Attract and enjoy Bluebirds!

February 24, 2010

Bluebirds are one of the most beautiful and desired of backyard birds. They can be found all across the country–and their names correspond to the region in which they are found; Eastern, Mountain and Western.  Each differ somewhat in appearance and song, but they are all equally breathtaking and also prefer similar habitats.  Because they are insect eaters, mainly feeding on ground dwelling insects, they prefer open areas such as parks, orchards, pastures and cemetaries where it is easier to spot their prey.

Although bluebirds are now making a comeback, there was a time when their numbers had seriously declined. The Eastern bluebird nearly became extinct. Now this bird is no longer on the endangered birds list thanks to conservationists and organizations dedicated to preserving this bird.

What can you do to attract bluebirds and also participate in their conservation?  Putting up nesting boxes is the first step in attracting these beautiful birds.  The house should be mounted anywhere from 5 to 15 feet from the ground, preferably on a pole, with the opening facing away from prevailing winds.  A canister type pole baffle to deter predators from below is strongly recommended.  Ideally the house should be situated at the edge of a meadow or field or other open terrain.

Entrance holes should be 1 1/2″ for Eastern bluebirds and 1 9/16″ for Mountain and Western bluebirds. This size opening discourages starlings from entering or building nests. Good ventilation and drainage are important, and some houses have a raised wire platform inside to prevent parasites, particularly the blowfly, from infesting the young.

If you choose to put up more than one house, make sure they are at least 300 feet apart.  Monitor the box on a regular basis. Watch for house sparrows that readily take up residence before the bluebirds do, and remove their nests as they are built.

Most bluebird houses are equipped with some means to open the box without disturbing the nestlings. Check frequently for signs of parasites or predator activity.  Contrary to belief, checking on the nest will not cause the parent birds to abandon it. For more information on housing and many other topics concerning bluebirds, visit the  website of the North American Bluebird Society (NABS).

Feeding bluebirds is an excellent way to observe young fledglings and their parents and also eases their stress of continuously searching for food. Bluebirds love mealworms, either live or roasted.  Offer them in a platform feeder or one designed especially for mealworms.  Bluebird “Nuggets” are also welcomed and contain beef suet, grain, peanuts and raisins. And be sure to add a birdbath or some other source of fresh water.  Bluebirds are especially fond of water and will use a birdbath frequently.

With a properly maintained nest box or two, a morning feeding of mealworms and suet Nuggets offered during the day, it’s likely you will treated to the sights and sounds of bluebirds year after year.

–Roxanne Brune

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The Bluebird Chronicles–Part 1 Duncraft.com Wildbird Blog for Nature Enthusiasts Birdfeeding at its Best
April 13, 2010 at 11:48 am
All About Attracting Bluebirds Duncraft.com Wildbird Blog for Nature Enthusiasts Birdfeeding at its Best
July 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen February 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for this post.
I put up a box last year and hadn’t even seen a Bluebird in my yard.
Within three days I had a pair and they raised a family. I was thrilled!
Both parents were involved with the feeding of the babies, but towards the end they both looked worn out from all the work.
I will use all these tips and hope to see them again this year, and help them along.

Betty February 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

In our area with the extensive snows the bluebirds started trying to feed at our sunflower feeder. I bought hulled sunflowers (hearts) and the bluebirds came and fed daily. Now they’re visiting nestboxes on my property and are preparing to set up housekeeping. Love the bluebirds!

Bob March 4, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Can anyone tell me a sure fire way to keep the sparrows out of my Blue Birds house. im getting tired of evecting them.

Dental Vallejo March 9, 2010 at 1:23 am

Wow, the color of the bird is so nice. Thank you for sharing this.

Donna Edgerley March 13, 2010 at 4:55 am

I am impressed with the dedication readers have for our birds. I have not seen a blue bird in Rhode Island this year. I have four bird feeders , one suet feeder and one windowsill feeder. My next project will be a bluebird house thanks to you. I will let you know when I see a blue bird. Thanks again.

