volunteers new and old mingled to discuss the best ways to ward wasps away from nest boxes, or how they might attract a bluebird to a box after years of trying. Marshall showcased the Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s live camera setup inside a nest box, which sits ready and waiting for a bluebird family. 

Project Bluebird’s network of volunteers – and the habitats they’ve built for thousands of bluebirds – has made all the difference in supporting hatchlings that wouldn’t exist otherwise, Marshall said. 

“At the Botanic Garden, there weren’t bluebirds here seven years ago,” Marshall said. “Bluebirds will not build a nest in the crotch of a tree. They have to have some kind of cavity, and there’s only so many woodpecker holes left. Putting up these boxes to provide that cavity makes a big difference.” 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...