Bluebirds live throughout the U.S. and typically Eastern Bluebirds are seen east of the Rockies. Western and Mountain Bluebirds are seen west from the Rocky Mountains. The Eastern Bluebird is the state bird of Missouri and lives there year round. Bluebirds begin their courtships beginning in February in the areas of the United States where they live year round. So now is the time to get your Bluebird nesting boxes up and available. Bluebird populations were declining from 1920 – 1970 due to a loss of nesting habitat and completion for nest sites from introduced exotic species, European Starlings and house Sparrows.
The Eastern Bluebird is shaped like a robin slightly smaller and they often travel in small flocks. The male is bright blue with a reddish throat and chest and white belly. The female has similar yet muted color pattern. Juveniles are spotted with blue highlights. Listen for their gentle whistles and chatters. They primarily feed on insects and small fruits like berries, especially in winter. Look for them in farmlands, parks, open country, roadsides, urban areas, with some trees and the edges of forests and woodlands.
Once a mated pair decides on a location, the female builds the nest in four or five days with minimal help from the male. The female incubates as the male does not have a brood patch. The brood patch is a patch of featherless skin on the belly that is used to warm the eggs. The male will occasionally “sleep over” in the nest box with the females. The key to attracting bluebirds to nest is having plenty of nesting locations along with food and water. If your yard is heavily wooded you may not be able to get Bluebirds to nest because they tend to prefer open areas mixed with trees. Since they naturally use tree cavities, a tree trunk is an ideal mounting place for a Bluebird house. We also have pole systems at www.GardenAccentHeaven.com for mounting bird houses. Place the bird house four to eight feet high near open areas and preferable with the pole facing south or east for sun exposure. Offer perching spots near the Bluebird house where they can scan the landscape for food items.
- · Brass hinged doors on both sides for easy cleaning. One side has plexiglas to monitor the nest without the danger of chicks falling out, great for the kids.
- · Predator protector of solid copper to keep squirrels and woodpeckers from enlarging the hole.
- · Elevated mesh floor to protect nestling from Blowflies.
- · Zinc chromate plated screws provide a sturdy, longer –lasting house then on built with nails.
- · Made of natural cedar to last for years and resist insect damage.
The ideal floor size for the box is 4” X 4” with a 1 ½” hole. If you have problems with predators or woodpeckers trying to enlarge the hole size, attach a Songbird Essentials SE617Metal Bluebird Portal Protector around the hole. Many other house options are also available.
- Copper Roof – looks good and lasts longer
- Recycled Composite Plastic – longest lasting option.
- Screen Top Model – Houses Sparrows do not like it.
The female lays four to five light blue eggs that hatch in 13-15 days. The male catches insects to feed the nestlings a high protein diet for their rapidly developing bones and muscles. The young will fledge in 15-20 days, so avoid the temptation to spot on the nest two weeks after hatching so the nestling don’t panic and fledge before they are ready. For two weeks after fledging the parents continue to feed the young while they learn to fend for themselves. Bluebirds will often re-nest and attempt to raise a second brood. These family units often stick together until the following spring.
Nest boxes are easy to maintain because they really only need to be cleaned twice a year. Clean in October after the breeding season because birds may use the box as a winter roost to get out of the wind and weather. Clean again in January to get ready for nesting.
If another species is persistent in using the nest box, like a Tree Swallow, you can put up another Bluebird house right next to it. Swallows will not tolerate another swallow nesting nearby, but they will get along with Bluebirds establishing a neighboring nest. House Sparrows also like the Bluebird boxes. With the Songbird Essentials sparrow trap you can catch and relocate those pesky Sparrows.
Food and Water
The best way to attract and keep Bluebirds in the yard area is to offer food and water. Their preferred food item is high protein mealworms, and we have juicy ones that they absolutely love. If the live worms give you the heebie-jeebies, try the freeze-dried option. Bluebird Nuggets are another good option, which are chunks of suet and berries. Try planting berry bushes like American Bittersweet this spring to provide natural food for next winter.
Simple plates and trays will do for feeding, but non target species may rob the goodies before the Bluebirds get there. A more efficient approach to doling out your mealworm supply is a Bluebird Mealworm Feeder. These feeders have an entrance hole that birds must go thought to get the mealworms. Most birds are unwilling to enter enclosed spaces, but Bluebirds don’t mind so they end up being the primary mealworm beneficiaries. These feeders can be hung or pole mounted and also come in a very sturdy model made from recycled composite plastic. The Nova Mealworm Warmer keeps mealworms alive and wiggling, it plugs in like a Mealworm crock pot! Try presenting the Mealworms in a variety of ways and locations to see what they like and to help the birds discover them.
Bluebirds often visit bird baths for drinking and bathing , especially heated units in the wintertime. Be sure to offer a perching spot near the bath where they can preen and dry off. Add a Water Wiggler, dripper or bubbler to the water to get their attention with the sound and movement of water. Moving water also means mosquitoes cannot breed!