Letter to the editor: A tribute to Dick Edmunds


Eastern Bluebirds of Sumter and the surrounding area, as well as lovers of bluebirds, have lost a great friend with the recent passing of Dick Edmunds (1940-2021). According to the South Carolina Bluebird Society (SCBS), between the 1920s and the 1970s, our South Carolina bluebird population had declined by an estimated 90%. Few were seen around Sumter when Dick entered his retirement years. In his determination to do his part to bring back our beautiful bluebirds, he started building bluebird boxes. Over the past 30-plus years, Dick made and gave away hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bluebird houses to anyone who would agree to hang them. You may wonder how I know this. He gifted some of his bluebird houses to me to hang at my farm.

Dick was quick to tell folks that our Eastern Bluebirds had been robbed of their natural nesting sites. Bluebirds are cavity-nesting birds, which means they prefer to build nests in a tree or fence cavity. Unlike the woodpecker, the bluebird's beak is not suited for excavating. It depends on natural cavities, or ones made by other birds. In years gone by, South Carolina farmers typically fenced their pastures using pine or cedar split rail wood. Wooden, fence post and rail cavities were the perfect size and height for bluebird nests. With the growth of commercial and residential land development, as well as the introduction of alternative options for farmland fencing, many of the bluebirds' natural nesting places disappeared or were destroyed.

Over the past 30-plus years, the many birdhouses that Dick built and gave away have made a huge impact on our bluebird population. Because of the excellent quality of wood and workmanship, most of Dick's bluebird boxes are still in use today. A high percentage of today's Eastern Bluebirds in North America today nest in birdhouses much like the ones Dick made.

As early as the end of January and as late as June, the male bluebird locates a nesting site and establishes territory around it. He sings to attract a female and warns other males to stay away. Nest building begins in April, and by early May, egg laying is under way. A bluebird will typically lay four-six eggs and produces three broods during the breeding season.

It is highly probable that Dick's birdhouses have been the birthplace for more than 200,000 Eastern Bluebird fledglings since 1990. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that today's North American population of 22 million bluebirds is continuing to increase ... thanks to folks like Dick Edmunds.