Attracting The Nesting Bluebird

Attracting The Nesting Bluebird


For those who love nature and wildlife, few scenes are more enduring than a mother bird feeding their young.  This article, “Attracting The Nesting Bluebird” was written to fulfill that need. Going one step further, few birds are more people-friendly and accommodating with their parenting skills than Bluebirds.  With that much established, we have created the entire background for this article.  Additionally, we illustrate how to attract the Bluebirds initially for feeding purposes and secondly for nesting.

The Setting For Attracting the Nesting Blue Bird

Any fisherman knows that if you fish in a bathtub, you catch nothing.  Likewise, if you choose to foster Bluebirds, they must be available.  Firstly, the Bluebird is a carnivorous bird; that is saying that they eat insects, not seeds.  So they feed where the insects are.  Not only do the Bluebirds eat insects, but they also eat insects that live on the ground.  They do not typically catch them in flight.  That means that they can find those insects best in open fields, meadows, and expansive yards.  That realistically restricts the successful Bluebird observer to those who are living in rural and suburban areas.  Unfortunately, urban dwellers must look elsewhere


Once the birder identifies the open areas that the Bluebirds inhabit and the birds have been identified and sighted, the plan to attract the nesting Bluebird is well underway.  The first hurdle to clear is to provide food, which is in the form of mealworms.  Feed supply stores and stores that sell birdseed, typically sell mealworms.

Consistency is beneficial.  The birder should initially feed the birds in the same container and at the same location.  Some birders like to whistle loudly every time they provide food, and the birds are easily trained to respond to the whistle like a dinner bell.  Once the birder successfully feeds the birds, they can move the container toward the desired nesting location in small approximations toward the desired nesting location. 

Once successfully fed, the birder should be transition the birds to feeders that accommodate the Blue Birds but excludes the larger competing birds. Such feeders take many forms and are easily made.  However, what they all must have in common is a 1.5-inch entrance hole.  This entrance size accommodates the Eastern Blue Birds but excludes other larger birds.  Incidentally, this same hole dimension is necessary on the nesting box and is discussed later.

Bluebird Fledgling

Housing Construction

Birdhouse construction is a favorite DIY project, but just one article presents limitations on topics that can be covered.  Hence, birdhouse construction must is assigned to a future project, and this article covers features to consider in purchasing a Bluebird nesting house.  Likewise, the characteristic that makes Bluebirds amenable to human-made birdhouses is the fact that they are cavity nesters and in a natural setting would most likely select a tree cavity in which to nest.  Going one step further, a box type of birdhouse is the most common construction style.  Additionally, the essential nature of the box style has by trial and error resolved more problem areas, and that makes it the best model to consider for this article’s illustration.

The initial consideration should be the housing dimensions.  Biologically, the Bluebird presents itself in three different subspecies.  There are the Eastern, Mountain and Western subspecies, and the Eastern variety is very slightly smaller.  Consequently, the recommended dimensions vary minimally with very minimally smaller dimensions for the Eastern variation.

Nest Construction Dimensions, Expressed in Inches

Entrance Diameter1.51-9/161-9/16
Entrance from Bottom777
Height from Ground5-5.55-5.55-5.5

Other Features to Consider in Attracting the Nesting Bluebird

Bottom Drainage:  One nice feature for any box style birdhouse is to cut about .5 inches from each 90-degree corner.  The purpose of this is to allow water that might have entered via the entrance or roof leakage to exit.

Top Exhaust:  Likewise front and back or both sides are often trimmed at about .5 inches in different lengths.  The purpose of this variation is to allow an exhaust for heat.

Extended Entrance:  Potential predators are never far away in the natural world.  Representatives that frequently play this role include Raccoons, cats, larger birds, and snakes.  One feature that reduces this vulnerability is an extended entrance.  The extended entrance makes it more difficult for Raccoons or cats to reach the young inside.

Already noted above is the fact that the entrance hole should be only large enough to allow the Blue Bird, but small enough to exclude larger birds.

Baffles: As with squirrels, baffles complicate predatory plans for cats and raccoons also.  The only difference between squirrels and raccoons is the fact that the latter requires a larger size.  Commercially cylinder baffles for squirrels baffle are about 6 inches in diameter, while the raccoon baffles are 8 inches.  The baffles illustrated in this article sized for squirrels are the same design and functional for raccoons when sized appropriately. Baffle examples can be view in this post on squirrel proofing the bird feeder.

Construction Material:  Another consideration is construction material.  One variation that frequently presents is the use of Cedar.  The objective here is, as with the cedar closet, is to discourage bugs.  The downsides to the cedar are the added expense and the possibility that some birds might also object.  Bird objections, however, are not common.

Finishing Products:  DIY artisans frequently construct birdhouses that are more ornate than their residences.  Indeed, some paint finishes contain questionable chemicals.  Linseed oil is a frequently recommended natural finish; however, another alternative is to us no finish.  After all, birdhouses are rather cheap products.

Nesting Basket:  One item frequently included near nesting houses is a nesting basket.  The purpose of the nesting basket is to provide material that the bird might use in their nest construction and for the Bluebird that would be grass or alternately hay.

Observation Features:  Lastly, the potential avian landlord should consider observational access.  Typically, top or side access is available for observation and photographing access.  Such features generally allow the house side or top to swing open easily but readily reattach.

Avian Competition to Attracting The Nesting Bluebird

The most formidable Bluebird competitor for a nesting box is the Starling.  Starlings most frequently prevail over some woodpecker varieties in competition for a nesting cavity.  Fortunately, at least for the Eastern Bluebird variety, an entrance hole of no more than 1.5 inches excludes the starling.

Another nesting competitor that the 1.5-inch entrance deters is the English Sparrow.  Sometimes the sparrow nest must necessarily be removed and closed for a few days to force the intruder to another location.

Another nesting competitor that people frequently tolerate is the Tree Swallow.  Like the Bluebird, the Swallow is carnivorous and feeds on insects.  The primary difference is that the Tree Swallow targets flying insects, but they frequently inhabit similar environments.  Being similar in size they also frequently adopt the houses intended for Bluebirds.

The Photographer

Like most of our bird articles, Roger Chilson provided the photographs and most of the details.  Roger is quite knowledgable of all the resident as well as migrating songbirds that inhabit North Central Florida.  If any detail escapes his spontaneous response, he uncovers it via the contacts he has at the University of Florida. He has a huge photographic collection of backyard birds and urban wildlife at


Any first-time bird landlord should strongly consider the Bluebird as their first subject to host.  The Bluebird’s people-friendly outlook and their tolerance for observational intrusions make them excellent subjects.  While their transition from nest building to fledging is not without challenges, most of the complications are easily managed.  Likewise, for the birder who likes to capture those special moments with the camera, the Bluebird proves to be an entertaining, enjoyable, and charismatic subject.

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