How to Attract Bluebirds: Satisfy Their 4 Essential Needs

by Lindsay Pereira
How to Attract Bluebirds to Your Yard

If you’re fond of backyard birds and how much colorful entertainment they provide for people of all ages, you’re no doubt curious about attracting much-loved bluebirds to your property. Be it mountain, western or eastern bluebirds, these elegant songbirds are well sought-after. Yet, like many other bird enthusiasts, you may not know how to attract bluebirds to your yard.

As with different species of birds, these vivid-colored minstrels search far and wide for the right type of environment, one that can support their specific dietary and nesting needs. Luckily, by reading our detailed article, you’ll not only learn exactly what they require to come to your garden, backyard or green space, but you’ll also discover how to set-up the perfect bluebird habitat. Read on to enjoy the benefits of these charming, bright thrushes no matter the season.

About bluebirds

There are three different types of North American bluebirds:

  • Mountain bluebirds
  • Western bluebirds
  • Eastern bluebirds

These tiny thrushes, which are small to medium-sized ground living birds that mainly eat insects, other invertebrates, and fruit, are songbirds related to the gray catbird and American robin.

Although all three species of bluebirds are considered migratory, there’s actually a significant portion of the population that occupies their preferred habitat year-round. That’s to say, if you provide bluebirds with precisely what they need to survive, they’ll be motivated to stay on your property indefinitely. As such, many bird enthusiasts are able to attract bluebirds to their green space, regardless of the time of year.

Backyard birder or not, you’ll appreciate their unmatched plumage of rich blue backs and rust or pale underparts. Of course, just their gorgeous feathering makes them a desirable garden guest. However, their stunning looks aren’t the only reason these azure-winged singers are famous. Since they’re voracious insectivores, eating a large number of moths, insects, and larvae, they’re much-loved for pest-controlling perks.

But, when you combine their beautiful plumage and insect-eating habits with a delightful warbling serenade, it’s easy to see why anyone would want to attract these lovely little creatures. Though they indeed sing their tunes throughout the year, summer breeding season showcases some genuinely moving melodies.

More reading:

How to attract bluebirds to your home

To attract bluebirds to your home, you’ll need to provide:

  • The right type of food (for these often-finicky eaters)
  • Clean, fresh water
  • Nesting sites
  • Shelter

Though certainly not an impossible feat, you will need some patience while trying to catch their discerning eye.

What to feed a bluebird

What do Bluebirds like to eat?

Bluebirds eat a broad assortment of insects, especially during the nesting season when hatchlings demand copious amounts of protein for adequate growth. Whether you’re attracting bluebirds, blue jays, cardinals or any other types of birds, it’s crucial to avoid pesticide use. Birds need a healthy food source, and if you’re continuously spraying your green space with poison, you’re naturally removing their primary source of sustenance.

To ensure there’s enough food for all the birds in your yard, consider augmenting the natural insect supply with additional:

  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Insect larvae
  • Mealworms

To provide these treats, you can use platform, tray or ground feeders.

Aside from insects, bluebirds also eat an extensive assortment of berries, such as:

  • Elderberry
  • Holly
  • Sumac

When you add these berry-producing bushes to your garden, they help design a bluebird-friendly landscape.

Suet: a favorite wintertime treat

Another excellent addition to their diet is suet. Offered as shreds or crumbles, suet is helpful for drawing bluebirds to your home, especially if you purchase the fruit or insect blends.

Bird seed: do bluebirds eat that stuff?

Now, when you think of feeding birds, no doubt birdseed it at the top of the list of bird food. However, bluebirds are a bit fussy with their grub, preferring fresh fruit and insects above all else. Having said that, many individuals have had great success with bird seed mixes, bluebird nuggets and suet nuggets, provided they purchase a blend that incorporates fruit, mealworms or other insects. While they do enjoy sunflower seeds and other varied mixes, your best bet is trying out something that incorporates their favorite foods.

Water for your bluebird buddies

Birdbaths work great at attracting Bluebirds to a garden

It’s no surprise that bluebirds need clean, fresh water for drinking, but they also require it for bathing as well. That’s why, if you install a birdbath in your green space, you’re more likely to have these visitors move in permanently. When looking for the ideal birdbath, acquire one with a full, low basin that can comfortably fit 1-2 inches of water. These thrushes travel in large groups, so you’ll be searching for a bath that can fit the whole family if need be.

Attract their attention further with a bath that has a fountain or a bubbler, they love glittering sparkles and splashing noises. As mentioned, these blue beauties travel in family flocks, so choose a design that can comfortably accommodate mom, dad, and the wee little ones. This feature is essential as you’ll sometimes witness close to a dozen birds all vying for a drink of water and some space to bathe. If you live in the winter areas or northern reaches of bluebird territories, you might want to invest in a heated birdbath to avoid frozen water in colder months.

