Bluebird Nest Boxes
The sighting of a bluebird is always an exciting event! Bluebirds are not as common as they once were because their favorite nesting sites, old woodpecker holes and wood fence post cavities, have disappeared. With our help, they are returning in ever increasing numbers throughout their range. Here are some pointers on how to establish your bluebird trail - a unique and exciting conservation project.
Locate your nesting boxes in clearings or near the edge of the woods. Bluebirds prefer areas like large country or suburban lawns, pastures, fields, cemeteries, golf courses and landscapes with short vegetation. These areas provide the perfect habitat for bluebirds and their favorite food, insects.
Although you can have success with 1 or 2 boxes in your backyard, a bluebird trail can extend for miles with hundreds of boxes. Boxes should be placed about 100 yards apart on the trail. Sometimes you will have greater success if you place a pair of boxes 25 feet apart every 100 yards. Only place as many boxes as you have time to monitor.
Boxes should be in place by mid-February, since some birds look for nesting sites as early as late February. Don't hesitate putting them out later as some stragglers come late and some birds become displaced by other species or natural events. Nesting boxes should be mounted so the hole faces away from the prevailing wind. You can use metal farm fence posts, 3/4" galvanized pipe, or ask us about our various mounting poles. Mount boxes 4' to 5' above the ground. Greasing the poles helps discourage snakes and raccoons, but baffles should be used if these predators become a persistent problem.
Many styles of boxes are available. All of the styles in our store have the correct specifications for bluebird happiness, so aesthetics and price usually dictate your choice. For bluebird landlord happiness, look for the styles that allow the easiest monitoring and clean out.
For greatest success, bluebird houses need to be monitored by opening up the box for inspection at least once a week from March 15 to August 15. Monitor boxes early in the day as this allows your scent to dissipate by late evening when predators are active. Also, we advise you to use extra caution when the nestlings are 12 or more days old, since your inspection may excite them to fly out too early. Adult birds will quickly return after you have examined their nest. Be sure to record data about nests, eggs, and young. When monitoring your bluebird trail number the boxes and use nesting cards for each box to collect data about each bluebird family. The most important data is the number of eggs in one season and the number of bluebirds fledged.
You will often have other desirable birds use the bluebird box for nesting, and we recommend not disturbing these nests. These include chickadees, house wrens, tree swallows and titmice. Usually sites with the least shrubbery will attract fewer wrens.
As you monitor, it's a good idea to remove house sparrow nesting material. House sparrows have become a great detriment to the survival of bluebirds. They are a non-native bird that aggressively takes over nesting sites while destroying the bluebird eggs and killing the young. Keep in mind, boxes kept away from buildings will have the least sparrow occupancy.
Another unwelcome visitor to bluebird nests are parasitic insects. These may weaken and kill the young birds. If you suspect this problem, dispose of the nest after each brood.
Bluebird Nesting Cycles
Bluebird males usually try to establish territories of two to five acres with nesting and feeding sites. Before they decide on their territories, they may leave and return several times before they stay permanently. Courtship begins in March and April and usually involves the male's attempt to convince the female of his superior site and attributes, while final nest box selection is definitely the female's choice.
Egg laying starts soon after the nest is completed. One egg is laid each day until the clutch is completed - anywhere from 3 to 5 eggs. Eastern bluebirds have two to three broods in one year. It takes 13 to 14 days to incubate the eggs. All the eggs usually hatch the same day and both adults feed the nestlings. The young fledge in fifteen to twenty days. Although the parents keep feeding their young, the fledglings can find their own food in about two weeks. Often the first brood of juvenile birds will help the parents feed the second brood.
Remove the nest as soon as possible after the nestlings have fledged. The bluebirds may raise their second brood in your boxes or even a third one! Nesting season can last into July. If you don't remove the old nest in time, the parents may begin building a new nest on top of it. Do not remove the nest at this time. When removing the nests, bag them and dispose of them off premises.
The Wild Birds Unlimited Bluebird Houses
Our top of the line bluebird nesting box includes all of the key elements necessary for a successful nesting experience for your bluebirds. It includes proper drainage and ventilation to keep the nest and babies dry. The floor size is ideal for bluebirds, along with a starling-resistant entry hole. A side clean-out door makes cleanout and box maintenance a snap. Our unique roof opening allows monitoring of the nest, which is safer for the babies and works well for photography. Our house is approved by the North American Bluebird Society and is made from durable cedar. We offer a variety of accessories including our Advanced Pole System, raccoon baffles, and snake/raccoon predator guard.
Did you know that:
- It takes 2 - 5 days for the female to complete a nest.
- Females build the nest alone while males carry nesting material during courtship.
- Nests are light and airy, made of fine grass or pine needles, hair and a few feathers with a small cup shape in the center.
- The male from the first brood may come back to help feed the young (usually female) of the second brood.
- Swallows have been known to help bluebirds raise their young and then use the nest box once the bluebirds have fledged.
Bluebirds primarily eat insects when available and supplement this main diet of insects with various fruits and berries. Raisins, nut meats, sunflower chips and meal worms are all readily eaten by bluebirds.
Bluebirds can be attracted to feeders. Providing an easy source of food allows bluebirds to spend their energy on nest building and caring for their young instead of foraging for food.. Sometimes it takes putting food on a tray close to the bluebird feeder before the bluebirds catch on. The feeder may need to be moved away from human dwellings if sparrows seem to be a problem. If you find that wrens or other birds are competing for food in the bluebird feeder try adding another feeder.
Feeders should be placed in an area that is visible to the birds. Find a place that is in an area that the birds frequent to find their food. It is not recommended to place the feeder close to bluebird or other houses. If a mockingbird in the area is keeping other birds from reaching the feeder, the feeder may need to be moved. The Wild Birds Unlimited Dinner Bell feeder is great for feeding mealworms and has an adjustable hood to make it difficult for larger birds to accesss. The side tray feeder fits right onto our Advanced Pole System and can be easily attached. Hanging trays also make good feeders for feeding mealworms and other insect eating birds will be attracted.