Attracting bluebirds to your yard

Bluebird Breakfast 

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.

Bluebird Question? 

Bluebird Factoid

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        

  1. Sialia sialis bermudensis (Verrill)
  2. Sialia sialis caribaea (Howell)
  3. Sialia sialis episcopus (Oberholser)
  4. Sialia sialis fulva (Brewster)
  5. Sialia sialis grata (Bangs)
  6. Sialia sialis guatemalae (Ridgway)
  7. Sialia sialis meridionalis (Dickey and van Rossem, considered part of guatemalae by Webster)
  8. Sialia sialis nidificans (Phillips)

Subspecies of Western Bluebirds

  1. Sialia mexicana amabilis (Townsend)
  2. Sialia mexicana anabelae (Anthony, not on Phillips list)
  3. Sialia mexicana bairdi (Ridgway)
  4. Sialia mexicana jacoti (Phillips)
  5. Sialia mexicana mexicana (Swainson)
  6. Sialia mexicana nelsoni (Phillips)
  7. Sialia mexicana occidentalis (Townsend)

There are currently no recognized subspecies of Mountain Bluebirds.

* Source for subspecies information : Sialis


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

– peanuts

– 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.


6 Responses to “Attracting bluebirds to your yard”

  1. 1 Don Elsass October 9, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Bluebirds like the recipe below; however, I modify it by using 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 1/2 cup of lard. It doesn’t melt in hot weather and the consistency is more crumbly which the birds seem to prefer.

    Suet For Bluebirds – 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1 cup lard, 2 cups quick oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, berries like currents optional. Mix dry ingredient. Melt peanut butter & lard together, and mix with dry ingredients. Press into pan, cool, cut into squares and freeze until needed.

  2. 2 Betterview April 26, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I have a new nest with 6 yes 6 eggs. would it b safe to remove the nest from the box and take a picture?

  3. 3 Betterview April 28, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Ray, Thanks for the quick response. Sorry but I do not have a nest cup, I have tried, but have never had a nest built with a cup in the box. Maybe I’m not patient enough. To view the 6 eggs in the nest I use a mechanics mirror to view the nest eggs and babies. I have a friend that can help me use a mirror and my iPhone camera. I will report back with the results, good or bad. I will in no way do any harm to nest or contents.

  4. 4 Betterview May 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I may have a problem with the babies. They are fully feathered, they hatched on the 9th, today is the 25th, very little action in the nest. They are still being fed but no sign of any movement in the nest. I slid the nest part way out of the box and saw movement in the nest so I put it back. I have not seen any feeding frenzy from hatching till now. I have only seen the babies with their mouth open one time. When should I really be concerned?

    • 5 Betterview May 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Good news and bad news. 5 fledged and one egg was a dud, nothing in it too hatch. Box has been cleaned out and sprayed with Clorox and water waiting for new parents. Air drying now, will close the box in a day or so and start all over again. Hopefully.

      • 6 Betterview May 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        PS: I did find 2 live beetles in the bottom of the box, were not in the nest but under it. I’m going to try a nesting cup in this box, I’ve never had bluebirds to nest in one of my boxes with a cup.

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May 2007

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