There are so many factors to consider when you’re looking for a new home–a safe neighborhood, easy access to shopping, and not too close to the neighbors. Bluebird house hunters are looking for the same qualities in their new homes, too.
It’s tempting to mount a bluebird house on a tree. Birds nest in trees, so what could be more natural, right? Wrong! That’s just what raccoons, squirrels, cats, and other predators want you to think. Install that new house on a pole or a sturdy 4×4 post. Even if there is a predator guard on the house, consider adding a baffle right under the box for added protection. Ideally, the house would have the opening facing east, looking out onto an open area, and facing away from prevailing winds. If you don’t have a location that meets all these criteria, facing the house so the rain doesn’t blow in is the most important thing. Mama Bluebird won’t want her babies to get cold and wet.
Mount the house between 4 and 6 feet high to make it harder for predators to get in, but at eye level for you to see in and check on the birds’ progress. If you have multiple houses, place them 100-300 feet apart. Bluebirds are territorial, and don’t like to have their neighbors too close by. Site the house in an open area, as far as you can from brushy or wooded areas to make the neighborhood less desirable to House Sparrows.
Bird baths and feeders shouldn’t be closer than 20 feet from bluebird houses, and if possible not in a direct line from the opening. The bluebird parents will enjoy the convenience of the food and water, but they won’t appreciate it too close by — the activity around a busy feeder will disturb them while they’re nesting. Keeping the grass fairly short in the area near the bluebird house will make it easier for the bluebirds to hunt for tasty and nutritious insects.
There are plenty of great resources that provide much more detail on where, when, and how to install bluebird nest boxes. In fact, the amount of information can be downright overwhelming. Don’t worry too much about the details — just get that nest box up! Remember, the only nest box the birds can’t use is the one on the shelf in the garage.