MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

July 6, 2014

Woman devotes time to protecting bluebirds

ELGIN (AP) — One could say Mary Lou Crimmins has birds on the brain.

The longtime Elgin resident has devoted much of her life to nurturing and protecting the eastern bluebird — a delicate species, which has had a difficult time coping with human encroachment on its habitat.

As farmers tear out trees and clear land for their fields and transition fences from wood to metal and other materials, the bluebird has a more difficult time in finding a place to nest and food to eat, especially during the winter months.

“I feed and give them shelter all winter,” Crimmins told The Lawton Constitution. “They really struggle during that time. They’re an insect, nut and berry eater so they have a real hard time.”

As a mother more than 20 years ago, Crimmins was helping her son, Craig, with his seventh grade science project. She had already had a fascination with birds stemming from her childhood on her family’s farm.

She instilled that same fascination on her children. So mother and son decided to follow the eastern bluebird and record its actions. What they discovered was the species was in serious decline.

“They were becoming endangered because of the loss of their habitat,” she said.

“So Craig did his project over the eastern bluebird and it won at Elgin and then he went onto Cameron (University). He ended up winning a plaque from the ornithological society.”

The dedication to the small birds didn’t end there. She and her husband, Elgin Public Schools Superintendent Tom Crimmins, began building bird houses.

Using old barn wood, the couple started crafting specially designed homes to be placed around their country home. Each house has to be built a certain way to not allow larger birds inside and so it can be opened to monitor the babies. They have to be placed on a pole of certain length and monitored regularly.

“Because they’re built on poles, they’re easily susceptible to snakes crawling in and yellow jackets can get into them,” she said. “The house sparrow will move in and tear out the bluebird nest and make itself at home. The bluebird is not combative, so it won’t do anything. You have to watch out for it.”

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