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How To Attract Bluebirds: Tips on Providing the Right Foods, Plants and Nest Boxes

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

Attracting Bluebirds To Our Garden

Bluebirds were once common throughout their range, but their numbers declined due to the loss of suitable nesting habitat and suffered from competition against introduced species such as house sparrows and starlings. They rely on finding a natural cavity in a tree or moving in to an abandoned woodpecker hole. Fortunately, their populations are rebounding thanks to birders and gardeners who put up nest boxes and plant their yards with the birds in mind.

These beautiful birds prefer rural areas with open spaces, and they are often found around fields and pastures. They are appreciated as much for their plumage as for the beneficial role they play in the environment by eating a variety of pesky insects. And they can be enticed to visit a yard that caters to their basic needs for food and shelter.

Here are a few tips from how we attract bluebirds to our yard.

Many families of bluebirds were raised in this birdhouse

Many families of bluebirds were raised in this birdhouse

Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard For Bluebirds

Bluebirds are seasonal visitors to our garden, arriving in late winter and staying throughout the summer. We strive to provide the four essential requirements for attracting bluebirds and other feathered visitors: food, shelter, water and nesting areas.

The property is bordered by woodlands. We added a variety of planting beds that include a mixture of native and cultivated perennials and shrubs to create areas where the birds can find berries as well as hunt for bugs. Several conifers were added for four-season interest, and their weeping branches offer protected areas for the birds to hide from predators and to escape from the chill of rain and winds.

The white birdhouse is located in a grassy area of our yard. Surrounded by a raspberry patch, the birdhouse has served several generations of bluebirds. Perched on top, the birds have a clear view of the world around them. When an insect is spotted, they swoop down on the unsuspecting bug, often capturing its victim in flight before returning to the nesting box to feed their hungry offspring.

In winter, the bluebirds often return to the birdhouse to seek shelter from the cold weather.

Bluebird feeder filled with freeze-dried mealworms

Bluebird feeder filled with freeze-dried mealworms

Provide the Right Foods

Eastern bluebirds prefer to eat insects during the spring and summer months, and then turn to small fruits and berries in the fall and winter. Our yard includes plantings of trees and shrubs which produce berries in the fall including dogwood trees, blueberry bushes, viburnums, winterberry and grapes. We do not use any pesticides, decreasing the chances of birds eating contaminated insects or feeding poisoned bugs to their young. Watching a bluebird swoop down to take moths and other flying insects on the wing is a spectacular sight.

Bluebirds are very fond of mealworms. They will eagerly approach a tray of mealworms or enter specially designed bluebird feeders to feast on the little bugs. Many other birds also enjoy mealworms and they will quickly empty the feeder when given the opportunity, so I built a bluebird feeder that is inexpensive and easy to make. The 1-1/2" diameter entrance holes let the bluebirds in, but stops larger birds from entering.

Live mealworms can be purchased at pet stores, but tend to be a bit pricey. Freeze-dried mealworms are available in bulk at online retailers, feed and seed supply stores, and specialty birding stores. Buying mealworms in bulk costs significantly less than the live mealworms sold at pet stores.

Bluebirds also enjoy suet, and they are regular visitors to our suet feeder. It's not uncommon to find several birds clamoring around the feeder, taking turns grasping the wire cage while pecking away at the tasty treat.

Our small pond provides a year round source of water for drinking and bathing

Our small pond provides a year round source of water for drinking and bathing

Offer Fresh Water

Bluebirds need to drink often and they love to bathe. In natural areas, the birds travel to ponds and streams for their water needs, and the sound of moving and splashing water will attract bluebirds.

Eastern bluebirds are frequent visitors to our small garden pond and they often splash around in the small stream that leads to the waterfall. During the summer months, they will even fly through the spray of the lawn sprinklers.

A birdbath is another way to add a water source for bluebirds. Replace the water daily during the summer months to discourage disease and to eliminate any mosquito larva. During the colder winter months, check the bird bath daily to keep the water clean and free from ice.

This nest box is specially designed to meet the needs of Eastern Bluebirds

This nest box is specially designed to meet the needs of Eastern Bluebirds

Give Them Shelter

Bluebirds are cavity nesters, but their bills are not designed to excavate trees or fence posts to create their nesting sites. Fortunately, bluebirds will move into birdhouses and nesting boxes built to the proper specifications. I've made several different versions of nest boxes, each with the bluebirds in mind and designed to meet their specific requirements.

Bluebirds seem to prefer nest boxes between 4 to 5 inches square, with an entrance hole about 6 inches above the floor of the birdhouse. An entrance hole of 1-1/2" inches allows eastern bluebirds to enter but prevents the larger starlings from getting in.

