How to Attract Bluebirds

Few things are more exciting in a birders world than having beautiful Eastern Bluebirds in your yard.  So a frequent question we hear at the store is "How do I Attract Bluebirds?"
  1. Install a Bluebird Nesting Box in your back yard.  Ideally facing Southeast away from prevailing wind and weather.  The better boxes will have brass hinges, predator guards, and elevated mesh floor to protect the chicks from blowflies.  The best boxes are made of cedar or recycled plastic.
  2. Place the box in an open area five to six feet off the ground.   Please mount on a pole or 4x4 post with baffles to protect against predators.  Resist the urge to mount the box on a tree or fence post.  You'll save their lives.      
  3. Provide food such as meal worms, suet balls or seed consisting all or in part of sunflower chips.
  4. Water in the form of a small pond or bird bath.    

Now you too can make a contribution to conserving these beautiful birds by putting up nest boxes in an appropriate habitat.  The key to attracting Eastern Bluebirds to nest in your yard is to have plenty of potential nesting locations, food and water.  Bluebirds do prefer more open area so if your yard is heavily wooded you'll enjoy many other nesting birds, but probably not bluebirds.   The female will lay four to five light blue eggs that will take thirteen to fifteen days to hatch.  The male brings food to his mate and the young during the critical first few days of feeding.  They act like tiny hawks, in their slumped hunting position, waiting patiently for an insect or beetle to show itself.  It then pounces on it and brings the food back to the nest.    

Here are some great stats for you:
1. Nest Building takes 1-6 days.  
2. Egg laying takes 5-7 days.  
3. Incubation for the Eastern Bluebird takes 12-14 days.  
4. Fledging occurs in the 16-21 day range.  


Everybody loves bluebirds, right?  Who doesn't love to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds?  

Most people are trying to attract (bribe?) them to use their nesting boxes, and those people know that the best bribe is MEALWORMS.

Unfortunately for some customers, the idea of live mealworms in the
refrigerator is not something that they can handle, so they would rather offer their birds the dried mealworms.  There's really no difference, right?   

It is a common question, especially from those folks who really, really want the dried ones to be as good for the birds as the live ones.  But here are a couple of things to consider:

First, live worms are more nutritious.  Just like the food we eat, it is better to eat food--in this case worms--with the least amount of processing as possible.  

Secondly, and this is the most important part in our opinion, is that baby birds are box-bound.  They cannot fly out of the nest periodically to go get a drink of water.  They live exclusively in their nesting cavities for the first few weeks until it's time to fledge. During those weeks, the only moisture they are receiving is from nice, juicy insects brought to them by mom and dad.  

Dried worms have no moisture.  Some customers have said they have success re-hydrating dried mealworms by soaking them in water first, but in our "test kitchen," we have not seen any success with that.

So we propose this compromise:  Suck it up, Buttercup!  During the nesting season when chicks are in the boxes, buy the juicy live worms.  You can keep them in the plastic container in a brown bag in the fridge marked with skull and crossbones if you need to, but its better for the chicks!   The rest of the year, feed them the dried worms.  

Live mealworms will keep in the refrigerator 4-6 weeks and if you're buying a thousand at a time, you won't have them longer than that because the birds are ravenous during nesting season.  Think "hungry teenagers" because that's how they eat.

We predict that by the end of the season, you'll be handling those worms like a pro and won't think twice about keeping them in the fridge!