Attracting bluebirds to your yard!

The question I am asked most frequently is how do I attract bluebirds to my yard?  The answer is simple — create a “bluebird friendly” environment.  However, the effort required to create and maintain the environment is not trivial. 

The first step in creating a “bluebird friendly” environment in your yard is to provide safe comfortable housing located in a suitable spot. 

Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters.  They do not excavate their own cavities.  Primary cavity nesters, including many woodpeckers, excavate their  own nesting chambers.   The number of naturally occurring nesting sites suitable for bluebirds is dwindling each year at an alarming rate due to urban expansion.  Bluebirds look for existing cavities with suitable dimensions. 

Click on the links below to view the specifications for safe comfortable bluebird nest boxes.

Bluebird nest box specifications

Mounting bluebird nest boxes

Gilbertson #1 150 pixels

Eastern Bluebirds nesting in a modified Gilbertson nest box

Safe comfortable bluebird nest boxes can be purchased from a number of sources including wild song bird retail stores, home supply centers, and hardware stores.  Nest boxes can also be ordered through the Internet.  DIYers can obtain plans for a standard wood nest box and a modified Gilbertson nest box by sending Email to Bluebird Shepherd.

If you are a teacher and want to integrate the bluebird nesting cycle into your curriculum, take a look at the off-the-shelf color nest camera unit sold by Shaw Creek Bird Supply.

Shaw Creek Wireless Color Nest Camera

If you are a DIYer, take a look at the Internet-enabled wireless color nest camera unit built by  Send an Email to Bluebird Shepherd to obtain the plan for the unit. Internet-enabled Wireless Color Nest Camera

The second step in creating a “bluebird friendly” environment in your yard is to provide food acceptable to bluebirds and plenty of fresh water.  Many bird lovers believe that bluebirds don’t eat seed.  That notion is incorrect!  Bluebirds have relatively weak beaks and cannot crack sunflower, peanuts,  and other similar seeds.  They can and do eat types of seeds that have been reduced to the point that cracking is not required.  Safflower, cracked sunflower hearts, peanut suet nuggets, suet cakes, mealworms, etc. are perfectly acceptable to bluebirds.

Bluebird Breakfast

Bluebirds eating cracked sunflower hearts

Bluebirds love mealworms especially when they are feeding their young.  Mealworms can be purchased from most wild song bird supply stores or through the Internet.  I recommend putting up a bluebird feeder if you plan to feed mealworms to prevent other bird species from “free loading.”  The typical bluebird feeder is enclosed and has 1 1/2” diameter entrance holes on either end.  The sides are made of Plexiglas to allow observation.

Bluebird Feeder 1- 00001

Typical Eastern Bluebird feeder

The third step in creating a “bluebird friendly” environment in your yard is to provide for the SAFETY of the birds.  Mount your bluebird nest boxes properly and use predator guards on the poles.   Avoid locating nest boxes in places where predators can drop down on them from above.

Make sure the area around your nest boxes,  bird feeders, and bird baths is clear of undergrowth that provides cover for predators. 

Cats, domestic and feral, are considered the most dangerous threat to the wild song birds in your yard.   Most cities and towns have Animal Control Officers who enforce ordinances commonly known as “leash laws.”   If you notice a cat or cats hunting in your yard and you can identify the animals, I recommend contacting the owners and asking them to comply with the applicable ordinances.  If you cannot identify the cats or the owners do not heed your request, I recommend contacting an Animal Control Officer and requesting the loan of a cat trap.  I have found the best bait for cats to be canned sardines.

If you do trap a cat, keep the animal comfortable until it can be picked up by an Animal Control Officer.  Use care in handling trapped cats due to the risk of rabies and other infectious diseases.

01-22-2008 00000 

Trapped cat awaiting pickup by an Animal Control Officer

If you have questions regarding Eastern Bluebirds, Email Bluebird Shepherd.

Bluebird Shepherd


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