Mount the bluebird houses between 5 to 10 feet above the ground, and face the entrance towards open areas and fields. Multiple nest boxes should be placed approximately 150 feet apart. Bluebirds are territorial, and will not tolerate other pairs nesting in their established territory. Putting up multiple nesting boxes forms a bluebird trail and reduces competition between mated pairs. A trail of bluebird houses also offers nesting sites for other backyard inhabitants including wrens, chickadees and even flying squirrels.

Don't get discouraged if bluebirds do not move into your nesting boxes right away. Even if you've seen them in the area, it may take a season or two from them to find the new birdhouses.

Build a Bluebird Birdhouse

A bluebird house is a simple and inexpensive project to build, and it can be made from scraps of wood, salvage lumber or pine, cedar or redwood boards which are commonly available at home centers and lumber yards. An effective nest box can be a simple six-sided box, or add a bit of whimsy to create a useful piece of decorative garden art.

I enjoy making different styles of birdhouses, from basic boxes to more elaborate designs, often adding found objects for a unique look. Each is made with the birds in mind. For step-by-steps on how I built this bluebird birdhouse, please visit How To Build A Bluebird House.

DIY Bluebird House Plans

Bluebird Birdhouse Plans

Bluebird Birdhouse Plans

A Few Bluebird Facts

  • There are three species of bluebirds in North America: the Eastern, the Western and the Mountain bluebirds.
  • Bluebirds eat bugs and berries, but are not attracted to bird feeders filled with birdseed. They will visit suet feeders.
  • Bluebirds like mealworms, and will visit feeders filled with live or freeze-dried mealworms.
  • Eastern bluebirds can have up to three broods per season.
  • Bluebird eggs are pale blue in color.
  • In winter, several bluebirds will often roost together in a bluebird house for warmth.
  • Bluebird populations suffered and declined in the 1960s, but rebounded with the help from concerned birdwatchers. The North American Bluebird Society was formed to encourage and instruct and encourage people to build and hang bluebird houses.

Eastern Bluebirds Range Distribution Map

Eastern Bluebird Range Map

Eastern Bluebird Range Map

Range Map Key:

  • Yellow = Summer range
  • Blue = Winter range
  • Green = Year Round Range

Around the Web: Bluebirds

  • The North American Bluebird Society
    The North American Bluebird Society is a non-profit education, conservation and research organization that promotes the recovery of bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting bird species in North America.
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in le
  • The Audubon Society
    Includes conservation news and education information on birds with links to birding guides, nest box dimensions, watch lists, bird counts, bird profiles and much more!
  • Wild Bird Watching
    The Wild Bird Watching website has lots of information on building birdhouses including a chart below listing the dimensions and entrance hole sizes for some of the more common types of cavity nesting birds.
  • National Wildlife Federation: Certify Your Wildlife Garden
    So far, the NWF has recognized the efforts of nearly 140,000 individuals and organizations who plant native shrubs and plants for food, cover and places for raising their young, provide include a source of drinking water, and add nesting boxes for ca

Bluebirds Welcome!

Peterson Bluebird House

Peterson Bluebird House

Bluebird Poll

The Bird House Video: Attracting Bluebirds

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Anthony Altorenna

Please Share Your Tips for Attracting Bluebirds

RTalloni on January 22, 2018:

Nice to find this info. Hoping to make good use of it.

Anthony Altorenna (author) from Connecticut on January 17, 2018:

Hi Netster,

Thanks for visiting, and for posting your question. I used a 5" wide board from my scrap bin for the ends of the bluebird feeder. You can use a wider board for the end pieces, though you will have to adjust the widths of the other pieces as well. Have fun, and good luck attracting bluebirds!

netster53 on January 07, 2018:

A typical 1"x 6" 8 foot long (or shorter) true thickness is 3/4" and 5 1/2" wide. Do I need to trim it for the Bluebird feeder to be 5"?

Senditondown from US on February 19, 2013:

Great ideas for building birdhouses. I would really like to try making some.

SandraWilson LM on January 11, 2013:

I don't think there's anything quite like the flash of a Rocky Mountain Bluebird. It's more a flash of a violet blue you see from the corner of your eyes. They are fast.

