How to Attract Bluebirds to Your Backyard: 12 Tips That Work
If you want to experience the gorgeous hues and soothing birdsong of bluebirds, follow these simple tricks.
True to their timeless depictions in popular media like “Snow White,” bluebirds are sweet, gentle, and vivid. Their charming birdsong and brilliant royal blue coloring make them particularly appealing. They also eat insects, which only adds to their appeal. Just don’t confuse bluebirds with blue jays, which are louder, larger (reaching 10 to 12 inches in length), and have stronger beaks.
All three North American bluebirds—eastern bluebirds, western bluebirds, and mountain bluebirds—are small thrushes, songbirds related to the American robin. The eastern bluebird makes its home east of the Rockies, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico; the mountain bluebird lives as far north as Alaska, as far east as the Great Plains, and as far south as Central Mexico; and the western bluebird can be found in the Rockies, along the California coast, and across much of the Southwest.
The good news is that these birds can be found in every season, and following these tips and tricks on how to attract bluebirds may bring them to your backyard for much of the year.
1. Install a birdhouse.
Welcome bluebirds to your yard with a bluebird house, also referred to as a nest box. The ideal birdhouse has an opening 1.5 inches in diameter, which should attract bluebirds while keeping out larger birds. Look for birdhouses made from recycled plastic or a durable wood (like cedar or redwood) that have brass hinges, predator guards, and an elevated mesh floor. Or consider building your own DIY birdhouse for bluebirds to shelter in!
Place your bluebird house in an open area, mounted 4 to 7 feet off the ground on a pole or post—not on a tree. Situate the birdhouse so that the opening faces east for more sun exposure in the early part of the day and to avoid heat and wind. Monitor bluebirds that nest inside, and when their fledglings leave, clean out the birdhouse so it can be used by other bluebirds that come along.
2. Buy bluebird-specific feeders.
If you know how to attract bluebirds to a feeder, then you’re already halfway there to making your backyard a regular hangout. If you’re still figuring it out, the first thing to note is that bluebirds prefer ground and platform feeders. It’s important to know where to place bird feeders for easy access, especially ground feeders. Another good idea is to look for feeder types designed to create a safe space for bluebirds while preventing competition with other birds. These include bluebird jail feeders, Gilbertson feeders, dome feeders, and window feeders.
To make feeders more enticing, put out staple bluebird foods like mealworms (live or dehydrated), dried or fresh fruit (blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, or currants), sunflower seeds, or suet.
3. Serve up mealworms.
Wondering how to attract bluebirds to your yard easily? As mentioned above, mealworms (the larvae of mealworm beetles) are one of bluebirds’ favorite foods. They love to dine on mealworms, especially live ones, which are more nutritious. You can serve mealworms to bluebirds in a suitable bird feeder or shallow dish.
Live mealworms can be purchased at pet stores, Walmart, online specialty retailers, and through sellers on websites like Etsy and eBay. Live worms keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks, but you can also find dried mealworms in stores and online. Dehydrated mealworms last longer, require no maintenance, and cost less, but they aren’t as nutritious. Try rotating between live and dehydrated mealworms to entice bluebirds.
4. Plant native berry bushes and trees.
Bluebirds prefer to eat large amounts of fruit during the cooler months, so a great way of attracting bluebirds to your yard is planting native shrubs and trees with berries. Popular choices include mistletoe, sumac, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black cherry, tupelo, currants, wild holly, dogwood berries, pokeweed, juniper berries, elderberry, and chokecherries. Create an attractive habitat by planting this vegetation at different spots in your yard, leaving open sections in between.
5. Add a hunting perch.
Bluebirds are omnivores, and they typically perch on wires and fence posts overlooking open fields to scan the ground for insects to eat. When thinking about how to attract bluebirds, one essential way is to provide places for them to perch. Ideal bluebird perches are about 3 to 4 feet tall, making old fence posts, wire fences, and T-shaped poles great candidates.
6. Get a bird bath.
Water can play a role in enticing bluebirds to visit your backyard. Bluebirds need fresh, clean water for bathing and drinking, both of which are offered by a bird bath. They also find the sound of moving and splashing water appealing, so choose a bird bath with a fountain or bubbler (or add a solar-powered fountain or bubbler like this option available at Amazon to an existing bird bath). A low, wide basin filled with 1 to 2 inches of water is ideal for bluebirds.
Just be sure to install a bird bath large enough to accommodate a group of birds (at least five or more), since bluebirds enjoy gathering in bird baths. Most bluebirds are migratory, but if you experience cold winters, opt for a heated bird bath to prevent the water from freezing.
7. Protect them from cats.
Did you know that millions of songbirds are killed each year by cats? Yes, even your household’s sweet kitty has a natural instinct to hunt birds. Nestlings are especially susceptible to these attacks. To protect visiting bluebirds, keep your cat indoors. If your cat must go outside, however, you can dress them in a brightly colored collar cover, which will alert nearby birds of your pet’s presence. Research has found that vivid cat collars can reduce the number of birds caught by cats by nearly 90 percent.
If your property attracts neighbor cats and strays as well as bluebirds, there are nontoxic methods you can use to keep cats out of your yard. One way to deter cats is by placing fresh orange or lemon peels around your yard, by bird feeders, and near nest boxes.
8. Keep dead trees and branches.
If you have dead or dying trees and branches in your yard, keep some around to attract bluebirds to your backyard. These birds prefer to live around mature trees with cavities for nesting and roosting sites, and dead trees can still provide this kind of natural shelter. You might be tempted to remove dead foliage and branches, but you should only do so if they pose a safety hazard.
9. Provide nesting materials.
Introducing some nesting materials in your yard—such as pine needles and cotton scraps—can encourage bluebirds to visit in the springtime. Alternatively, you could purchase nesting balls with natural materials like this option available at Amazon and hang them from tree branches or hooks. Leave these items near your bluebird house to help get them started on making a comfortable nest on your property.
10. Leave some open space.
Bluebirds prefer open areas like fields, prairies, meadows, and golf courses. Having some spaces with low grass, along with perches, allows them to hunt the insects they crave. For this reason, it helps to keep at least some parts of your lawn neat and trim. If your yard is heavily wooded or lacks open space due to its small size, then you may have a harder time attracting bluebirds. You might still find them at your feeders, though.
11. Avoid pesticides at all costs.
If you want to keep bluebirds around, choose organic garden products and avoid pesticides. Bluebirds eat insects on the ground, so it is important to not treat lawns with harmful chemicals, which can find their way back to the birds and harm them. Furthermore, if pesticides kill off your yard’s insects, your yard will no longer be a dependable food source for bluebirds. This is also why it’s best to choose native plants. These hardy local plants typically don’t require toxic fertilizers and pesticides in order to feed and shelter bluebirds and other local wildlife.
12. Play bluebird song recordings.
Finally, a fun way of attracting bluebirds to your yard is by playing a recorded bluebird song for them to hear. You can record birdsong from your own yard or find recordings online from resources like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A bluebird’s song is fairly low pitched and consists of several phrases that each have one to three short notes interspersed with whistles, lasting only about 2 seconds in total.
Avoid playing the birdsong too often, however, especially during nesting season. This could cause the birds stress and distract them from important tasks like guarding their nests and searching for food.