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Attract Bluebirds to your Yard

Bluebirds are found in every state in the contiguous United States

Interest in bluebirds continues to grow, and by many people across the country — bluebirds are found in every state in the contiguous United States — have installed nest boxes in their yards to ensure they stick around.

Indeed, bluebirds are the most popular of all the wild birds tracked by NestWatch, a Cornell University program that enlists volunteers to collect data.

Though bluebird populations were once in decline due to habitat loss and pesticide use, the birds have bounced back, partly with the help of the North American Bluebird Society, which urges people to put up nest boxes to make up for the dead trees and old woodpecker holes that have become scarce in developed areas.

Three species of bluebirds exist in North America: the eastern, mountain, and western bluebird. While every state has unique conditions that affect which species live where and how they will do, some basic principles apply to attracting them to your yard:

Build it and they will come.

Bluebirds are cavity nesters. They need a natural or man-made cavity to build their nests in. Installing a nest box designed for bluebirds is the best way to attract them. The opening should be about 1½ inches wide for eastern and western bluebirds and slightly larger for mountain bluebirds. Include a large overhanging roof and good side ventilation for southern states where heat is a factor.

Location, location, location.

Put your bluebird box in an open area near mowed grass. Bluebirds eat primarily insects, and short grass provides better hunting grounds. Scattered trees, fence poles, and power lines provide excellent perches for bluebirds to survey their territory.

Safe housekeeping.

Nest boxes should be monitored weekly and predators should be discouraged. Enemies of bluebirds include snakes, raccoons, fire ants, and other birds. Mount the nest box on a metal pole far enough away from trees and fences to keep predators from climbing down on or up into the box. Install a baffle as a further deterrent. Some bluebirders recommend greasing the pole to ward off fire ants.

Go organic.

Not only are pesticides and herbicides harmful to birds, they kill insects, which are the bluebird’s primary food source. However, because bluebirds eat insects, many farmers and gardeners like having them around for natural pest control. Bluebirds also eat berries as a supplement. Plant native trees and shrubs nearby that produce fruit they eat and that attract insects.