How to Welcome Bluebirds to Your Yard

Want blue in your garden? Invite bluebirds to set up housekeeping.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Bluebirds readily nest in yards. Their bug-eating habits make them great assets in helping reduce backyard bug populations.

Photo by: Bill Thompson for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

Bill Thompson for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

By:

In song and story, bluebirds fly over the rainbow and bring happiness. When bluebirds nest in your yard, it is joyful. These brightly tinted native birds share their gentle personalities, warbling song and brilliant color. Even better, bluebirds live on insects, which means having them around helps keep bugs in check.

But the most important reason to invite bluebirds is because they can use the help. Bluebirds have a history that includes a serious decline in numbers due to things like suburban sprawl, habitat removal, competition from non-native invasive bird species and widespread pesticide use. Efforts at providing nest boxes for bluebirds have helped numbers rebound, but there’s still room for improvement. When you choose to welcome bluebirds to your yard, you’re helping to save a native species. That’s green living at its best.

There are three types of bluebirds: Eastern, Mountain or Western. Attract any of these blues by following a few simple steps.

Bluebird Pair

Bluebird Pair

Feeding bluebirds mealworms is one way to help supplement their diet of insects. Male Eastern bluebirds are bright blue; females are a duskier gray-blue.

Photo by: Missouri Department of Conservation at Mdc.Mo.gov

Missouri Department of Conservation at Mdc.Mo.gov

Consider Habitat

Bluebirds live in areas that are open—near farm fields, meadows and open woodland. These perky songsters aren’t shy to live in a typical yard, as long as there’s an open lawn area that provides good insect hunting. Bluebirds hunt insects from a perch, observing the surrounding landscape until they spot a potential meal—then they pounce. In most neighborhoods, perches are widely available, including utility wires, street signs and fences. Bluebirds also perch on mailboxes, basketball backboards and garden trellises.

Gilbertson Bluebird House

Gilbertson Bluebird House

The Gilbertson bluebird house is made from PVC that’s painted to mimic a tree trunk. It’s a good choice in areas where English house sparrows compete with bluebirds.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Provide Shelter

In the wild, bluebirds nest in holes in a dead tree. Bluebird nest box designs mimic a tree cavity. Many types of next boxes exist, including the traditional wooden box often seen on golf courses or public lands, to the Gilbertson PVC box, which is painted to resemble a white birch tree trunk. Do some research to discover which box style provides the best fit for your setting. Local bluebird organizations exist coast to coast, and provides a wealth of free info for bluebird hosts. In the South, aim to have nest boxes in place by February; in northern areas, by mid- to late March.

Offer Water

Bluebirds flock to the sound of moving water. A fountain or birdbath dripper can be a big help in beckoning bluebirds.

Bluebird Nest

Bluebird Nest

Bluebirds build a grassy, cup shape nest that they fill with 4 to 6 powder blue eggs.

Photo by: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

Serve Food

During nesting season, bluebirds feast on insects. Reduce pesticide use around your home, yard and garden. Bluebirds can’t resist live mealworms in a feeder. During winter, bluebirds also eat berries and small fruit. Native plants like dogwoods, eastern red cedar, holly, pokeweed and viburnums offer berries bluebirds love. 

Keep Reading

Next Up

Garden Design: Connect Your Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

Let your indoor space inspire your landscape design plans.

Outdoor Living Spaces: Ideas for Outdoor Rooms

Learn about options and ideas for outdoor rooms and outdoor living spaces.

How to Make a Backyard Fire Pit

Create a cozy space for outdoor entertaining with a stone fire pit.

How to Illuminate Your Yard With Landscape Lighting

Create a stunning landscape that can be enjoyed during the day and night with inventive outdoor lighting solutions.

How to Build a Backyard Pergola

Don't let the sweltering sun prevent you from enjoying your patio during the summer months. Learn how to build a pergola with adjustable roof panels that lets you dial just the right amount of shade.