Chazz from New York on December 19, 2012:

we've been trying to attract bluebirds for several years- we have a lot of birds - cardinals, robins, pesky house sparrows, starlings, mourning doves, blue jays, goldfinches and a few others -- but despite bluebird housing, mealworms, water and plenty of vegetation, there haven't been any signs of the elusive blues, although by all accounts they should frequent central NY state in the summer. Superb job on this lens too. Blessed and featured on Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo.

julieannbrady on May 21, 2012:

You know, we do get a wide variety of birds visiting ... but not so many bluebirds. They are such delightful little winged creatures.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 19, 2012:

I have a tiny pair of birds busily feeding their young in an old dead birch tree just outside my window but for some reason the blue jays can't figure out why they are not allowed to sit on that tree this year. So when the tiny mom and dad are not ruffling their feathers at the jays then I go out and chatter a bit till they fly to a different tree. I'm starting to feel like those are my babies in the old birch lol.

SteveKaye on April 30, 2012:

The Southern California Bluebird Club puts out and cares for nest boxes. As a result of their efforts, they helped fledge over 7,700 bluebirds in our area.

anonymous on April 12, 2012:

Time to get serious about attracting bluebirds to our gardens...they are on their way and might just as well have these beauties in our yards!

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on April 06, 2012:

We used to have bluejays in our garden every year, we'd follow the parents raising babies. Then we moved into town. Still hear the odd eagle overhead though.

AJ from Australia on April 05, 2012:

I love birds in the garden - thank you for making it easier to attract them. Easter Blessings.

MindPowerProofs1 on April 01, 2012:

I will have a bluebird house for my backyard. I hope they enjoy it. Thanks for the information

SamMargulies on March 30, 2012:

Well done!

anonymous on March 25, 2012:

Just stopping by to enjoy once again!

bjslapidary on March 23, 2012:

Love bluebirds. Always watch for the first ones to arrive. They are here already. Hope the weather don't turn too cold for them. Nice lens.

miaponzo on March 23, 2012:

We will be moving to a new home soon and I would like to attract some birds to our garden :) Blessed!

squid-janices7 on March 21, 2012:

Wow - what an informative and beautiful lens. Big congrats on LOTD!

River_Rose on March 21, 2012:

Love it!

kayla_harris on March 21, 2012:

Very interesting Lens!

anonymous on March 20, 2012:

Congratulations on your LOTD. We live up in northern Ontario and get them occasionally.

anonymous on March 18, 2012:

The bluebirds are back. March 17th, 45 miles west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Early this year. 8 years and counting. Great lens. Will be back again.

beaworkathomemom on March 17, 2012:

Wonderful lens! I learned a lot, thank you so much for the information. The pictures are beautiful as well!

AstroGremlin on March 14, 2012:

It's exciting that knowledge -- for example that a 1.5 inch hole is best for a bluebird house -- can help our blue friends. I made such a home with a gourd, with tiny drainage holes. No bluebirds have used it, yet.

shahedashaikh on March 14, 2012:

Good lens.please go through mine and give a thumbs up sign.thanks.

julia007 on March 14, 2012:

Very Professional! Nice Lens!

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on March 13, 2012:

Just popped back to congratulate you on your Purple Star and Lens Of The Day, both well deserved. Well done.

anando on March 13, 2012:

Interesting lens...............

Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on March 13, 2012:

Beautiful lens. I loved the added touch with the instructions on how to build a bluebird house.

Jereme Causing from Philippines on March 13, 2012:

I hope they don't split up into three like in angry birds... just kiddingcongratulations :)

MelonyVaughan on March 13, 2012:

What a great lens! Very complete and informative. Well done!

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

Very good pictures, excellent lens!

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

lovely pictures. nice lens.

gemjane on March 13, 2012:

What a nice lens! Lovely pictures. Here in southeastern Indiana, we sometimes see blue birds in winter, but I am not sure they stay here year-round every year. We see several pairs. I love watching the fledglings out of the kitchen window, on the utility wire. There is a hole in the utility pole, facing the kitchen window, where a pair nests every season.

pawpaw911 on March 13, 2012:

Blue Birds are a rare sight in our neck of the woods, but if I ever see one, I will know where to come for great information. Great job. Congratulations on LOTD, and the purple star.

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

I've always loved bluebirds. Maybe now I can attract some to my yard! Thanks for such an informative lens, and Congratulations on LOTD!

Jules Corriere from Jonesborough TN on March 13, 2012:

Wonderful lens. I just love having birds in my yard. Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD. Blessed!

lunagaze on March 13, 2012:

good lens this will help attract birds for my photography

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on March 13, 2012:

Very nice lens. We do not have blue birds in New Zealand, but that does not stop me, a bird lover from liking these nice birds you have featured in this lens. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

KimGiancaterino on March 13, 2012:

I never see bluebirds in our garden. The finches love me, though! Congratulations on LOTD. You create beautiful lenses.

flicker lm on March 13, 2012:

Congrats on LOTD! Beautifully done! Nice craftsmanship on the bluebird house.

aquarian_insight on March 13, 2012:

Wow, an amazingly in depth lens. Beautiful birds. Congrats on LoTD.

fardos on March 13, 2012:

Very nice idea !

getmoreinfo on March 13, 2012:

This is such a good idea because bluebirds are so nice to have in the garden.

