Bluebird Box Tips
The cottage isn't the only house at the Garden Home Retreat. We've been working on building a whole neighborhood. The houses are less than a square foot in size, but that's plenty of room for a single family. What kind of family could live in such a tiny home? A family of bluebirds!
Bluebirds build their nests in cavities, but they don't have the ability to create their own so they need our help. By mounting bluebird boxes we provide an easy alternative to nesting spots that occur naturally such as abandon woodpecker holes or crevices in dead trees.
Because bluebirds prefer to make their homes in wide open spaces my garden in the center of town is not suitable, but the Garden Home Retreat in the countryside is perfect. There are grassy pastures where they can hunt for insects, scattered trees and fence lines for perching and we've just added 5 bluebird boxes where they can make nests. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll find the houses occupied by mid-spring.
Here are a few points to consider if you are planning on putting up bluebird boxes this year.
- Is your site suitable? Bluebirds prefer big, open spaces in a pesticide free location with scattered trees or fences for perching.
- Late February and early March is the time to set up bluebird nesting boxes if you want to encourage these birds to make a home in your yard. This may seem a little premature, but late winter and early spring is when male scouts are out looking for a place to nest.
- Bluebirds are particular about their homes. You can purchase boxes designed just for bluebirds or make one yourself. The boxes should be made of untreated wood, well ventilated, watertight, have drainage holes, easy to monitor, and easy to clean. You can find plans for a bluebird box online at www.nabluebirdsociety.org. Gilbertson houses created by Steve Gilbertson, from Akin, Minnesota, who is a recognized Eastern Bluebird authority, are made from PVC. They are becoming a popular choice because house sparrows don't seem to like them.
- Common predators are cats, snakes, and raccoons. Mount your bluebird box on a metal pole to prevent these guys from attacking the nest. As a further deterrent apply a coat of grease to the pole and a collar just below the box.
- House sparrows are also cavity nesters and very aggressive. Site your bluebird box away from your house, barns or outbuildings where sparrows are common. Monitor your boxes weekly and immediately remove sparrow nests, which are messy and made with a mixed bag of materials.
- The location of the bluebird box is important. They should be placed 100 yards away from wooded areas, facing away from prevailing winds, and about 5 feet above the ground. If you are going to put up more than one box, they should be equidistant: 125 to 150 yards apart for Eastern bluebirds, 100 yards apart for Western bluebirds and 200 - 300 yards apart for mountain bluebirds.
- It is important to check on your bluebirds once a week during nesting season. Bluebird boxes are designed with a side that opens so you can look inside without disturbing the nest.
- Bluebird nests are cup shaped and made primarily of grass.
- Bluebirds nest in late March and early April in most areas of the country.
- It takes 12 to 14 days for bluebird eggs to hatch.
- Stop monitoring the box after the baby bluebirds are about 12 to 14 days old.
- Baby bluebirds will leave the nest when they are 18 to 21 days old.
- If the baby bluebirds appear to be abandoned, call you local wildlife control immediately for help.
- Clean out the bluebird box as soon as the nestlings have left to encourage another brood.
- Bluebirds usually produce eggs twice in a season.
Good to Know
Bluebirds eat insects during the summer, but they like berries as well. Here is a list of a few berry producing plants that are among their favorites.
Eastern Red Cedar
Shadblow, Amelanchier canadensis
American Holly, Ilex opaca