The sweet song of colorful bluebirds has been enjoyed and sought after by North Americans for centuries. These beautiful members of the thrush family enjoy living around humans and entertaining them – when their habitat needs are met. This article will help you put out a welcome mat and attract bluebirds to your garden and backyard.
There are three distinct types of bluebird – Eastern, Western, and Mountain. The Eastern Bluebird is the most widespread of the three. Their descriptive names give you an idea of what part of the country each inhabits.
The bluebird populations were on the decline for many decades. This was due to destroyed habitats and the introduction of non-native House Sparrows and European Starlings. Both of these species are also cavity-dwellers that steal nesting sites from the gentler bluebirds.
Fortunately, bird lovers came to the rescue. They created and enhanced habitats to protect the bluebirds and encourage their comeback.
Bluebirds build nests in cavities or holes where they can hide their young from predators. The male attracts the female to his chosen homesite by showing her nesting materials and flashing his brilliant plumage. Once he has her attention, he then leaves the nest building and homemaking to her. She lays a white-to-pale blue egg once a day until she has her desired clutch of 3-8 eggs which she then incubates for 12-14 days.
While the bluebird females do most of the brooding, the entire family helps feed the hatchlings – even the young birds from the previous clutch. They all bring insects, berries, and other foods to the baby birds. After approximately 18 days, the youngest fledglings leave the nest themselves. It is not uncommon for the bluebird pair to raise up to 3 clutches a year.
Favorite Foods of Bluebirds
The diet of most bluebirds centers around insects and berries. When they have established themselves in an area near feeders, they will add to their buffet accordingly. On occasion, bluebirds will also dine on other creatures such as small frogs, salamanders, and lizards.
During the warm months of the spring and summer, bluebirds enjoy perching on whatever is available while surveying their surroundings for insects.
Once they’ve spotted their target, the bird dives down to catch dinner. They often hover instead of landing to grab their prey – in most cases, soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, earthworms, and grubs. Crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders are also on the menu when abundant.
Fruit, Berries, and Seeds
Berries, small pieces of soft fruit, and seeds are a favorite staple of bluebirds. They are especially important during cooler parts of the year when insects aren’t as plentiful.
Bird lovers will have no problem keeping the birds coming back if they fill feeders with mealworms. The best bluebird feeders are designed to contain mealworms as well as other favorite treats. Be sure to keep the feeder in the same location. The birds become accustomed to coming to the same place at the same time to feed.
Crumbled suet is another way to enhance the Bluebird diet, especially during the winter when the extra calories and fat are welcome. You can buy it prepared or make your own.
Choose Garden Plants to Attract Bluebirds
Figuring out how to attract bluebirds to your yard doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you fill a garden with plants they love. It is always advisable to plant native, non-invasive plant species that grow well in your zone whenever possible.
Diversity is one of the main things to consider when planting for any type of wildlife. Pick plants that attract various types of insects as well as those that provide different types of fruit.
Grow Edible Plants Such as Fruit, Berries and Nut Trees
Any type of edible berry or fruit plant is a welcome food source. Many berries ripen later in the season which ensures a longer period of readily available food for the birds. Bluebirds also benefit from the protection the bushes offer.
A few of their favorite bushes include blueberries, blackberries, bayberry, currant, juniper, and winterberry. If you have room for a few trees, consider a Holly tree, Crabapple, Dogwood or Apple. Bluebirds will also feast on your vines if you’d like to plant grapes or a Virginia Creeper.
Fruit and nut trees are beneficial in that they provide food, shelter, and possible nesting sites. Bluebirds enjoy perching in trees or bushes surrounding open areas. Leaving sections with grassy areas that include both low and high plants encourages the birds to hunt and explore.
Apple trees are a favorite of most bluebirds, for several reasons. Aside from the fruit itself, the tree is usually a smorgasbord of insects. It is also a tree that forms natural holes and cavities in the trunk and branches that provide perfect bluebird nesting sites.
Creating a Bluebird Friendly Habitat
It is not difficult to attract bluebirds to your own environment by ensuring they have everything they need in one place. Along with the food and plants mentioned above, here are a few more things necessary for happy, healthy bluebirds.
Adding a Water Source
Providing a source of clean, fresh water is a high priority when it comes to attracting bluebirds to your yard. This can be in the form of a birdbath or even a small, shallow pond.
Adding a dripper will attract the interest of even more birds as they will use it to bathe as well as drink from. You may consider installing a heating element in colder climates.
Bluebirds are cavity-nesters, preferring close, cramped quarters to raise their young. Enthusiasts can help the birds out by providing birdhouses specifically designed for them.
Make sure the openings in the birdhouse are the exact dimensions needed for the bluebirds in your area. This keeps invading sparrows and starlings from taking over the nesting box.
Shelter vs Open Areas
While some shelter in the form of trees and shrubs is desirable, bluebirds prefer open spaces for their habitat. Golf courses, meadows, and open fields are places where bluebirds are regularly found.
The patchy vegetation of these areas offers them protection from predators. It also provides places to perch when hunting for food.
How Will You Attract More Bluebirds To Your Garden?
Why not add a suet or mealworm feeder to your garden? If there are bluebirds in the neighborhood, they are sure to visit if you stock up on their favorite foods. Or plant a new berry bush
Take the time to turn your yard into a friendly, welcoming environment for America’s beloved bluebirds. Making just a few additions and enhancements to your outdoor living space will encourage them to move in and make it their own.
Their antics and colorful presence will enhance your yard and your life for years to come.