Bluebirds are a symbol of happiness, springtime, and peace. They are also beneficial to our landscapes. Historically, both Native Americans and colonists used to hang boxes and gourds to attract them to nest nearby to control insect populations.
Problems for bluebirds arose however when populations declined from the 1920s through the 1970s due to loss of habitat, pesticide use, and competition from European bird species. So, in 1978 the North American Bluebird Society was formed, conservation efforts began in earnest and a campaign to provide nesting sites was initiated. Today, bluebird populations are stable, but providing nest boxes through the year remains a great way to attract these harbingers of spring.
If you would like to attract bluebirds to your property, first see if you have an appropriate site. Bluebirds like open meadows, and can often be seen on the edge of woods. Most suburban yards will not make them happy since they require larger expanses than many lots offer and lawns will not provide them with the insects they eat. The good news is that there are many opportunities to attract bluebirds in unexpected places. For instance, open spaces such as naturalized stormwater basins may be excellent places to attract bluebirds, so even residents of townhouse communities or employees on a corporate campus may have the opportunity to attract these beautiful birds.
Nest box specifications
Given a site that is open and with enough plant diversity to support healthy insect populations, bluebirds next need a place to nest. Since bluebirds are cavity nesters, they may use a nest abandoned by other birds such as woodpeckers, or they may use a house built by humans. Bluebird houses can be purchased, but are also easy to make. Whether purchased or built, nest boxes make excellent gifts!
Just remember, different bird species have different housing requirements, so if you are purchasing a nest box, make sure to get one specifically for bluebirds.
If you would like to build your own, the North American Bluebird Society provides instructions to build houses for our Eastern Bluebirds.
Once you have your bluebird nest box, it is important to locate it properly. If possible, place it on a pole instead of a tree or fence post to deter predators such as raccoons, and face it toward an open area but away from prevailing winds. Also, placing it at eye level makes it convenient when checking it or cleaning it. Nest boxes should be cleaned after each brood fledges, and since bluebirds may have two or three broods in a season, you may need to clean it out several times.
And remember, if your site doesn’t suit bluebirds, it may be perfect for other bird species. Managing your site with an abundance of native plants, low or no pesticides, and providing a source of water is sure to attract many types of feathered friends.
Also, check out our previous post “Winter Landscaping for the Birds” to learn what you can do to attract birds of all species.
Have you had success attracting bluebirds to your property? Have you built your own bluebird house? Share with us your success stories on Facebook or Instagram!