Ask the Experts: Do Bluebirds Migrate in Winter?

What foods do bluebirds eat in cold weather during winter? Do all bluebirds migrate? Our bird experts answer your questions.

Do Bluebirds Migrate?

Bnbbyc17 Joann Firsdon 1Courtesy Joann Firsdon

“Two pairs of eastern bluebirds moved into our purple martin house. Do bluebirds migrate? Shouldn’t they be heading south for the winter?” asks Ann Forth of Rockton, Ontario.

Kenn and Kimberly: Although many eastern bluebirds do migrate south in fall, others stay behind. Every winter, small flocks of bluebirds remain through the season in scattered areas all over southern Ontario. One of the keys to their survival is having secure places to sleep at night in cold weather, and it sounds as if the two pairs chose your martin house as their winter roost. Normally it’s a good idea to seal up the entrances to these houses until the martins return in spring, but of course it’s worthwhile to keep them open if bluebirds are using them.

Check out 20 beautiful pictures of bluebirds and these adorable photos of baby bluebirds.

What Do Bluebirds Eat in Winter?

do bluebirds migrate?Tony Campbell/Shutterstock

“A few winters ago, four bluebirds spent time in the nesting boxes in my yard. What do they eat during the cold months?” asks Thomas Bruce of Wayland, Michigan.

Many bluebirds do stay as far north as Michigan for the winter, although they’re found only in limited areas.

During the colder months they’ll eat mainly fruits and berries, so planting native trees and shrubs that bear fruit is a wonderful way to provide food. Wild fruits and berries make up the main part of their winter diet, so they favor areas where they can consume fruits of red cedar, dogwood, hackberry, sumac, wild grape, poison ivy and other plants.

Check out the best bluebird feeders and feeding tips.

You can put out mealworms for bluebirds, but the best methods involve foods in nature. Bluebirds feed heavily on insects they find on or near the ground, so avoid treating your lawn with chemicals. They also love bird baths, and if you can make the water move—even if you just add a small dripper—that’s better still.

Psst—winter is coming: your birds need a heated bird bath.

In cold weather, they usually sleep in tree cavities or other holes, so they may have been using your nesting boxes to roost in at night. Learn the best place for a bluebird house.

Next, discover more tips for attracting bluebirds.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard. Fascinated with the natural world since the age of 6, Kenn has traveled to observe birds on all seven continents, and has authored or coauthored 14 books about birds and nature, including include seven titles in his own series, Kaufman Field Guides, designed to encourage beginners by making the first steps in nature study as easy as possible. His next book, The Birds That Audubon Missed, is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2024. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, and has received the American Birding Association’s lifetime achievement award twice. Kimberly is the Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in northwest Ohio. She became the Education Director in 2005 and Executive Director in 2009. As the Education Director, Kimberly played a key role in building BSBO’s school programs, as well as the highly successful Ohio Young Birders Club, a group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth birding programs. Kimberly is also the co-founder of The Biggest Week In American Birding, the largest birding festival in the U.S. Under Kimberly’s leadership, BSBO developed a birding tourism season in northwest Ohio that brings an annual economic impact of more than $40 million to the local economy. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms Magazine, and coauthor of the Kaufman Field Guides to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest. Accolades to her credit include the Chandler Robbins Award, given by the American Birding Association to an individual who has made significant contributions to education and/or bird conservation. In 2017, she received a prestigious Milestone Award from the Toledo Area YWCA. Kimberly serves on the boards of Shores and Islands Ohio and the American Bird Conservancy.
Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.