Eastern Bluebirds Pair Up and Choose Nesting Sites Early!
Getting our Bluebird nesting boxes up is always so reassuring! Bluebirds are right on schedule–just ahead of official Spring– and undeterred when Winter’s cold and snow seems to be dragging on and on.
Most people may not realize that our Eastern Bluebirds start choosing nesting sites around the end of February and beginning of March — earlier than most other bird species.
Although the actual egg laying and incubation cycle begins later in the spring, nesting boxes should be up and ready now!!! Male Bluebirds, alone or often already paired off with last season’s mate, will shortly start defining and defending their nesting territory for this year with their gentle song and watchful eye.
The Backyard Naturalist’s Tips
Want Bluebirds to Choose Your Nesting Box?
If you’re one of the lucky, lucky folks who have Bluebirds grace their yard (we are truly envious!), this is your friendly reminder that it’s time to be a good landlord.
How to make your backyard more attractive to Bluebirds:
- Start with a clean box!!! Clean out prior nesting debris in existing boxes, NOW!!! Scrub out the interior with soapy water and rinse well. You’ll also need to clean the box a day or two after each brood leaves. Bluebirds normally have 2-3 broods each season. Rule of thumb: Unless there’s an active brood in your box, it should be empty and clean. This makes Mama happy and increases the lifespan of your box.
- Position Bluebird nesting boxes in open areas at least a hundred yards apart. If placing new boxes, be sure they face the openness of a yard, meadow or field.
- Use Sparrow-resistant boxes. We recommend Slot Boxes or the Gilbertson Nest Box to protect your nesting Bluebirds from their nemesis — non-native, English House Sparrows.
Please be diligent and regularly monitor for House Sparrows trying to take over the box. We can’t emphasize this point enough!!!! They will kill the mother bluebird when she absolutely refuses to abandon her eggs or nestlings, then immediately build their own nest on top of her warm body. House Sparrows are a serious threat to Bluebirds’ survival and nesting success. Please see our resource “House Sparrows: Deadly Foreign Invaders” for more.
- Mount bird houses on poles with snake baffles. Even if you don’t see snakes in your yard, they are more common than you think and love plump little nestlings for dinner. This will definitely optimize the number of healthy fledglings you facilitate. Don’t underestimate this detail.
- Offer our freeze-dried meal worms in a separate feeder, away from all your other feeders. Although Bluebirds aren’t considered traditional backyard feeding birds, this can be an added incentive for them to choose your yard during nesting season!!!
More Info About Feeding Bluebirds
In winter, due to loss of natural feeding habitats, Bluebirds are adapting to new food sources. Although Bluebirds are not traditional wild bird seed eaters, reports are in that there’s a definite increase in their appearance at backyard feeders.
Foods that nourish and are sought after by Bluebirds include: High protein wild bird foods, like: sunflower chips, peanut pieces, Bluebird suet nuggets and freeze-dried mealworms.
DON’T FORGET FRESH WATER!
In any season, a bird bath can also lure Bluebirds into your backyard. In winter, keep the water ice-free with a de-icer or heated bath. You’ll be rewarded! Check out a really inspiring photo taken by Jenny Hendershot, a member of the Maryland Bluebird Society, from her home in Washington County. We featured her image in our blog post ‘Think Bluebirds’. This could be YOU!
While you’re there, show your support! Like them!
Monitor Nesting Boxes on The Bluebird Trails!
Even if you don’t have Bluebirds nesting in your backyard, Montgomery County Volunteer Bluebird Monitors are waiting to share and show off their Bluebird trails! Hike or take a stroll with them as they visit their nesting boxes. These are weekly opportunities that will continue from March until August. You can also help with Bluebird conservation, by joining the Maryland Bluebird Society. All membership dues and donations go directly to promote Bluebird Conservation… and it’s tax deductible. The Backyard Naturalist is a corporate sponsor and we can’t emphasize enough… Join!!
If you’d like more info about the Bluebird Trails, go here to read or download a PDF with all the details and contact information.
Get Involved with Bluebird Conservation
For more resources and to get involved in nationwide conservation, check out and join the North American Bluebird Society. Dr. Lawrence Zeleny founded this national group in 1978 to promote the preservation of Bluebirds, as the species was in serious decline. Since it’s beginning, (Right here in Montgomery County, Maryland!), they have sought to educate, persuade, and enlighten the public in methods that we ALL can use to help bluebirds. Please support their ongoing research and education efforts with your membership.
The staff at The Backyard Naturalist are always happy to answer any questions to help enhance your Bluebird experience. Give us a call!
Recommended Books About Bluebirds
The Bluebird: How You Can Help Its Fight for Survival by Dr. Lawrence Zeleny
This is the book that inspired a nationwide conservation effort. Originally published by Indiana University Press in 1976, it is now out of print, but secondhand paperbacks are readily available online.
Captivating Bluebirds by Stan Tekiela
Page upon page of stunning photographs! Stan Tekiela’s concise, informative and entertaining writing make ‘Captivating Bluebirds’ a truly lovely and information-filled addition to any library. The title is very accurate!! Birders and non-birders alike will be captivated by Stan Tekiela’s photos.
The Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds by Lillian & Donald Stokes
This is a must-have book for beginning birders or anyone who is fascinated with Bluebirds. Beautifully illustrated with lots of great information to inspire, get you started, then guide you on your way to hosting Bluebirds in your own backyard!
The Bluebird Effect by Julie Zickefoose
There is much good news about Bluebirds and their resurgence. We agree with Julie Zickefoose in her phenomenal book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds. She writes, “When the long term decline of bluebirds became evident in the 1960’s, the nationwide move to provide housing for them was the largest single-species conservation effort ever launched.” ( This is a truly gorgeous book… If you haven’t discovered Julie’s work, based on forty years of keen observation and study, you are in for a treat!)
Enjoying Bluebirds More: A Special Publication from Bird Watcher’s Digest by Julie Zickefoose
Julie packs a lot of information in here! She explains Bluebird habit, behavior, food preferences and much more! She describes her experiences with Bluebirds in a way that’s both sensitive and inspiring! There are also detailed explanations of Bluebird House Trails and Bluebird Nesting Boxes.