Eastern Bluebirds dining on cracked sunflowers seeds
This the first in a series of articles to help readers attract bluebirds to their yards. If you would like to leave a comment, click on this comment link, enter your comment, and submit it.
If you have specific questions regarding bluebirds, click on the link immediately below.
Did you know there are three species of bluebirds?
Eastern Sialia sialis
Mountain Sialia currucoides
Western Sialia mexicana
Did you know two of the bluebird species have subspecies?
Subspecies of Eastern Bluebirds
- Sialia sialis bermudensis (Verrill)
- Sialia sialis caribaea (Howell)
- Sialia sialis episcopus (Oberholser)
- Sialia sialis fulva (Brewster)
- Sialia sialis grata (Bangs)
- Sialia sialis guatemalae (Ridgway)
- Sialia sialis meridionalis (Dickey and van Rossem, considered part of guatemalae by Webster)
- Sialia sialis nidificans (Phillips)
Subspecies of Western Bluebirds
- Sialia mexicana amabilis (Townsend)
- Sialia mexicana anabelae (Anthony, not on Phillips list)
- Sialia mexicana bairdi (Ridgway)
- Sialia mexicana jacoti (Phillips)
- Sialia mexicana mexicana (Swainson)
- Sialia mexicana nelsoni (Phillips)
- Sialia mexicana occidentalis (Townsend)
There are currently no recognized subspecies of Mountain Bluebirds.
* Source for subspecies information : Sialis
FIVE BASIC STEPS TO ATTRACT BLUEBIRDS
The following is a brief description of the five basic steps needed to attract bluebirds to your yard and properly care for them.
#1 Nest boxes
Put up safe, comfortable, and durable bluebird nest boxes in suitable spots around the yard. Bluebirds generally prefer open grassy areas near a suitable vantage point (power line, tree, gutter, roof top, etc.) on which they can perch. Avoid placing nest boxes in tree cover or near large bushes, shrubs, and thickets because these spots attract house wrens. Although not a hard rule, try to orient the entrance of nest boxes facing in a southeasterly direction. Ensure nest boxes have adequate ventilation. Be sure to mount the nest boxes on metal poles equipped with a predator guard/baffle. The predator guards will deter climbing varmints such as raccoons and rat snakes from invading the nest boxes and harming the bluebirds. If the nest boxes are in direct line of sight of one another be sure to allow a minimum of 100 yards between them. Keep the ground around the poles weeded and check frequently for ant hills especially fire ant hills. You can spray the mounting poles with PAM cooking spray to deter ants. Destroy all ant hills in the immediate vicinity of your nest boxes. Either physically destroy the nests by digging them up or spray them with an organic pesticide such as Pyrethrin which is available at hardware stores. If you use the spray, immediately cover up the ant hills with dirt to prevent ant-eating birds from ingesting the poisoned ants. You can view plans for safe, comfortable, and durable nest boxes at help-for-bluebirds (click on nest box plans). You can buy acceptable bluebird nest boxes from your local N. C. State Employees’ Credit Union branch for $10 each. You do not have to be a member to buy nest boxes but you will have to pay cash if you are not a member. You can buy mounting poles, brackets, and predator guard/baffles from hardware stores, Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. Ace Hardware sells an excellent 18″ diameter cone-shaped predator guard/baffle for about $20. Buy some bars of unscented ivory soap and rub a good coat of soap on the interior of each nest box (roof, sides, and door). This will help deter paper wasp infestations which discourage and often prevent bluebirds from nesting in the box. If you find a wasp nest in a box, immediately destroy the wasps, remove, and destroy the wasp nest including the stem. Do not spray the interior of nest boxes with pesticides. Be sure to check under nest boxes and predator guards/baffles for wasp nests. When you open nest boxes to check for wasps, stand to the side of the doors, open them slowly, and be sure there are no wasp nests attached to the inside of the doors. Otherwise you may be stung on the hand. Wear padded garden gloves when you check the boxes. Use molded wood fiber nest cups in all of your wood nest boxes. The cups will facilitate nest building for the birds and monitoring activities for you. Cleaning the nest box will also be easier if you use a nest cup. Always clean nest boxes thoroughly and dispose of old nests after each nesting cycle during the nesting season. You can buy molded wood fiber nest cups at wild song bird supply stores.
#2 Feeding Stations
Establish several feeding stations around the yard. Bluebirds and other wild songs will feed at the stations. Bluebirds will be attracted to feeders containing cracked sunflower seeds, suet, peanut suet nuggets, and meal worms especially when they are feeding nestlings or their normal diet (~68%) of insects is hard to find. You probably want to use squirrel proof feeders that can be adjusted to close when a certain amount of weight is sensed. You can buy the seed supplies at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, and other stores that sell supplies for wild song birds. Mealworms can be purchased via the Internet or at wild song bird supply stores like Wild Birds Unlimited. There are also a number of recipes for making your own suet to feed bluebirds. Use the Google search engine to search for bluebird suet recipes.
You can make your own wild bird seed mix using:
– sunflower seed combo (black oil & striped)
– safflower seeds
– cracked sunflower seeds
– Nut n’ Berry mix
Be sure to feed suet year round. In the heat of summer, switch to the non-melt type of suet cakes. Be sure to keep the area around your feeders free of weeds that could hide cats and other lurking predators. Remove discarded seed from the ground around the feeders that might mold and sicken the birds who eat it.
#3 Fresh Water
Provide shallow bird baths containing fresh water near the feeding stations. Change the water daily and keep the bird baths clean and free of mold. Avoid deep bird baths because very young birds are not quite ready to fend for themselves and may drown if their parents are not around to save them. You can buy an acceptable bird bath from Wal-Mart for about $10. Be sure to keep the area under bird baths clear of weeds that can hide lurking cats and other predators.
#4 Plant berry-bearing trees and shrubs
There are a number of berry-bearing trees and shrubs that bluebirds favor as food sources. You can contact your local County Extension Agent or Garden Club for recommendations.
#5 Join the N. C. Bluebird Society and become an active bluebirder
You will be able to share experiences with expert bluebirders at Annual Meetings. You will also be eligible to contribute to this BLOG. Annual memberships cost $10 and they make great gifts for friends and relatives. Membership information and forms are available from the N. C. Bluebird Society web site.
Please help us improve these postings by providing us with your comments. If you would like to leave a comment, click on this comment link, enter your comment, and submit it.