How To: Attract and House Bluebirds
Eastern Bluebirds are looking for homes near you!
The breeding season for these birds begins in April and will go through July, although a couple of weeks on either side is possible. The fact that these birds are cavity nesters makes them ideal candidates for a birdhouse, which is good news for your backyard.
Properly mounting your nest boxes is an important part of caring for bluebirds.
You shouldn’t nail your nesting boxes to trees, fence posts, or outbuildings. Predators such as cats, raccoons, foxes, possums, and rat snakes can easily climb and reach the nest box in those locations and harm the bluebirds.
You should mount bluebird nest boxes to metal poles equipped with approved predator guards, such as baffles, under the nest box to deter climbing varmints. Generally speaking, the bottoms of nest boxes should be about 5 feet above ground to facilitate monitoring activities. Bluebirds are territorial so if you put up more than one house, make sure they are around 300′ apart or not visible to one another.
It is best to have the box facing East since most of our weather (rain) comes from the West. This will help to keep the inside of the box dry.
Put the box in an open area.
In front of but not under trees is an ideal locaiton. Remember, it is good to have a tree near by so that the fledgelings will have a safe place to land when they leave the nest.
The male bluebird identifies and assesses potential nesting sites. He then tries to persuade his mate that one of the nesting sites is ideal for their needs. The male will often sit on top of a nest box and sing to attract the female’s attention to the box. The male may even go so far as to leave a piece of pine straw protruding from the entrance hole to entice her to enter the nest box.
The female bluebird makes the final decision on which nesting site to use and she builds the nest in preparation for the egg-laying step.
Note: Nest selection & building can occur in 1 day or take several weeks to complete.
Do NOT spray the interior of nest boxes with pesticides of any kind.
Inspect your nest boxes frequently for active wasp infestations. Bluebirds often will not select nest boxes with wasp infestations and may abandon nests that have become infested. If you encounter an active wasp infestation, put on a pair padded garden gloves and physically destroy the wasps and their nest including the nest stem. A good way to keep future infestations from occuring, apply a generous coating of unscented ivory soap on the interior of the roof, sides, and door.
Bluebirds like a clean box.
Remove bluebird nests as soon as the young fledge. The young will not return but, within a couple of weeks, the adults may return for to start a second or third brood. The male will often keep feeding the fledglings while the female begins a second nest.
Bluebirds tolerate human presence.
Don’t worry that monitoring will make the parents desert the nest. Touching the nest will not make the birds leave either – your mother just told you that to keep you from harassing them.
The female will incubate the eggs for 13 – 16 days and the young will leave the nest within 15 to 20 days. However, as much as they tolerate human presence, do NOT open the boxes once the birds are 12-14 days old. (Their eyes are fully open when they are 8-11 days old. Parents may just dip their heads into the box hole to feed the young at this age). It can cause young to fall or hop out of the nestbox before they are capable of flying, reducing their chances for survival.
Don’t assume the nest is abandoned if you don’t see your blue birds all the time.
During egg laying, adults may spend very little time in the box. On hot days, the female may leave the nest for long periods of time. The only sure way to know the nest is abandoned is if neither parent has visited the nest for four full hours after the young have hatched. If you find an abandoned or injured bird, you can contact Georgia Wildlife Department at 1-800-241-4113 or go to gawildlife.com to find a licensed rehabilator.
Information curtesy of:
NC Bluebird Society