Lynn Millen March 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

My husband and son have given me three bluebird houses. We see the blue birds “checking them out” both in Spring and Fall. I have made sure they are empty (I have noticed the sparrows building nests) but so far, two years, none of the birds have ended up taking residence. Also, these houses are not near any of the other bird feeding stations. Thank you for your help, Lynn

SuzieQ March 25, 2010 at 10:42 am

Been feeding the dried mealworms every day and they now come to my deck when they hear me whistle for them. I have two bluebird houses that I built and both are occupied. The dish on my deck is only about 6 feet from where I sit and they now eat while I sit and watch them. They are so beautiful..

Sue March 25, 2010 at 11:59 am

I, too, am having trouble keeping those darn sparrows out of the blue bird boxes. And the blue birds seem so timid. They don’t even fight for their real estate! Any suggestions.

Gabriel March 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I’ve been observing bluebirds in my yard for quite a while. I provide nesting boxes for them. I found that bluebirds are attracted to mirrors.
I park my F250 near their garden, and the outside rear view mirrors really draw them in. It’s not long before my mirrors are all dribbled with
bluebird poop. What’s up with bluebirds and mirrors!!??

Gibb Cornwell March 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Hello..

I have had bluebirds for the past 6-7 years. My birdhouse is about 15 ft behind a post and rail fence on an 8 ft pole in an open field. Last year a black bear tore down the box, opened it and ate the eggs. Plenty of trees around. Suggestions?

Gibb Cornwell
Lyme, NH

MP Brittain March 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

We get Bluebirds every year looking at out houses but with out the inside cup they spend their time going in and out and not building. We are having trouble finding the cups which are made out of the same kind of cardboard/paper material that come with eggs in some stores. With the economy bad our wild bird stores have gone out of business and we were hoping you sold those. They are reuseable sometimes but inexpensive if you have to replace them…when you can find them. Does anyone know where you can get them?

andrea March 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I have been feeding the bluebirds for about a year. I have about 8 of them that come around to feed. But they don’t seem to be interested in my bluebird house!! It is empty, facing the right way, etc, not sure why they don’t want to use it. When I first put it up, chicadees were using it but I cleaned out the nest last year and no one had come near since. Any ideas on how to get them interested?

Nancy March 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Gabriel asked what was up with Bluebirds and mirrors…

Well, they are looking at how beautiful they are, of course! :)

(Sorry, someone had to say it)
I’ve never seen a bluebird. I hope to this year!

Lee March 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm

If Bob can fined out how to keep sparrows out of bluebird house’s . Please tell me I have 27 Bluebird house’s and all but one have sparrows in them . I makes me tired trying to keep them out of my bluebird house’s..thank you Lee

terry March 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but – the Eglish sparrow is a predator bird that will weck havoc on bluebirds, killing the babies and even the mother as she sits on her eggs. It happened to me last year. The most passive action you can take is to install a “sparrow spooker” on top of the house after the bluebirds have laid an egg. This scares off the sparrow and not the bluebirds. Also monitor daily! Sorry!

Diane March 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I had two bluebird houses mounted on poles near my fence around the pool and both houses were used for two years running. I watched the babies fledge from the nest. The third year, a swallow used one of the houses and they left the bluebirds alone so I had swallows and bluebirds. The third year, things went downhill and the wrens (those tiny little wrens) wreaked havoc on the bluebird babies I tried one more year and the same happened, so I took my houses down. Now, I just feed them mealy worms and watch them on my deck. The mockingbird competes for the worms. Bluebirds are so timid.

Laurie Bartlett March 25, 2010 at 6:10 pm

There is a website called Bluebird Nut Cafe that has tons of information on bluebirds, sparrow and wren proofing houses, preferred houses, feeding etc. I recommend that website for additional information as well as a site called sialis.com.

Laurie Bartlett March 25, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Also, I have one BB house in my small yard. This is the third year it’s been occupied. I sometimes think they prefer a fairly weathered house, not painted. I have seen the bluebird male battle other birds, attacks from above and knocked one housesparrow flat to the ground. Don’t believe they’re timid. But they are very vulnerable inside the house. I use a device called a “sparrow spooker” or put up some fishing line. Go to the websites I mentioned above.

bernie bloing March 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Where Shoud Blue Bird Feeders be put, in open or away from other birds.

