Putting up a bluebird bird house has been a favorite backyard birding activity for many years. Bluebirds are adored for their attractive blue coloring, their docile disposition and their delightful voice. The bluebird has been used as a symbol of love and happiness in many songs.
The bluebird has always been numerous even in urban and residential areas. Several factors, such as insecticides, the destruction of their habitats, predators, and competition from different wild birds contributed to a noticeable decline in population.
The Eastern Bluebird lost almost 90 percent of its population. The destruction of some of their food supply, such as the wild holly berries used in Christmas decorations, is also believed to be a factor.
Those who love the bluebird began a massive effort to save it by providing suitable nesting sights. This was done by hanging bluebird bird houses. Many bluebird lovers would hang several bluebird houses. There were thousands of bluebird bird houses put up all over the country.
To be successful, the bluebird bird house has to be appropriate for the species in size and design. It also has to be predator and competitor-proof. Today, the bluebird is beginning to reappear in areas where the bluebird bird houses have been established.
There are three species of bluebird: Eastern, Western, and Mountain. They all belong to the thrush family. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) breeds in every state east of the Rocky Mountains. It is bright blue with a rusty red breast similar to the robin's.
The Western Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) breeds in the western states from Canada to Mexico and east to Colorado. It has a blue throat, and the red color extends to its upper back. The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) breeds in the Northwest, east to the Dakotas, and north into Alaska. It is entirely blue, with a white underbelly.
Bluebirds eat many insects: cutworms, grasshoppers, and flying insects.
They supplement their diet in fall and winter with wild berries and may starve if snow covers the ground and berries are unavailable. You can attract bluebirds to your bird feeders with meal worms.
The spring courtship ritual of the bluebird is one of the most enjoyable to witness. The male chooses an appropriate nesting cavity and dedicates all his energy to attracting a female to it with song.
He sings and sings, as the female listens and evaluates his effort. When she visits the nesting cavity, he interprets her interest as acceptance and his song becomes even more enthusiastic. But the final choice of the nesting place is hers, and if she finds his choice unacceptable, he must locate a better nesting site.
The female then builds the nest out of dry grass, pine needles and other plant material. The nest is normally around three to four inches deep. The Eastern Bluebird lays an average of three to five clear blue eggs (though sometimes they are white). The western and mountain species lay one or two more eggs than the Eastern Bluebird.
The eggs hatch in two weeks and the baby birds leave the nest in 15 to 20 days when they are ready to fly. By fall the mated pair will have raised two or three broods and may migrate south if their food supply runs out or it gets too cold.
The bluebird's main competitors among other wild birds are the house sparrow, or English Sparrow, and the starling. These birds use the same type of nesting space as bluebirds. Sparrows will destroy the bluebird's eggs in a nest or move into the nest during the winter after the bluebird has migrated. Starlings will drive bluebirds out of an entire area and occupy every available nesting cavity, unless we intervene.
We can assist in the return of this lovely bird by providing a suitable nesting site in the form of a bluebird house. We can also help by providing winter shelter and food. Plants that bear berries throughout the winter such as bittersweet, dogwood, American holly, privet, bayberry and sumac will provide food for not only bluebirds, but also many other wild birds.
Winter roost boxes provide shelter in the coldest season for many birds.
In areas where bluebirds find sufficient food, they may stay all year, but a roost box will allow them warmth on cold nights.
A specially designed bluebird bird house, with predator guards on the entrance to keep out squirrels, raccoons, and competing birds, will give the bluebird a safe place to live and rear its young. A bluebird bird house must be cleaned on a regular basis.
People create "bluebird trails" by hanging multiple bluebird houses about 100 yards apart. This provides the bluebirds an abundance of housing opportunities.
They are often placed on fence posts, giving the appearance of a "trail". Tree swallows often find a bluebird bird house to be to their liking, as well. This problem can be lessened by hanging two bluebird houses back to back. Two bluebirds will not nest near each other, so this gives the swallows one house and the bluebirds the other. The swallows will even help protect the bluebirds from other competing birds.
Blaze your own bluebird trail. All the right 'specs' to house Eastern bluebirds. Endorsed by the North American Bluebird Society, these homes feature the proper entry hole size with predator-proof extension. Raised wire-mesh flooring provides ventilation and protects bluebird nestlings from blowfly larvae. Front panel can be unscrewed for easy clean-out. 1-1/2 inch entry hole. 13 x 6 x 8 inches.
Bluebird Range: Breeds east of the Rockies from southeastern Canada to Gulf of Mexico. They winter in the southern part of the breeding range and Mexico.
Bluebird habitat: Open woodlands and farmlands with scattered trees.