Watching Bluebirds fly in and out of their birdhouses as they search for food and feed their young is one of the more enjoyable experiences one can have. The place and position that the bird houses are place in can have a bearing on whether or not the Bluebirds will choose the house in which to nest. If there is quite a bit of vegetation around the bird house, the bluebirds may not nest there. The installation height of the box should be between 4 and 7 feet.
If you have ever watched the Bluebirds as the fly back and forth from the house out to find food, they seem to fly very rapidly with abandon. They will fly out and trap insects in the air and bring them back for their young.
Bluebirds are medium sized birds that are most insectivorous and belong to the thrush family of birds. The Eastern Bluebird has feathers that are blue with an orange or blue breast, and the female birds are less brightly colored than the males. The Mountain Bluebird has more of a blue color all over its body.
The birds prefer an open setting, usually in grassland areas with trees that are scattered. During the spring and summer they will produce between two and four broods. The males will pick the nesting areas and will attempt to attract the females with specific behavior such as singing and flapping their wings, and then placing some kink of material in a nesting box or house or a cavity.
If the site is accepted by the female, she alone will then build the nest, lay and incubate the eggs. The enemies of the Bluebirds include snakes, cats and raccoons which are considered to be predators. Competitors with the Bluebirds are Crows, House Sparrows and Starlings. These birds have been known to take over the nests of Bluebirds, smashing the eggs and killing the young birds and even the adult Bluebirds.
Bluebirds can be attracted to feeders that are filled with mealworms or water soaked raisins. They will also use bird baths where the water has been heated.
In the 1970s it was estimated that this fierce competition from other birds was responsible for a decline of the Bluebirds by a factor of up to 70 percent, but by 2005 it was noticed that the bird had experienced a rebound in its normal regions of habitat, which included the farmlands and plains of the US. Much of this resurgence is attributed to the establishment by volunteers of Bluebird Trails.
Bluebird trails are simply a series of nesting boxes or birdhouse that are set up along a line. They are established in a habitat conducive to the Bluebirds nesting preferences, and then monitored during the mating season. The monitoring is largely to keep predators, such as Sparrows, away from the boxes.
Monitoring includes keeping the boxes clean, keeping wasps and flies away and so forth. It is recommended that the monitoring person buy a good book on Bluebirds such as “The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide.” One way to control sparrows is to put a “Sparrow Spooker” on top of the box as soon as the Bluebird has laid eggs. This consists of one vertical dowel stick with two or more dowels extending horizontally out from it. Then attach several thin strips of duct tape hanging down.
The location of Bluebird boxes or birdhouses should be at least 100 yards apart and away from barns, homes and human activity. This is because House Sparrows are usually associated with human activity. Ideally, they should be placed at least half a mile from human activity.
You can leave the hole in the box plugged with wadded newspaper until around April 1 in the northern states because the sparrows will try to claim the boxes early on in the season. One of the most difficult problems for the Bluebirds is the presence of the House Sparrows, who are very competitive and tend to dominate the area if there are many of them.
People have had some success in putting up birdhouses for Bluebirds that are unattractive to them. Sometimes taking the roof off, putting the birdhouse about 3 feet off the ground, and placing a cat food can on the floor of the house.
If House Sparrows do start to nest, you may have to scare them away or trap them, and then relocate the birdhouse after cleaning it to attract the Bluebirds.