Steve Barlow discusses Nesting Post and his vision for cavity nesting birds in North America.
The story of Nesting Post and how it all began
“The initial inspiration came as I was observing a nesting bluebird pair in the field,” he said. “Since they were using a hollow tree to nest as you would assume, I questioned why are most of our human-made bird houses were square and all made with dimensional flat lumber? So I toyed with the notion of using plastic pipe.”
Soon after in 1999, Steve Barlow, creator of Nesting Post, had about a dozen prototypes up and running in the field.
“The birds readily took to the plastic round pipe houses, and they were more durable in the long term than the wooden houses.” he says.
Steve became interested in wildlife ecology at the age of 9 growing up in the Florida outdoors, winning state FFA awards in high school in wildlife management and outdoor recreation. He began volunteering for both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the age of 15. After he graduated high school, he served five years in the U.S. Army and then attended college with the GI Bill.
He received his bachelor of science in biology and chemistry with honors from Pittsburg State University then went on to receive his master of science from the University of Florida in Environmental Sciences and Wildlife Ecology. He has worked as a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and as a Director of Development and Energy Partnerships with the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Steve lives in Trenton, a small town in North Central Florida, and is an avid outdoorsman with his two kids, 16-year-old Seth and 11-year-old Sophia. He founded Wildlife Integration, LLC in 2006, which now has the potential to explode into big business with millions of pipeline nest boxes.
“I think this is a great opportunity for a petroleum pipeline company to really make a difference for cavity nesting birds,” he says. “It has the potential as well to tell a great story and get folks involved at the local level.”
One of the most effective examples of this piecemeal birdhouse effort was the boosting of the eastern bluebird population after it had hit an all-time low in the 1970s. Awareness around the eastern bluebird began to rise, so many individuals began to implement nesting boxes, which were a safe space and the type of environment which the eastern bluebird actively seeks. Due to the placement of nest boxes and other factors, the population of the eastern bluebird began to increase.
Dedicated nesting boxes and other factors certainly helped change the trajectory of the eastern bluebird population, but Steve is dreaming much bigger.
“My hope is this project can offer a significance that is as comparable or better than the results that came from the nest boxes for the eastern bluebird,” he says. “Most existing right-of-way markers can be easily retrofitted to accommodate a nesting cavity, and the potential impact this application could have on cavity nesting birds is almost beyond calculation.
Beyond helping cavity nesting birds, this application could inspire countless others to appreciate nature while observing nesting birds in their community. Consider for a moment each artificial nest cavity producing, at a minimum, three fledglings a year -- now multiply that by the number of right-of-way markers in North America!”
North America is criss-crossed with a variety of utility right of ways, pipelines alone cross 2.5 million miles!
What about traditional bird houses?
While the standard and traditional birdhouses provide nesting shelter for many birds - they fall prey to squirrels, chewing mammals, and woodpeckers, who easily “blow out” traditional wooden nest boxes. The weather also affects the integrity and lifespan, and ultimately, they become damaged and need to be replaced.
We found our designs not only to be readily accepted by a wide range of cavity nesting bird species but to also be virtually indestructible and maintenance free.
Our prototypes have all been in the field fledging birds every year- for 20 years!
"Blown out" traditional bird houses (above) First Nesting Prototype, 20 years after (right)