The key to attracting Bluebirds to nest in your yard is having plenty of potential nesting locations, food, and water. Bluebirds prefer more “open area” so if your yard is heavily wooded you’ll enjoy many other nesting birds, but probably not Bluebirds.
In the U.S. there are three different types of Bluebirds. The Eastern Bluebird that occurs East of the Rockies is by far the most numerous. Across the Western one-third of the U.S.A. you will also find Mountain Bluebirds and Western Bluebirds.
All Bluebirds are cavity nesters. Once common in rural and suburban areas, Bluebird populations declined by as much as 90% from 1920-1970. The decline was due to two things: The loss of nesting habitats, such as tree holes, rotted out fence posts and old orchards; and the introduction of the starling and house sparrow in the last half of the 1800’s.
These two species, introduced from Europe, competed heavily with the Bluebirds for existing nesting cavities. Utilization of a sparrow trap is often critical to Bluebird breeding success.
The Song of the Eastern Bluebird
The Eastern Bluebird’s most common call is a soft, low-pitched tu-a-wee. The call lasts a little less than a second, with males’ calls typically slightly longer than females’. Bluebirds use this song in all seasons as a way of keeping in touch with each other or to signal nestlings that adults are bringing food.
|Eastern Bluebird’s tu-a-wee song||
When bluebirds get too close to each other, they let each other know with a single, harsh screech. Females make a very soft, low chip when a courting male approaches. Birds nervous at the approach of a ground predator make a loud, continual chit-chit-chit.
Feeding Eastern Bluebirds
A Bluebird’s primary diet is insects and fruit. Planting native plants like American Bittersweet is a great way to attract and help Bluebirds. Another super way to attract and help Bluebirds is by feeding mealworms. At 50.4% protein, they are an excellent nutrition source.
You can start feeding mealworms in a cup or pan – but because many birds like them and will eat you out of house and home, most people graduate to a Bluebird mealworm feeder.
In a Bluebird mealworm feeder, the bird has to go through an entrance hole to find the worms and few birds besides the Bluebird will do so. You might spend weeks trying different presentations of worms before Bluebirds learn to dine regularly, but the results are worth it, as Bluebirds are delightfully trainable – even to the point of responding to whistles and other calls when your feeder is refilled.
One important thing to remember when providing housing for Bluebirds – you need to provide larger floor space and entrance holes in diameter for Western and Mountain Bluebirds. A 4” by 4” floor is adequate for Eastern Bluebirds, but a 5” by 5” floor is recommended for Mountain and Western Bluebirds. The entrance hole should be 1 ½” in diameter for Eastern Bluebirds, and 1 9/16” for Mountain and Western Bluebirds.
Our favorite nesting box is the Ultimate Bluebird Nest Box.
This bluebird nesting box features:
Bluebird Family Facts
Female Bluebirds will lay four to five light blue eggs that will take thirteen to fifteen days to hatch.
The male brings food to his mate and the young during the critical first few days of feeding. They act like tiny hawks, in their slumped hunting position, waiting patiently for an insect or beetle to show itself. It then pounces on it and brings the food back to the nest.
Providing a T-shaped perching cross ten to twenty yards in front of the next box can sometimes help attract Bluebirds.
Bluebird young will fledge in fifteen to twenty days. Even though the parents will keep feeding them, the fledglings can find their own food in about two weeks.
Some of the newly independent youngsters from the first brood are often seen bringing food to their new siblings. This often continues into the fall and at times they stay together until the following spring.