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

Glad to see the bluebirds are making a comeback. Too many crows and sparrows where I live.

ferginarg lm on March 13, 2012:

very cool, would be great if more people took an interest in looking after the wildlife around us. A great read for all, thanks!

bedlinerbob on March 13, 2012:

Great LOTD! Now I have a project to add to the list....Build a blue bird house.

Tamara14 on March 13, 2012:

Beautiful subject, excellent presentation and so well deserved LOTD. Congrats :)

KamalaEmbroidery on March 13, 2012:

I see robins, but no bluebirds. Thanks for ideas to attract them.

siobhanryan on March 13, 2012:

Great lens-love the pictures. Congrats

KKBOOKSTORE on March 13, 2012:

great lens, and always great to see blue birds

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

Blessed!

fugeecat lm on March 13, 2012:

I work with someone who volunteers for the bluebird project. He goes around and cleans out the birdhouses in the spring and fall so that they have a clean home.

BlueTrane on March 13, 2012:

Congrats on your LOTD!

JJNW from USA on March 13, 2012:

Bluebirds are very special to my family. Your lens showed up as LOTD at the perfect time, when I needed to see a bluebird. Thanks for that. I love your page.

baseballchris46 on March 13, 2012:

Blue Birds are great. Congratulations on earning lens of the day :)

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on March 13, 2012:

I absolutely love bluebirds. I think they are the prettiest of all birds.

BruceBair on March 13, 2012:

Hey, great lens. I have a BlueBird lens also and got some good tips from the video here. Thanks for creating it.

jlshernandez on March 13, 2012:

I just spotted a bluebird sitting on a post outside my house a few days ago. I tried to take its picture but it kept hopping from one post to another. When I thought I took enough photos and uploaded these into the compouter, only one was focused and it was of its backside. To start with, I was not sure it was a bluebird, but this lens confirmed that it was. Spring is here. Congrats on LOTD as this lens is so deserving, as with some of your other lenses.

mrducksmrnot on March 13, 2012:

Great lens for our feathered friends. Having those birds around greatly reduces a lot of insects. I use gourds for my bluebird friends as most of us in the Mountains of Western NC do. Always feed em till the wildflowers start coming up and blooming then let mother nature do the rest. Congratulations on Lens Of The Day and especially the patterns for building the houses and feeders.

Miska29 on March 13, 2012:

nice lens... lovely :)

Miska29 on March 13, 2012:

nice lens... lovely

Annamadagan on March 13, 2012:

Nice lens! Congrats on LOTD! :) Blue birds are so pretty. I hope to have some visit me and my family this summer! *Blessed

Delia on March 13, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD! lovely lens on a lovely bird...great info here, thanks for sharing!~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

VinayVallabhaneni on March 13, 2012:

Wow, awesome!! Enjoyed reading your lens, blue birds never heard of it, got to see something new and hopping to see more of yours.

Jen Schaefer from St Petersburg on March 13, 2012:

congrats on LOTD! These are such pretty birds. I don't think we get them this far south, sadly.

ohcaroline on March 13, 2012:

Enjoyed your bluebird lens very much. I enjoy watching birds and learning about their habitats.

happynutritionist on March 13, 2012:

Beautiful page...we have so many birds as we live in a wooded area, but the only blue colored bird we have is the blue jay. I don't believe I've ever seen a bluebird. I live in the Northeast US. I just took our feeder out for the day...the weather has been so warm that each night I have to bring it in as the black bears are surely out of their dens. Congrats on the LOTD, *blessed*

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on March 13, 2012:

Wonderful lens and well deserved lens of the day! Living in Italy as I do, I don't see bluebirds here, although we do have lime green parakeets flying up and down my street in Rome!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 13, 2012:

Congrats on LotD! I am anxiously awaiting the return of my two pairs of nesting bluebirds. I've been cleaning out their nesting boxes (which are actually two hollow aspen logs mounted on poles). I'll try the mealworms this year upon your advice. Thanks! Delighted you are being recognized with this honor today.

fullofshoes on March 13, 2012:

What a wonderful lens... just in time for spring!

agoofyidea on March 13, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD! We don't have bluebirds, but we get bluejays. And lots of robins.