Gene Clifford March 25, 2010 at 9:34 pm

To catch and dispatch sparrows permenently, take a plastic water bottle and cut both ends off leaving a clear sleve about 6 to 8 inches long. Then with scotch tape attach the clear or blue plastic sleve from your morning newspaper to one end. Put the open end up to the entry hole when monitoring your boxes. Tap repeatedly on the side of the box. The sparrow will fly into the plastic sleve, to be then dispatched of.
Sometimes you’ll catch a sitting female bluebird, but that will be seldom, and if you do then you can easily release her.If you catch a male sparrow then you’ll not have as many sparrow invaders because the male sparrows attract the females to his selected nestsite.

Peggy Swift March 26, 2010 at 5:45 am

The web site mentioned by Laurie Bartlett is excellent! except that it should be sialis.org (not .com). I have several nesting boxes without luck getting bluebirds to use them. However, my neighbor has a pair nesting on top of an electrical box (for an outdoor spotlight) inside his carport. They come back every year and we both enjoy them immensely.

Jenn March 27, 2010 at 5:21 am

Just wondering if anyone has ever seen a bluebird in Southern Arizona. I miss seeing them as I grew up in Michigan. I finally have yellow finches ,but the cardinals leave in spring as too hot. any suggestions for me in the desert would be greatly appreciated.Just new to bird feeding, and am enjoying very much. Thank you Jenn in Tucson

Billy L March 27, 2010 at 6:39 am

I have two houses for bluebirds, both were checked out but no takers, I set up a feeder station with mealworms and insect suet bricks I hope they come back. Feel free to check some picture I took

liz March 27, 2010 at 7:32 am

For Bob–I have found that a 1 1/4″ hole with a surround will keep out the sparrows and the bluebirds still use it. Good luck!

liz March 27, 2010 at 7:41 am

For Billy L–I read an article recently that suggested installing a really nasty looking house (milk carton or paper bag with hole–crooked, ragged, etc) next to your good house. The males allow the females to pick the nest they like, and this helped them to pick the good box. Haven’t tried it, but article said it worked

Larry Isley March 27, 2010 at 8:04 am

I have my 1st BB house up and have seen a pair of BB’s checking it out but thus far no takers as far as taking up resident here. I have also two BB feeder’s approx. 60 ft away at our house, have put dried mealworms out and they were eaten same day but I haven’t observed any BB’s but something is eating them.

Would it be okay to place BB feeding tray at the nesting box or not? I have two of the feeding trays mounted on the BB feeder poles where the mealworms do get eaten right away, I think I read that its maybe not good to place the feeders near the nesting boxes though.

Any idea’s about how to attract BB’s are welcome.

Thanks

Lois March 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

Love bluebirds but have not seen any at my nesting box. I wondered if I need to put out worms for them. The box has been empty for over a year.

Laurie Bartlett March 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

I’ve had bluebirds for the past 3 years, but I only tried mealworms once, my bluebirds love sunflower chips from the regular platform feeder. If they’re checking out the box, they might still move in. They have 2-4 broods/year depending on your state. I would just check on the positioning, they supposedly prefer east or northeast facing entrances but mine faces south to keep it out of the prevailing wind so rain doesn’t blow in. It shouldn’t be too close to the people house. Mine wasn’t used until it aged a little. I made the mistake of mounting my first house on a tree, it wasn’t used the first year, then it was used by nuthatches. After that it became prime property but the squirrels took it over. Putting food too near or on the house is not recommended. It will attract other birds that might compete for the space or actually kill the bluebirds or destroy the eggs.As I said above, check out the Sialis website or Bluebird Nut, they have all the basics of birding, tons of information.

MP Brittain March 27, 2010 at 9:45 am

I found a store selling the cup inserts for Bluebird houses and hopefully we will get them back again. Also for those interested they make a plastic predator guard that sticks about 2 to 3 inches and has a little plastic type ladder leading up to the hole. We started using them 5 or so years ago and watched the birds use them. It only took a couple of minutes for them to go through. We don’t have a sparrow problem but we do have Bluejays that have killed our baby birds. We have them on all of our houses now just need to install the cups and we can get our Bluebirds back. We let whomever gets the box first use it but only the Chickdees use the Bluebird houses our Wren houses are used bh house wrens which we love.

