About Bluebirds - Common Q & A's
Q. How high should I mount my bluebird nestbox?
A. About 5 feet off the ground. High enough that "on-the-loose" house cats can't jump onto it easily, but not so high that you can't see in to monitor the box.
Q. How far apart should the boxes be spaced?
A. Boxes for the Eastern Bluebird should be spaced at least 100 to 150 yards apart; Western and Mountain Bluebirds have a larger nesting territory and boxes should be spaced no closer than 300 yards apart. Boxes can be mounted in pairs in areas where Tree Swallows are abundant. When paired, boxes should be mounted 5 to 25 feet apart. This provides nesting sites for both species and helps to prevent competition between them. Different species of birds usually do not mind nesting close to each other.
Q. Does it matter which direction the entrance hole faces?
A. Face the box so the entrance hole is away from prevailing winds and rain. If possible, towards a tree or shrub which is within 100 feet of the box. Trees and shrubs provide a landing spot for the young bluebirds when they first leave the box. This will keep them off the ground, away from predators.
Q. Should I put the box close to the tree or in the middle of the yard?
A. Try to put the nestbox at least 35 feet from the treeline. This is supposed to help prevent wrens from taking over the house or causing harm to the bluebirds eggs. Supposedly, wrens do not like to fly across large open areas.
Q. When should a person stop monitoring the box?
A. Don't open the box after 13 days. You could cause the young to fledge early.
Q. The male bluebird keeps attacking my window, what is wrong with him?
A. They will often be found doing the same thing to your vehicle's mirrors. Bluebirds are extremely territorial. The thought behind this is that he probably sees his reflection in the window and thinks it is another bluebird invading his territory. You need to find a way to "block" the reflection he is seeing. If it's a vehicle mirror, try covering it with a plastic grocery bag.
Q. My nestbox is full of small twigs, is this a bluebird's nest?
A. Sounds like a house wren is trying to make it his home, or just prevent any other birds from using the box. As long as there are no eggs in the nest, clean out the sticks and watch it for awhile. If you see him hauling more stuff in, you may need to block the hole for awhile. House wrens seem to think that when they decide on an area to nest ... every box in that area is theirs. They will fill all the nestboxes they find with fake nests. You may also find eggs tossed out of the box or with holes poked in them, or babies that are pecked at or on the ground outside the box. We covered the entrance hole of the nest box with clear packing tape for a few days. It was pretty funny watching him as he flew up to the hole with a stick and couldn't even get it started into the box. He finally gave up and moved away.
Another suggestion if you have really determined wrens. Block the opening of the house,or remove it for a few days, and put a couple of smaller houses in a tree or bushy area in another section of your yard. Once the wren gets busy with the other houses, you'll have a better chance of keeping him out of your bluebird house. Remember, unlike House Sparrows, House Wrens are protected. Once they have eggs in a nest, leave them alone. As long as you keep an eye on him and don't let him get a nest built, you may have a chance of either convincing him to go away, or at least keeping him busy enough to leave your bluebird box alone.
Q. How long does the female incubate the eggs?
A. Eastern Bluebirds: 12 to 14 days...... Mountain Bluebirds: 13 to 15 days ...... Western Bluebirds: 14 days
Q. My nestbox is full of ants! How do I get rid of them?
A. Take a Q-tip and dip each end into a bottle of Terro ant killer. Staple the Q-tip to the outside bottom of the nestbox. If you see ants again, you may need to apply more ant killer to the Q-tip.
Q. I'm worried about predators ... How should I mount the nestbox?
A. Anti-Predator / Mounting Suggestion:
Use galvanized pipe (3/4" ID) covered by a piece of pvc pipe to mount your nest box. If you can't get a hold of the pvc pipe, be sure to put a baffle a few inches below the box. You can also grease the pipe to stop ants from climbing up to the box.
Q. I want to attract Bluebirds, what can I put out to feed them?
A. Most common would be mealworms, set them out in a glass dish on a flat tray feeder or bluebird feeder, near the nestbox. You can raise them yourself or buy them. We also found these recipes for suet type mixtures you can try. Also, be sure to have water close by.
Q. Is there anything I can feed bluebirds besides mealworms?
A. Homemade Bluebird Suet. Here are two recipes for bluebird suet that we found at an online bluebird forum. Both writers said their bluebirds ate this nearly as fast as they could make it. Both recipes use corn meal, a recent suggestion at the bluebird forum was to check with your local feedstore or co-op to see if you can buy it in bulk.
- Mix equal parts:
- Chunky peanut butter
- Karo syrup
- Melt in a pan over low heat. Let cool and stir in yellow cornmeal to a flaky consistency. Keep it in a tupperware container and feed it twice a day.
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 2 cups quick cook oats
- 2 cups cormeal (plain)
- 1 cup lard (do not substitute)
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Optional: 1 cup wild bird seed, nuts raisins, dried fruit
- Melt lard and peanut butter. (Micro-wave works best.) Add remaining ingredients. Mix in large bowl, fill a wire cage and hang on a shepard pole or crumble on platform feeder.
Q. What can I plant in my yard to help attract Bluebirds.
A. First, the obvious - plant a birdbath. Water, especially running or dripping is a great attraction. Just make it easy enough to be able to clean it out easily and if your in hot weather, clean it daily. Here are some names of plants to consider, you'll have to check your zone to see if they will grow.
Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Cedar, Black Cherry, Pin Cherry, Chokecherry, Dogwood, Hackberry, American Holly, American Mountain Ash, Black Tupelo, Red Mulberry, Sassafras, Shadbush, Serviceberry.
Northern Bayberry, American Blackberry, American Black Current, Highbush Blueberry, Red Chokecherry, Highbush Cranberry, Gray Dogwood, Red-osier Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, American Elder, Black Huckleberry, Inkberry, Nannyberry, Pokeweed, Pasture Rose, Smooth Sumac, Staghorn Sumac, Winterberry.
American Bittersweet, Wild Grape, Mistletoe, Virginia Creeper