How to ensure the perfect bluebird shelter

Bluebirds are less likely to visit a garden or green space with dense foliage or thicket-like growth. Instead, they usually prefer mature trees that are widely spaced. Ideally, you would keep just a select few mature trees in your yard, but also ensure low ground cover surrounding broad, open grassy areas. These give our ground-feeding thrushes security while foraging.

An excellent choice for plants is berry bushes as they provide a good food source. As well, they guarantee both shelter and food. In wintertime, add medium or large roosting boxes to supplement their shelter. Not only do these leave hollow spaces for roosting birds, but they also grant protection from freezing temperatures and storms.

Providing nesting sites

Bluebird nesting sites

As cavity-nesting birds, bluebirds frequently set-up residence in appropriately-sized wooden birdhouses. Ideally, their houses should be in an open area above ground, about 4-7 feet high. The entrance should be facing away from the windiest direction.

To further attract their attention and nesting consideration, offer these songbirds nesting materials such as:

  • Cotton scraps
  • Pine needles

Keeping an eye on your new neighbors

Believe it or not, these feathered friends will need your help to monitor their homes. European starlings and house sparrows are commonly known to usurp bluebird nesting spots, harming the little thrushes in the process. As such, keep an eye on their birdhouses for such possible takeovers. If a bluebird family decides to migrate and moves out of their birdhouse, then encourage other bluebirds to move in by cleaning it out. That way, you’ll always have an influx of bluebird neighbors to share your green space.

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25 comments

Dan Godwin May 29, 2019 - 3:45 pm

Lots of good things about these things
Thanks

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Monika May 31, 2019 - 9:54 am

🙂

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Laura Cagle January 29, 2020 - 6:55 am

I live right on the Tennessee River and have a nice bluebird house about 7ft above the ground, nailed to a
post. I bought a feeder with enclosed glass and a hole for them to enter. Each year a pair of Eastern Bluebirds
check it out and start building their nest. They always suddenly leave before finishing their best? I bought bluebird nuggets and worms for them to no avail? I have no cats or anything that would harm them. Help! What can I do? When I lived in Mississippi I had 8 to 10 houses full every year. Will you please text your answer?
(865) 437-7113

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Monika January 30, 2020 - 12:23 pm

Hi, it could be many reasons. It might be the other birds that are scaring them off. It is recommended to offer more than 1 bird house so there’s less competition from other bird species. Maybe that would help.

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Raven June 1, 2019 - 7:40 pm

Thanks for your information on Bluebirds. I have Eastern Bluebirds that are eating worms in my tray feeder. Great to be able to watch them.

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Monika June 2, 2019 - 10:28 am

It really is great to have birds in the garden and it’s a joy to watch them 🙂

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Elaine Scott January 29, 2020 - 1:11 pm

Your comments about the nesting boxes , and water areas were very interesting.

Reply
Monika January 30, 2020 - 12:24 pm

🙂

Reply
Annabelle July 29, 2019 - 9:10 pm

Excellent info

Reply
Monika July 30, 2019 - 2:54 pm

🙂

Reply
Rich Bunard August 25, 2019 - 7:18 pm

I have purchased a winter house for my bluebirds, but they haven’t entered it. It has the hole on the bottom of the house for more warmth. Any suggestions?
R Bunard
[email protected]

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Monika August 28, 2019 - 8:13 am

Hi, there could be many reasons why the bluebirds are not using your winter house. Maybe they don’t like the quality or location of the birdhouse, maybe a predator scared them off… If you haven’t already, try to face the birdhouse entrance away from prevailing winds, keep their bird feeder full so they have a reason to stick around, and if there are House Sparrows in your area, try to keep them away (here is a great post on managing House Sparrows: http://www.sialis.org/hosp.htm ). Hope this helps!

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Margo Cuccio November 28, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Bluebird houses don’t have a hole at the bottom of the house. You either want a narrow slot that runs across the top just under the overhang of the roof or an oblong entrance hole 1 3/8″ x 2 1/4″. We’ve tried them all. You need to be able to have access to clean the box out periodically too. It’s nice to be able to open the top to check the nest without disturbing it or risk a baby falling out with front opening. We only open the front to clean the nest out after the babies have fledged. We have 70 acres with bluebird houses all over it. 3 are in the yard. There are usually 3 clutches of bluebirds raised in each box every year.

