The Eastern bluebird is the state bird of New York, yet many people have never seen one in their yard. This is mostly due to the fact that bluebirds prefer an open habitat such as meadows, fields and even golf courses. The tall grasses of fields and meadows are a haven for insects, their preferred food. Often, bluebirds can be seen perched on fences or telephone wires where they scan their habitat for prey.
To entice bluebirds into your yard, live and freeze-dried mealworms can be provided in a dish or bluebird feeder. Because insects are such a huge part of the bluebird diet, make sure to avoid pesticides while maintaining your yard if you wish to attract these and other insect-loving bird species. Bluebirds are technically migratory, but in our area we have some that stay all winter long. In the fall and winter, when insects are scarce, bluebirds will also eat fruit and berries, if made available.
Bluebirds are cavity nesters who nest in small tree cavities, woodpecker holes, and nest boxes. They are one of the earliest nesting songbirds we have in the area, with some begin nesting activity as early as March! This year we have already had reports of bluebirds visiting nest boxes. First, the male bluebird finds the nest cavity and fills it with some nesting material. Then he flutters his wings to attract a female to the nesting site. If the site is attractive to the female she builds the nest making it mostly out of tall grasses. Usually, each brood consists of 4-5 eggs, which the female incubates. Bluebirds can have 2 or 3 broods each year and both parents feed the nestlings once they have hatched. Sometimes, the young from the earlier broods in the season stay to help the parents feed nestlings.
Nest site competition with sparrows and starlings can often be an issue. To keep starlings out of a bluebird box, make sure the entrance hole is no larger than 1.5”. This size is large enough for a bluebird but too small for a starling to fit inside. To keep sparrows out of bluebird houses, invest in a sparrow-resistant house. These houses have a long rectangular opening instead of the classic circular entrance hole. They also have a shallow nesting cavity. Bluebirds do not mind these changes but sparrows prefer a nesting site with a circular opening and a deep nesting cavity.
All birds need water! Birdbaths are another great way to bring bluebirds to your yard. If the water feature has a fountain or is moving, that’s even better!
If you are interested in getting bluebirds to come to your yard, now is the time to prepare! They are already actively searching out nesting sites and sources for food. There is nothing quite like catching a glimpse of this beautiful bird!