Bluebirds are medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the thrush family.
There are three species of bluebirds: Eastern, Western, and Mountain.
Bluebirds are territorial and prefer open grassland with scattered trees. Bluebirds can typically produce between two and four broods during the spring and summer. Males identify potential nest sites and try to attract prospective female mates to those nesting sites with special behaviors that include singing and flapping wings, and then placing some material in a nesting box or cavity. If the female accepts the male and the nesting site, she alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs.
Bluebirds are attracted to platform bird feeders, filled with grubs of the darkling beetle, sold by many online bird product wholesalers as mealworms. Bluebirds will also eat raisins soaked in water. In addition, in winter bluebirds use backyard heated birdbaths.
Of all the birds a gardener could choose to attract, the bluebird is the quintessential helpful garden bird because bluebirds are voracious insect consumers, quickly ridding a garden of insect pests.
Jill Henderson writes for Show Me Oz, Feb. 26, 2013, that late February and early March are the best time to put out the welcome mat.
Because bluebirds are primarily grassland birds that prefer natural cavities in which to nest, man-made boxes must be built to specific dimensions and hung in just the right location. The North American Bluebird Society has a fantastic array of information on bluebirds, including several types of bluebird boxes that you can make at home.
The Society also recommends hanging nesting boxes in “an open area with scattered trees and sparse ground cover. Avoid underbrush, tall grass, dense woods, farm buildings and areas where pesticides are used. Good choices are mown lawns, fields, meadows, orchards, and road sides.”
Many years ago, Henderson received her first bluebird box from her dad, which he made by hand using rustic recycled wood. And even though he specifically told her to hang it in an open area away from her heavily wooded front yard, she wanted to be able to watch the bluebirds from the kitchen window. So she hung the box where she could see it best.
For two years she watched with hope as bluebirds inspected the box, occasionally going so far as to bring in dried grasses to build a nest. But every year the pair would suddenly abandon the project, leaving it available for errant woodpeckers, squirrels and the occasional pair of chickadees or titmice.
If you have bluebird boxes already in place, now is the time to clean them for the coming nesting season. Remove old nests and other debris, check the sturdiness of the box and be sure it is hung securely. For those wishing to attract bluebirds, build or buy a bluebird box and hang it in an open place with a mixture of open areas and trees for perching. Since bluebirds begin searching for nesting sites in late February and early March, time is of the essence.