One of the new EcoTough bluebird houses near White Rock lake. (Photo courtesy of David Hurt)

Wild Birds Unlimited owner David Hurt was on a run around the lake in 1996 when he saw a rare pair of bluebirds, and knew he had to do something to increase their population.

His impulse might seem a bit dramatic, but sparrows have made bluebirds scarce in urban areas. Sparrows were introduced to the US in the 19th century on the east coast, and 50 years later, they were ubiquitous in areas where humans lived across the country. These sparrows compete with bluebirds for housing, and have displaced them from nesting locations in areas shared with people, like cities and farms.

But Bluebirds have made a comeback, and Hurt wants to keep them in and around our neighborhood lake.

In 1997, Hurt and friends built several cedar bluebird houses in the prairies around White Rock Lake, and the bluebird population has increased since then. Over 20 years later, the houses need replacing. The new houses are made with EcoTough recycled plastic, which won’t deteriorate any time soon. He has seven so far, and hopes for 20-25 more to be spread around parks near the lake.

The houses need to be put in open areas as far away from humans as possible in order to avoid competition with sparrows, who usually live closer to human habitation. The homes are also outfitted with protection against other birds of prey, raccoons and rodents.

“I am a runner and I think I have spotted as many as 15 different pairs of bluebirds in the area, so it’s a good time to expand and make the population self-sustaining,” says Hurt.

Hurt loves to bird watch around the lake, and finds bluebirds particularly beautiful. “They are iconic birds,” he says. “Their blue is so striking; it is indescribable.”

Bluebirds often come back to the same box year after year, he says, and they mate with the same bird each year unless something happens to one of them.

“This project demonstrates that we can share this park,” he says. “In a growing city, White Rock Lake is refuge for a lot of us who love the country, and is also a refuge for some birds that are under habitat destruction.”

“I like conservation and I like community,” says Hurt. “If the birds get a little of press, that’s great.”

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.