JoshK47 on March 13, 2012:

What a wonderful lens for attracting our fine, feathered friends - and well-deserving of a LotD! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

cao2fine on March 13, 2012:

I was visiting our local nature center the other day when the weather was unseasonably warm. Lo and behold, on the trail in the woods, there was a bluebird flitting in and out among the trees. I've been fascinated with birds since I was a child, love this lens and all the information in it about what I view as a rare, shy and secretive bird!

Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on March 13, 2012:

Lovely lens! I will feature this on my lense, on attracting songbirds to the garden ~ I hope that will be okay?! Now I know why the bluebirds were taking pinestraw up high ~ I had noticed big woodpecker holes in a tree a couple of days ago, near where the bluebird flew. They're using the tree for their nesting, something I hadn't realized before, so thank you for the info! I loved the video, too. That's really great info, and loved the picts! Thanks! B : )

Vikki from US on March 13, 2012:

Gotta love the bluebirds! Congrats on lotd. Blessed ;)

DebMartin on March 13, 2012:

I love bluebirds but never see them around my home. I think they need more open spaces than the deep woods I live in. Nice lens. d

Jason Sositko on March 13, 2012:

I don't see to many Bluebirds on my feeder, I have seen them occasionally along the Great Miami River, here in South Western Ohio, very rare though for me.

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

Your lens is just what I needed. I want to attract bluebirds to our garden, and have been waiting for my husband to build a box. I have never see none in person, ever, wondering if they are rare in My part of Canada. We built a pond last year and it attracts a lot of birds, especially doves. They have been here all winter.congrat's on your LOTD !!!!!! Blessed*

flycatcherrr on March 13, 2012:

One of my favourite birds! Eastern Bluebirds used to regularly inhabit a couple of custom-built birdhouses at my place, but their numbers have been dropping in recent years. Competition from tree swallows, which arrive about a week earlier, seems to be one factor. This year I'll be experimenting with a door on one birdhouse to keep it closed until I see the first bluebird - we'll see how that goes. Congratulations on yet another excellent lens!

livinglargeandh on March 13, 2012:

I love to see bluebirds-they bring happiness :-). NIce article.

Robin S from USA on March 13, 2012:

Congratulations! This lens is LOTD today. You can read all about it here: http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/attracting-bluebirds-in...

Kakigori on March 13, 2012:

love the lense!

Ribolov LM on March 13, 2012:

Nice, lens, nice birds. I love "green" lenses and lenses about animals. Thnx.

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on March 13, 2012:

My favorite bird! We have a blue bird trail in our yard and every spring/summer our yard, which is big (3 acres) is alive with these magnificent electric blue birds. It's almost time to get the nesting boxes out. :) Blessed!

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

Really liked your article, nature is so peaceful. I know sometime in my life I'll make and build several bird houses and put them up in my yard but as of yet haven't built any. *blessed by a squid angel*

wjfoster on March 13, 2012:

great, good, clean, unselfish content, great model

healthtruth lm on March 13, 2012:

brilliant lens

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

lovely bird

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 13, 2012:

Sorry, I confused the peanuts that blue jays like.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 13, 2012:

Congrats for LOTD. Bluebirds often come to our cottage and they like peanuts.

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

This is a great lens. Very well done!

PecjakJN on March 13, 2012:

Great lens

allenwebstarme on March 13, 2012:

Beautiful lens about Bluebirds, so much information about them. Thanks for sharing such stuff.

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

congrats!

Skylermeyer2012 on March 12, 2012:

Awesome and informative lens. Nice tips about on how to attract bluebirds. I really enjoy reading your lens since I'm a bird lover most especially love birds..

anonymous on March 12, 2012:

It is my pleasure to return to congratulate you on receiving LotD honors for your "Attracting Bluebirds into Your Garden", that smile looks good on you Anthony!

intermarks on March 12, 2012:

Wonderful information and guide to attracting bluebirds. I think this time I can have more bluebirds to my backyard. Thanks!

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on March 05, 2012:

Excellent information and great pictures too. We don't get Bluebirds in the UK, but we do get a lot of different varieties of Tits, which are colorful and about the same size. Sometimes our garden is filled with them. Nicely done, blessed.

anonymous on February 02, 2012:

Bluebirds are always a treat to see and so worth the pleasure they bring to do all you can to attract them to your yard. I like how you include that water is so important for them. A few years ago my sister put out extra water during a drought and her bird population went up 30% almost instantly and they have kept her busy ever since, she noticed her birds prefer the 3 little ponds that she put in ground to all her standing bird baths.

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