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Sunday
Oct122014

Tips for Attracting Bluebirds 

Recently a flock of bluebirds came by to check out the bluebird house. They flew around the house, examining it from top to bottom.

It was an old house in need of refurbishment, and I was concerned because squirrels had recently been chewing on the entry so that it was much larger than was desirable. Bluebirds choose nesting sites well ahead of time, so a few days later I repainted the house and added a predator guard that covered up the old hole and created a new entry. A copper portal cover will prevent squirrels from enlarging the hole. It looks like a new birdhouse!The new predator guard on the refurbished bluebird house will prevent opening of the box for cleaning, so I attached it with one screw so that I can easily remove it.

This house has had bluebirds in it since the first year we put it up. I painted it bright turquoise and cobalt blue after reading that bluebirds can see colors very well and are attracted to the color blue. Perhaps that was the key, but there are several important requirements for creating a welcoming habitat for bluebirds. 

Just any old bird house won't do. The house needs to have an entry hole one and one half inches in diameter. Wood is the safest material for the box as this mimics a natural cavity. The house needs to have ventilation and drainage holes. One should purchase a house designed with specific bluebird requirements in mind, or you can get bluebird house plans and build your own. If you paint it, make sure you use non-toxic paint and do not paint the interior of the house. Bluebirds do not clean out old nests but sometimes will build on top of old ones. This can promote disease, so be sure your box has easy access to the nesting cavity so that you can clean it out after the young have fledged.After the babies leave the nest, it is time to clean out the box. Bluebirds often will raise two families in a single season, so clean out after each one.

The house should be mounted on a pole between four and seven feet off the ground. Never put it on a tree trunk, as this will provide a superhighway for squirrels and other predators. Site the house so that it faces away from the prevailing winds and is out of hot midday sun. There should be small trees or shrubs nearby to provide safe places to perch. Conifers and other evergreens will provide protection from predators and shelter during harsh weather. The perfect location is at the edge of a field, where the birds can find plentiful insects. My own property is partially wooded. My bluebird house is at the edge of a clearing under tall trees. It is not perfect, but the bluebirds also have a selection of open lawn and field areas that are a quick flap of the wings away. It seems to be sufficient.

Bluebirds love water. They will enjoy a shallow birdbath year-round. They both drink and bathe in the water, so keep it clean. We have a birdbath located a few feet from the bluebird house. This makes the real estate even more desirable!

Bluebirds mainly eat insects, and it is important to avoid pesticides.Bluebirds also love seeds and berries, especially in winter. If you provide a variety of berry-producing trees and shrubs, you will give the bluebirds a good selection of food choices. Holly trees provide both shelter and food for bluebirds.

More berry producing plants to attract bluebirds. Above left: A Possumhaw tree, Ilex decidua, and winterberries, Ilex verticillata; Top right: Serviceberry or Amelianchier; Middle and lower right: Yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria.

Not so long ago bluebirds were declining, but back yard birders are having a positive impact. If you provide food, shelter and water with these delightful birds in mind, they will discover your garden and soon you will see the flash of a blue wing and hear their lovely song. 

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Reader Comments (17)

Thank you for informations about building a home for birds !
Great pictures of your garden !
Greetings

October 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEla

Bluebirds are so beautiful, and your photos are phenomenal! Everything seems to be right in my garden except a bluebird house. I've never been one to want to clean birdhouses. I've seen a few bluebirds here, but not many. But there are many of them in the area. Thanks for all the great information and the fabulous photos!

October 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Gorgeous bird! It's amazing how you managed to get their nesting conditions so right Debs!

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Your bluebirds must be so happy with all the berries available this time of year in your garden. My berries usually get eaten by robins all in one day. My deciduous holly did not have a good crop of berries this year though, I don't know why.

That birdhouse is a piece of art. Those bluebirds are so lucky to have found your beautiful garden.

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Great tips. We have house sparrows that take over a couple of houses before the bluebirds, but we keep some special ones for them. Our newest bluebird house is coveted by the bluebirds and is mounted on a tree...they love the protection of the tree and the squirrels can't get at the nest.

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

They are so much fun to watch...Worth all the effort. Great job on the bluebird house.

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

Great advice about the birdhouses, and gorgeous pictures of the birds. I noticed that the bluebird house at the Botanical Garden was painted bright blue (and had attracted a nesting pair who fed the babies while we watched!).

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

If we had bluebirds here, I'd follow your instructions to the letter. What a joy to have such beautiful birds nesting in your garden. I love the photos of the baby bird looking out of the box - he looks quite cranky!

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

These are fantastic photos. I wish we had bluebirds here. Much of your advice about food, water, accommodation, pesticides etc is relevant to those of us who do not have bluebirds but who wish to attract and help other birds. What a lovely post!

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Shoesmith

Oh, so lucky! I have not seen a bluebird since my childhood in WI. I would love to attract a bluebird but I have house sparrows and fear they would move in instead. Otherwise I have berries and never, never use pesticides. Who knows maybe one day I will try! So interesting that you painted blue and that the birds are attracted to it!

I forgot to answer your question about milkweeds. Common milkweed has always grown here -- not tons of it, but it grows near the old house site and next to the shelter paddock. Several years ago I added some butterflyweed, purple milkweed, and pink and white milkweed. The only milkweed I've seen Monarch cats on is swamp milkweed 'Ice Ballet'. They love that one.

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I love bluebirds! Your bluebird house is so cute! I did not know that they like the color blue. One of these days I'd love to get a bluebird box. I have a couple other bird houses that I put up this year, but not one for bluebirds. It is so great that they have rebuilt their population and are doing better now, since I know they were once on the edge of extinction.

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Fabulous, a blue box for a bluebird now with a secure entry. Send some of these bluebirds our way, they would be very welcome in our garden.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

those birds are a grateful gift from nature!

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

I love your bluebirds! They are one of the prettiest birds I've seen, as beautiful as a kingfisher which you sometimes see, if you are very lucky, flying over rivers. Most of your clear instructions would apply to other birdhouses so useful even to those of us who will probably never see a bluebird in our lives. Your photographs, as usual, are clear in every detail. You have also spurred me on to build some owl boxes for the owls who seem to live on our roof, I've been meaning to do it for ages but it would be such a lovely thing to do.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Such a beautiful bird, they must be a pleasure in the garden.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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