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 cemeteries 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 above 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 inches for Eastern bluebirds and 1-9/16 inches 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. Happy Birding!