Carol March 27, 2010 at 11:01 am

I have a bluebird house mounted on a pole. It is situated about 25 feet from the house. About four feet from the BB house I have a shepards hook with a feeder cup attached. In the feeder I have meal worms and raisins that have been plumped (bring to a boil, then cool). When the eggs hatch, I cut the raisins in half or make smaller pieces for the hatchlings. I also put out a bb feeder mounted three feet or so off the ground. It looks like a bird houle with holes on both sides for entering. Clear plastic sides allows for viewing. I remove one of the plastic panels and let them enter that way.

Lennae March 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

I have blue bird houses up all over my 10 acres. The problem is the house sparrows take them all. Blue birds seem so late and lazy about selecting a nesting box. I now have a slotted blue bird house up, which is supposed to deter sparrows. The blue birds sit on the room, sing and then fly off. It is no wonder they almost became extinct in the past. I have cleaned out sparrow nests time after time, but the problem becomes if blue birds finally do build a nest and have young ones, the sparrows come in and kill them and take the box back again. I have given up and let the house sparrows have the boxes. I feel I am only “setting up” the blue birds to be murdered by constantly cleaning out the boxes until they “decide” to nest in one. At least the sparrows cannot get into the “sparrow-proof” slotted box I have. If the blue birds ever show an interest in this one, then I will put up only the slotted boxes and let the sparrows have their own. Unlike some people, I cannot deliberately kill any bird, even a sparrow. They are only acting via the instinct they are born with. In the winter they actually roost with other little birds. The sparrows also live in the next boxes all winter which keeps them protected and then have it claimed for the spring/summer season. I actually enjoy watching these industrious little birds. No wonder there are millions of them in the U.S. They do not hesitate to get busy building and choosing a home.

April L. March 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

Bob and all others looking for methods to deter HOSP- When i first started blue birding, I had the worst time trying to keep the HOSP out of the boxes. I tried so many methods.. I got the ground traps but I waited too long to purchase the traps and get them outside. The ground traps are a awesome year round control method but not all that effective prior to breeding season. I finally found the answer .. Van Ert inbox traps. This man is a Godsent to fellow bluebirders and to the blue birds themselves. I actually had the pleasure of talking with him a few times prior to and after purchasing my traps from him. He’s full of knowledge and truly loves bluebirds. His traps are very inexpensive. He constructs them himself. He’s just in it for the preservation of this beautiful species. This is his website: http://www.vanerttraps.com/ .. Check him out .. After you rid your box of the hosp, you still must use methods to deter them. I try to keep an eye on the boxes and AS SOON as the female lays her first egg, install your sparrow spooker on the box. The Bluebirds will be too attached to the box at that point and the hosp will stay away. After the brood is fledged immediately take the spooker down. If not, the hosp may get used to and not fear it. Then just repeat it for the next round! I was so lucky to get 1 pair to fledge 3 broods out of one of my nest boxes… I’m fiercely protective over them otherwise I would not have the pleasure of watching them:-)

John Shanton March 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Bluebirds love “Bark Butter” too. I put it out all winter and they take whatever they can get. The peanut oil gives them plenty of energy.

Alma Boyle March 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

We had a pair of Bluebirds this week for a couple of days. The first day
Sparrows tried to scare off the Bluebirds and won, but a day later the
Bluebirds came back & no Sparrows in sight. The Bluebirds looked as
though they would stay, going in and out of the house. Now a day later
no more Bluebirds. Why, we just were so hopeful! There must be a way
to stop the Sparrows, please tell us. Thanks.

Jan March 27, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Here is a method I have used for years to discourage sparrows. I have 2 regulation bluebird houses about 30 feet apart. I keep one clean for the bluebirds and allow the sparrows to nest in the other one. After the female sparrow finishes (this is important) laying her clutch, I remove the sparrow nest and eggs. Both male and female sparrows desert, and the bluebirds seem to know a threat has been eliminated and usually nest successfully after that. And, for some reason, I don’t see many, if any, sparows in my yard after that. It is illogical that the sparrows spread the word about my yard, but that’s what it looks like!

