Bluebirds are such beautiful, sweet-natured birds and they’re also beneficial in the garden because they can keep pesky insects at bay. If you live in North America, you’ve probably seen at least one of these 3 types: The Eastern Bluebird, Western Bluebird and Mountain Bluebird. After we started to occasionally see brilliant flashes of blue in our yard here in South Carolina last fall, I’ve been thinking about how to keep the bluebirds around. I have loved them ever since I was a little girl. One of my favorite books that my mom used to read to me was Bluebirds Seven, a story about five baby bluebirds and their adventures from the time they hatched from their eggs to when they visited their old nesting box as adults. I remember looking at the pretty paintings of the birds in the book and hoping to see them in our yard. Now it’s fun to watch my own little girl excited to see bluebirds in our yard.
Bluebirds are timid and it’s tough to spot them since they’re usually just passing by, unless you provide a safe place for them. The best way to attract them is with a nesting box since they don’t usually visit feeders. They’re also territorial, so once you do attract them to your yard, there’s a good chance they’ll return year after year.
We put a nesting box at the edge of our yard last week and bluebirds were scoping it out within 24 hours! I was lucky enough to get some good photos while I was hiding on the deck with my camera.
Bluebird Nesting Box
We bought a locally handmade bluebird nesting box for $13 at a nearby garden store. You can also find one like this online, or if you’d like to make one, here are some great nesting box DIY instructions.
They are carefully designed so that they can’t be entered by starlings or sparrows. The box should have a door on it to give you easy access for observing and cleaning.
Location of the Nesting Box
Bluebirds prefer to nest in open areas away from buildings, with scattered trees nearby, but not usually in wooded areas with lots of shade. The ideal spot is an area with a tree within 25 feet from the nesting box. If you have more than one box, placing them 100 feet apart is a good rule of thumb. Chemical insecticides can’t be applied anywhere near the nesting area because the chemicals kill the insects that the birds eat, and they are also harmful to the birds.
How to Mount the Nesting Box
We used a 1/2″-diameter galvanized pipe with a threaded end to mount our nesting box. The pipe is good because it’s difficult for predators like raccoons to climb on. We attached a metal flange with a 1/2″ thread to the bottom of the nesting box, then attached the end of the threaded pipe. We inserted the pipe into the ground so the nesting box is 5 feet high; measured from the ground to the floor of the box.
When to Put the Nesting Box Out
If it’s the first time you’re putting the nesting box out, the best time is one to two months before breeding time (summer.) This gives the male bluebird time to scope out the nesting location and attract a female, who will do the nest building. Bluebirds often have more than one brood per year and may use the same nest for all of them (source.) When you’re sure they have left their nest for the season, you can clean the box out so they will return the following season.
Besides the benefits of having bluebirds in your own backyard, putting nesting boxes out helps increase their population. There was a big decline in the Eastern Bluebird population in the early twentieth century, but it has been increasing after nest box campaigns were introduced in 1960s and 1970s (source.)
Have you seen bluebirds in your yard lately?