Now is the time of year to think about attracting bluebirds to your garden. The North American Bluebird has some specific requirements to their nesting:
• Give them shelter. Mount a nest box that meets the specifications of the North American Bluebird Society. A good bluebird box should be well-ventilated, be watertight, have drainage holes and be easy to monitor and easy to clean. Place the nest box in a semi-open grassland area about 4 to 6 feet above the ground to attract bluebirds.
• Feed them. Bluebirds feed mainly on insects in the summer and wild berries in the winter. Providing mealworms in a plastic feeder will greatly increase your chances of attracting bluebirds. Mealworms can be bought at local wild bird supply stores. You can also plant fruit and berry trees.
• Offer water. Water sources, such as birdbaths, are a great draw to bluebirds. Birdbaths should be no more than 3 inches deep with sloping sides and have a rough surface to provide good footing. Change the water every 2 to 3 days to keep it fresh.
• Provide nesting materials. Bluebirds like soft grasses and pine needles as nesting material. Gather and leave these materials close to the nest box to attract them to your yard and encourage them to nest.
• Monitor the nest box. Check the box at least once a week during spring and early summer. Contrary to popular belief, opening the box will not hurt the birds. Record the number of eggs, the date the eggs hatched and the number of young. This information is useful for determining bluebird population trends.
Bluebirds have many predators and their habitat is at risk in many areas. There are several things one can do to help protect bluebirds from predators.
• Contact your local conservation organizations Ask them if they have any kits for making or assembling bluebird houses.
• Visit local hardware stores and pet shops to see if they sell bluebird houses or kits.
• Build your own bluebird house if you can't find a kit or pre-assembled house at a store. Use wood 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Use a drill to make a 1-1/2 inch diameter hole to allow bluebirds to enter the house, 1-9/16 inches if building a house for mountain bluebirds. Install a door to allow for occasional cleaning. Slant the roof of the house, making sure to extend it a bit over the sides to keep rain out.
• Place the bluebird house in yards or fields with scattered trees. Do not place it in a forest or a place surrounded by bushes -- predators can use the cover to sneak up on bluebirds. Also, do not put the house close to a barn or an area where you feed animals because the corn or feed being used could attract bluebird predators.
• Place the bluebird house so its entry hole is at least 5 feet off the ground, this helps keep predators at bay.
• Clean the bluebird's nest, if it builds one in the house. Check the nest at least once a week to see if it needs cleaning. After the baby bluebirds have left the nest, remove it. A simple way to ensure the nest is vacant is to watch it for four hours. If you see no activity over that span, it is safe to approach the nest for cleaning or removal.