Rebecca March 28, 2010 at 12:36 am

Ah, to see, hear,feed, house, provide water for them is such an honor for us! I’ve had the honor of being a host to them last year with them raising 2 broods, a total of eight fledgings. All a sucess…..I fed all 10 of the familly all winter into the spring of this year. They have checked out the same house they used last year but as of this time have not attemped to nest. I am still feeding them mealworms and barkbutter. I am still hopeful and praying they will choose my home to make thier home. If I could only asssure them that they would be completely safe with us lol!

Laurie Bartlett March 28, 2010 at 9:21 am

Lennae, I would not encourage the sparrows to stay on your property by providing shelter in the form of bluebird boxes. You are compounding the problem. I, too, will not kill any bird, however, if I could I would put pinholes in the existing eggs. the birds won’t know any difference but the eggs will not hatch. Housesparrows are an invasive species and should not be encouraged. Bluebirds are not lazy, they start looking for nest sites in January. If there is too much competition in the form of hundreds of HOSP, of course they’ll look elsewhere for safety. You chose to live on ten acres, why would you think a bluebird would prefer the equivalent of an inner city condo?

rose March 28, 2010 at 10:18 am

Please tell me ,How does one set up the wire in the bluebird house so those flys do not harm the baby bluebirds. Can you show a picture of the inside of the blue bird house? thank you

cuzzx March 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm

The other day I was in the yard checking out some small trees I planted.
There was 2 wrens checking out a BlueBird house, thought to myself.
O-no.
Then a male BB swooped down attacking the wrens and running them off.

Brenda March 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm

For the very best Bluebird advice I would contact your local Bluebird recovery program like ours in Minnesota there you will be able to see what the nest should look like you long for incubation and to monitor the fledgelings. They will give advice on Sparrows and trapping ( you can trap the Sparrows but it takes time and patience to catch them), as for Wrens you need to get rid of all wren houses since the Wrens will destroy other birds nest and kill the eggs. For everything you need for Bluebird success go to http://www.bbrp.org Have fledged 28 in 2 years!!:)

April L. March 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Great website Brenda.. It has a lot of great advice for everyone on this forum! Thank you! another one I love is the http://www.sialis.org/ which was mentioned earlier..and Laurie Bartlett:- Thank you for your post. I couldn’t have said it better. Allowing HOSP to occupy boxes makes it SO MUCH more difficult for us trying to preserve the BB species. (and all other native cavity nesting species as well!) … Although, I’ve had to use more active methods of controlling thhe HOSP.. Either way.. the worse thing for one to do is to give up and just let the HOSP run rampid.

cna training March 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Ellen April 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I love attracting & watching the Blue birds every year, the past several years had total about 2 nests per season with, 4 eggs each & all hatched.
I was lucky enough to have them even land on my hand, & have pictures.

Patti Smith May 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

I have a bluebird nesting in her box, the male will come and sing loud @ once a day and puff up. I feed them the mealworms and notice they are taking mouthfulls @ 6 or so and flying away with them, are they trying to keep other birds away? Are they feeding elsewhere? Should I stop feeding them? love to hear answers to this or if anyone else has noticed this happening to them?
They are so enjoyable and a gorgeous blue!!

Danny May 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I enjoy gardening and birding. I have always landscaped my yard for the birds and gardening. I have raised Bluebirds nearly twenty years and they are one of my most favorite birds. Upon returning home after hurricane Katrina…I was surprised to see the resident bluebirds waiting on my patio and the pair of Cardinals sitting nearby in a down Pear tree. It was funny to see them react as if Daddy returned home and I guess they were just trying to tell me about their horrible experience. Fortunately, the weather here on the gulf coast is warm and filled with a host of local birds and migrates passing through the area.

Diane May 19, 2010 at 6:43 am

House Sparrows and Starlings are not protected by law in the US and are not native. House Sparrows take over native birds nesting areas and will kill baby Blue Birds or make a nest on top of the babies. Pull their nests out of Blue Bird nesting boxes, repeatedly as needed and remove nests located on your house, garage, outbuildings, etc. Both of these non native species are nasty, dirty and aggressive birds. I have watched the Starlings take over the suet feeder and attack Woodpeckers and Nuthatches.

sandy April 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

According to Birds and Blooms, drill a 2 inch hole in the top of the box. Sparrows do not like the sun light coming into the box.

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