Bluebirds: Harbingers Of Hope

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Bluebirds are one of the most desired birds for your backyard. People want bluebirds both for their beauty and their song. A friend recently recounted getting up at 5 AM to drink coffee on the deck and listen to the bluebirds' song. What a great way to start the day!

Anywhere you live in North America you can find bluebirds. The Eastern Bluebird lives from Canada to Mexico and Honduras in the area east of the Rocky Mountains. The Western Bluebird lives west of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico. The Mountain Bluebird inhabits much of western North America often at elevations above 7000 ft. The Mountain Bluebird is slightly larger than the Western or Eastern Bluebird.

Bluebirds desire a specific habitat. They want open fields or meadows with trees nearby. The open field makes it easier for them to find the insects that they feed on. These birds are cavity nesters and will build their nests in holes in trees or wooden fence posts. They also like quiet.

When settlers first spread out over the continent, they help expand the habitat for bluebirds by clearing land. However, as more and more people moved in and suburbs began to develop, the fields gave way to yards and even parking lots. Wooden fence posts gave way to metal fence posts and slowly the natural habitat of the bluebird diminished.

At the same time as the habitat diminished, the bluebird came up against an aggressive foe. The European Starling and the English House Sparrow had both been introduced into the continent in the 1800's. These cavity nesters are much more aggressive than the bluebird and they will take over the nesting sites even after the bluebirds had established a nest. Starlings and house sparrows will destroy the eggs, kill the fledglings, and even attack and kill the adult birds. Bluebird houses or nesting boxes are a solution to this habitat problem.

Attracting Bluebirds:

How do you attract these wonderful birds to your backyard? There are at least three steps you can take.

Nesting Boxes: Erecting a bluebird house or nesting box is one way to attract bluebirds to your yard. The bluebird box should be well ventilated, have good drainage, and be watertight. They should never have a perch; both sparrows and wrens are attracted to perches. The entrance holes Western and Eastern Bluebirds need to be 1 � inches in diameter and the entrance hole for the larger Mountain Bluebird should be 1 9/16 inches. Starlings cannot enter holes this size and are therefore no longer a competitor for the nesting site. The house sparrow can enter these nesting boxes and so the boxes should be monitored to remove a house sparrow's nest when found. Bluebirds will not abandon their nest even if you touch the nest.

The bluebird box should be mounted on a pole about 5 feet from the ground. Try to face the box away from the prevailing wind. A baffle barrier or hardware cloth placed under the box will help protect the box from snakes and other predators.

If you have the room, set up a bluebird trail. Place a series of nesting boxes from 100 to 300 feet apart. Bluebirds are territorial and will not nest if the boxes are too close together. Generally bluebirds will not nest in cities. They definitely prefer rural areas.

Food: Bluebirds don't eat seeds and will not come to most bird feeders. They eat insects and berries. They can be enticed to a platform feeder with chopped fruit, berries, and chopped peanut kernels. The favorite food of bluebirds is mealworms � alive or dried. There are special feeders to contain the meal worms and allow only bluebirds and other small birds to enter. These feeders generally have plexiglass sides and holes in the ends for the birds to enter the feeder. As bluebirds become accustomed to your feeding them, they can be trained to come when you whistle or ring a bell.

Water: If you have bluebirds nearby and have a bird bath, you will probably see the birds enjoying the water. They need water year round and like flowing water.

Why did I call bluebirds a harbinger of hope? In the 1960's bluebirds were on their way to extinction. Their numbers had been declining for decades. The concept of bluebird nesting boxes and bluebird trails gained momentum and now bluebirds are flourishing in many areas of North America. If we can turn around the plight of the bluebird, then there is hope that we can solve other ecological problems and concerns that are occurring today. The bluebird can help us understand how to work with nature to save nature.

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Author: B J Clyde
B J Clyde is an avid birdwatcher and President of For a large selction of quality bluebird nesting boxes go to

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