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Victoria December 26, 2019 - 3:32 am

I moved to the North Alabama area a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until the end of this past winter I really got into the birds in my back yard. Living near a botanical garden, I have been able to attract a wide range of birds this past year. One of the first to come for a visit was the Eastern Bluebird. I thought it the most beautiful bird I had ever seen so I set my sights on keeping proper food for them. They hung around here for about three weeks and just as I thought they were going to be a summer sight they disappeared as quickly as they came. On the same note, I had some finches that had done the same thing. But I got a surprise about four weeks before our first cold weather set in here with a hearty return of twice the number of Eastern Bluebirds. They hung around until the first cold spell and have flown away again. I plan to get busy over the winter months and make some bird houses and will keep in mind the suggestions from Margo Cuccio but I am wondering if they migrate through this area on there way to summer and winter elsewhere. I would love to be able to sit outside each day knowing I am going to see them flying around in my backyard all the time.

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Monika December 31, 2019 - 1:02 pm

The majority of Bluebirds migrate south in the winter but some do not. It depends on the location and whether they have an access to winter food source. Building bird houses for them is a great idea 🙂

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Mandy April 11, 2020 - 4:45 am

Should I remove the bluebird nest after they abandone it or will they reuse it? I think they have reused a nest at times but want to do the tpright thing,

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Monika April 11, 2020 - 1:39 pm

You can do either. In some cases, Bluebirds prefer to use the old nest and in some cases, they prefer a clean nest box. So there’s no right or wrong answer here. Although, if you notice mice, ants, or other unwanted guests occupied the nest, then you should definitely clean it. You can read more about it in this great post that covers exactly this question in detail: https://nestwatch.org/connect/blog/to-clean-or-not-to-clean-your-nest-box/

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Emily Stuart February 7, 2020 - 12:53 am

When I lived in Bowlines Green Ky there was an abundance of bluebirds year round. I moved to Huntsville Alabama and have just recently started seeing them again (2/6/20) I have Goldfinches all the time here.

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Tyler April 12, 2020 - 3:44 am

Just a word of caution to anyone reading if you supply a nesting box for bluebirds be ready to take action against the English House Sparrow. I have 3 houses in the yard blues laying eggs in one and just yesterday a Chickadee going in and out of the other. Unfortunately this morning I found the chickadee dead hanging from the entrance hole and a make house sparrow trying to move in. I advise you to buy an inbox trap to trap and eliminate these disgusting non native birds. I’ve been supplying nest boxes for native birds such as Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and Chickadees for 20 years and have never seen any other species kill any other except for house sparrows. If you can’t deal with this then this is not the hobby for you. Like some others said these boxes need checked weekly and cleaned after use. If anyone has questions please feel free to email me at [email protected]

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Cheri May 9, 2020 - 12:30 am

Love your article. We have two pairs of Eastern Bluebirds that stay year round in our NC yard. We have had great success feeding them the nuggets and worms from Lowes. I have never used a tray feeder, although I remember my Grandmother having one with sunflower seeds in it. I think we shall try that!
Thank you so much for your well penned article and willingness to take the time to share your knowledge with others.

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Monika May 10, 2020 - 6:53 pm

Thank you! We’re happy to hear you find our article helpful 🙂

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Wilbur Starkey May 13, 2020 - 12:42 pm

I have 3 nesting boxes and only one is used by the Blue Birds. The other 2 are usually occupied by sparrows. The Blue Birds use the same box every year to raise their families and we enjoy watching them, always busy flying in and out of the house and feeding the little one’s. We usually have two families in it each year. I have never tried the running water fountain, but I will from now on. My son has a fountain that is solar powered and that should work for us also. Thanks for all your information Monica. Enjoyed reading about our birds and ways to keep them happy.

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Monika May 13, 2020 - 1:00 pm

Thank you for stopping by on our website, Wilbur 🙂

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Rhea June 6, 2020 - 4:43 am

I saw Eastern bluebirds at my tray feeder in mid-April for 2 weeks then they disappeared. There was an abundance of European Starlings and House sparrows dominating the feeders. I had to take the tray feeder down to get rid of the Starlings…now the bluebirds are gone! Took down an old Purple Martin house that was overtaken by the house sparrows and that reduced their population. Built 2 Bluebird boxes and a feeder with mealworms and nuggets. Haven’t seen them back yet! Any idea how to attract them to the nesting boxes? Suggestions on where I can find sprigs of the berries they like to put out?

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Monika June 15, 2020 - 3:49 pm

There could be many reasons why the Bluebirds didn’t return. Maybe they don’t like the new feeder, or the location of the feeder and nesting sites. Maybe they found a great new source of food at a different location. Try to change the setup a bit or wait a little longer, they might appear again.

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