How to Attract Bluebirds: Tips and FAQs

Bluebirds are beautiful—it's easy to see why people are interested in attracting them. We’ve got easy tips and answers on how to attract bluebirds.

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Eastern Bluebird Pair Perched On A Purple Lilac Branch Engaging In A Springtime Courtship Ritual Of The Male Bird Feeding His Mate A Tasty Worm.Melody Mellinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Eastern bluebird feeding his mate a tasty worm

It’s easy to see why eastern, western and mountain bluebirds are among the most beloved backyard visitors. With their gorgeous colors, musical voices and gentle habits, who wouldn’t want to welcome these beauties into the backyard? Attracting bluebirds can take some time and patience. But once you’ve won them over, they’ll bring their special bluebird pizzazz to any yard or garden. Follow these tips and get expert answers to common questions about how to attract bluebirds.

Also, check out 20 beautiful pictures of bluebirds.

7 Tips for Attracting Bluebirds

bluebirds at a mealworm feederCourtesy CIndy Emery
Bluebirds at a mealworm feeder
  1. Open it up. Bluebirds prefer open areas with low grass and perches from which they can hunt insects.
  2. Leave it alone. Dead trees provide important nesting and roosting sites for bluebirds and a whole host of other cavity-nesting birds. Leave dead trees standing (or leave dead limbs on live trees) when it’s safe to do so.
  3. Plant native. In winter, bluebirds add berries and other fruit to their diet, so planting trees and shrubs native to your area is a natural way to attract them. Junipers, dogwoods, sumacs, hollies, serviceberries and elderberries are good choices.
  4. Just add water. A simple bird bath is often enough, but bluebirds are partial to moving water, so even a small fountain or dripper will make your water feature more enticing. A source of clean, unfrozen water is welcome in all seasons.
  5. Go chemical-free. Between spring and fall, a bluebird’s diet is mainly insects gleaned from the ground. Pesticides and other lawn chemicals are dangerous for birds that feed this way.
  6. Beware of roaming cats. Each year, cats kill millions of songbirds. Newly fledged nestlings are especially susceptible, so be a good bird landlord and keep your cats indoors.
  7. Offer mealworms at your feeders. Feeding live mealworms can pose some challenges, but bluebirds find them irresistible. You can even build your own mealworm feeder to attract bluebirds.

How to Attract Bluebirds FAQ

bluebird house placementCourtesy Linda Lesperance
Choose a nest box with the right requirements for bluebirds.

Is My Yard a Suitable Habitat for Bluebirds?

Bluebirds prefer open to semi-open areas. They feed mainly on insects, often watching from a low perch and then fluttering down to take bugs from the ground. A wide expanse of open, chemical-free lawn provides ideal habitat. Bluebirds like to have a lot of open ground with short grass, so if that isn’t available nearby, they probably won’t use a nest box in your yard.

If you see a bluebird, here’s what it means.

Can I Attract Bluebirds to a Small Yard?

This partly depends on what your surrounding area is like. A very small yard or one with little or no open space will probably not be suitable for attracting bluebirds to nest, but you may still see them at your feeders for food and fresh water. Live mealworms, which you can buy at pet supply or wild bird stores, make the best feeder fare for these choosy birds. Bluebirds are also strongly attracted to water, so a shallow birdbath close to the ground—especially with a dripper or small fountain feature— may bring them in.

Check out the best bluebird feeders and feeding tips.

What Food Attracts Bluebirds?

what birds eat mealwormsCourtesy Kelly Shepherd
Eastern bluebirds eating live mealworms

If you want to know how attract bluebirds in your own backyard, provide mealworms. Live mealworms are always best, but you can try dried mealworms as well. If you’re feeling ambitious, raise your own mealworms for an unending supply.

To learn more, read our guide to feeding mealworms to birds.

What Bluebird Species Can I Attract?

Bnbugc Thomas TullyCourtesy Thomas Tully
Western bluebird

North America boasts three distinct bluebird species: eastern bluebirds in the east and both western and mountain bluebirds in the west. Learn how to tell the difference between a western bluebird vs an eastern bluebird.

