Setting Up a Bluebird Trail Part 3: The Perfect Nestbox

Woodlink Bluebird House
Finding the perfect home for a nesting bluebird couple isn’t as hard as some might think. In my honest opinion, location is lot more important than a specific kind of bluebird house. If you think about it, bluebirds in the wild would naturally nest in whatever was available in the location they liked.

Actually, I don’t think we have two bluebird houses that are the same on the entire trail! We have several different houses from Woodlink and a few homemade ones. Over the years we’ve discovered a few things that are important to a good bluebird house.

  • Either top or side opening houses so cleaning out old nests is easy and you can quickly monitor to see who has moved in. (Personally I prefer top opening)
  • Small front opening. This opening should be no bigger than 1.5 inches for Eastern bluebirds to keep other birds out.
  • NO perch! Perches aren’t needed on the house by bluebird and they attract sparrows and house wrens.
  • A slanting, overhanging roof. This will keep the nest drier during rainy times and will make it harder for a predator to reach in from the top. (Cats and coons can’t sit on the slant as well!)
  • NO dark paint! The boxes will heat up way too fast and cook the nestlings. A natural wood color or light paint is always better.

There are many places on line to find plans to build your bluebird houses, and many more places to purchase them. Just keep these ideas in mind and you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect house to attract a bluebird couple to your home!

Setting Up a Bluebird Trail Part 2: Location

eastern bluebird The location of a bluebird box is critical if you wish to attract bluebirds. The three things to remember are short grass, not to shady and a place to perch.

Bluebirds love to eat grasshoppers, crickets, flies, spiders and many other pesky insects. (One more reason to attract them to your yard!) They perch until they locate a tasty tidbit and then they dive down, pine the bug to the ground and eat it. Bluebirds will nest in an area that has available perches and short grass with minimal shade so it can easily see it’s prey.

Meadows, pastures, cemeteries, golf courses and yes, even yards will work as long as they have the key elements, short grass, not to shady and somewhere to perch. Fence lines, electric lines, branches, even a clothesline will work for a perch.

Locations that don’t work well would be forests, cultivated fields, areas that are too stony or have only long grass, and yards that are too shaded.

Bluebirds are very territorial so if you plan to locate more than box make sure they are at least 300 feet apart. It might be possible to place them closer together if the boxes are not in sight of each other.

A bluebird trail is simply several bluebird boxes along a trail. If you would like to make a trail, as we have, start with putting up one or two boxes the first year and every year add one or two more. It’s well worth the effort to attract these beautiful and beneficial birds!

Setting Up a Bluebird Trail Part 1: Why?

This is the perfect time of year to plan and prepare for the coming of the bluebirds. If you are serious about birding, you really should consider putting in a bluebird box or two. Several years ago my husband and his father started putting in blue bird houses following the trails that we had developed throughout our rural properties. Now every Spring we anxiously wait to see the first bluebird pair fly in and routinely check the boxes to watch for nestlings. Some years we’ve been successful, others we have not, but every year has been worthwhile!

Years ago bluebirds had many natural nesting cavities. They prefer open spaces at the edge of forests and would use old woodpecker nests, open knot holes in trees and other natural cavities or even rock crevices. But the introduction of the house sparrow and European starling changed all of that. These two invasive species not only took over those natural nesting cavities, but they began to prey on the bluebirds themselves, causing the bluebird population to dwindle.

Now, these beautiful birds are on a comeback thanks to many bird lovers who have put in and maintained man-made nest boxes. But the bluebirds are not the only ones to benefit. It is a joy for any bird watcher to hear the beautiful song of the bluebird and to watch the brilliant flash of blue as it flies by. As Henry David Thoreau said, “He carries the sky on his back.”