What Kind of Nest Box Should I Buy or Build?

A number of good bluebird boxes are available to buy, but remember that you must be able to open the box for routine nest checks and maintenance. If you’re building your own, check with the North American Bluebird Society for dimensions. The ideal box has an entrance hole 1.5 inches in diameter and is designed to be easily opened for cleaning. Be sure to use a durable wood, such as cedar.

Where Should I Put a Bluebird Box?

Place the nest box on a post in an open area, about 5 feet above the ground, with a predator guard on the post to keep intruders from climbing up.

I See a New Nest in My Bluebird Box. How Can I Tell if It’s a Bluebird Nest?

bluebird nest and baby bluebirdCourtesy Ann Conway
Young bluebird in a nest

Here’s a quick guide to identifying the eggs and nests of some of the most likely species you’ll find in your bluebird nest box.

  • Eastern, mountain and western bluebird: cup nest made of fine grasses and sometimes pine needles; females lay two to seven pale blue eggs (rarely pure white).
  • Tree swallow: cup nest of dried grass, always lined with feathers; eggs pure white.
  • House wren: nest made entirely of small twigs; eggs clear white, heavily speckled with reddish dots.
  • Titmouse: cup nest of roots, moss and dried leaves lined with hair, fur and scraps of string and cloth; eggs creamy white, speckled with small dots.
  • Chickadee: nest lined with moss, feathers, hair, rabbit fur and plant fiber; eggs white, evenly spotted.
  • Nuthatch: cup made with bark shreds, twigs, grasses, moss and feathers; eggs white, heavily speckled with pale-brown or purplish spots.
  • House sparrow: unkempt domed nest often with scraps of trash; eggs greenish white, splotched gray and brown.

Learn when bluebirds nest and lay eggs.

What Do I Prevent Other Birds From Using Bluebird Boxes?

Bluebirds are cavity nesters. Instead of excavating their own nest holes, they use natural cavities in trees, abandoned holes made by woodpeckers, and nest boxes. Several cavity-nesting birds will use bluebird boxes, which is fine as long as the nester is a member of a native species. (In fact, it’s illegal to remove the nest of any native species.) Nonnatives are a different story. House sparrows, for instance, are very aggressive competitors for nesting space and will even kill bluebirds and other natives. So if you’re not prepared to evict house sparrows, being a bluebird landlord may not be for you.

How Many Broods Do Bluebirds Raise Each Year?

Bnbbyc17 Leslie AbramCourtesy Leslie Abram
A juvenile bluebird fledgling

Many bluebirds will raise one to three broods per season. Once the young hatch, they fledge about three weeks later. Bluebirds can form close-knit families. The young from the first brood of chicks will often help out with subsequent broods by gathering food for the new offspring.

Bluebird vs blue jay: Find out how to tell the difference.

Where Do Bluebirds Go in Winter?

Eastern bluebirdCourtesy David Sloas
Bluebirds eat berries in winter

Bluebirds disappear from many neighborhoods in winter, and it’s natural to assume that they’ve all gone south, but this may not be the case. Some regularly stay through the winter as far north as Oregon, the southern Great Lakes and New England. They may switch habitats, however, gathering in small flocks and moving into open woods or juniper groves where wild fruits and berries will keep them fed in the cold. During the winter, small groups may roost together at night in tree holes or in other shelters. This is one good reason to consider leaving your nest boxes up for the winter season – attracting bluebirds may be possible even in the winter.

Learn how to help birds in cold winter weather.

Are Bluebirds Endangered?

Bnbbyc17 John Pizniur 2Courtesy John Pizniur
Male and female mountain bluebirds

Bluebird populations are directly linked to human behavior. In the early 20th century, loss of habitat and competition for nesting cavities with the more aggressive house sparrows and European starlings had the species in serious decline. Fortunately, humans came to the rescue when enthusiasts realized these beauties were in trouble. Building nest boxes for them became a popular hobby, and the species began to rebound. Populations are now much more stable—and with our continued support, there’s no reason bluebirds shouldn’t grace our lives for generations to come.

Next, check out proven tips to attract nesting birds.

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.