How to Attract Eastern Bluebirds to Your Backyard

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Eastern Bluebird
Image by Kevin Fox via Flickr.

Eastern bluebirds invoke a sense of wonder, joy, and hope. With their bright blue feathers and delightful melodies, it’s no wonder bird watchers love this little bird. By attracting eastern bluebirds to your backyard, you can enjoy watching them from the comfort of your back porch. 

That said, they aren’t the easiest bird to attract. Eastern bluebirds are a bit picky about their food and habitat. But don’t let that dissuade you. Following the tips below, you’ll significantly increase your chances of attracting eastern bluebirds to your backyard. 

1. Check Your Habitat Is Suitable for Attracting Eastern Bluebirds

Before anything else, you want to ensure you have the right habitat in your backyard for attracting eastern bluebirds. 

Eastern bluebirds prefer open to semi-open areas with dispersed trees and tall shrubs. They like forest edges that border meadows, hiking trails, and ditches to forage for insects. Eastern bluebirds search for food by perching on low branches over open ground. 

You want your yard to provide the type of foraging and nesting habitat they prefer. This means maintaining an open, mowed area (or low-growing native plants) with a few trees or shrubs for them to perch on. They will also perch on clotheslines or fences. 

If you have some dead trees on your property that aren’t a safety hazard, leave them. Eastern bluebirds nest in cavities made by woodpeckers and like to perch on low, dead tree branches. 

2. Provide Mealworms

Eastern Bluebird is Attracted to Mealworms
Image by NYMatt via Flickr.

To attract eastern bluebirds to your backyard feeder, you’ll need to supply food they can’t resist: mealworms. 

Bluebirds don’t eat regular bird seed, making it hard to attract them to a feeder. Rather, their diet consists mostly of insects in the warmer months and berries in the winter. 

Because of this, attracting eastern bluebirds to a backyard feeder requires either living or freeze-dried mealworms. Living mealworms are the best option, as they provide more nutrients and hydration to eastern bluebirds. 

It’s essential to provide only living mealworms if you have nesting bluebirds who are feeding their fledglings. Bluebird fledglings who consume too many freeze-dried mealworms are at risk for malnutrition and dehydration. 

However, living mealworms aren’t as easy to come by or as economical. Some birders raise their own larvae, so this is something to look into if interested. 

Freeze-dried mealworms are fine to offer during the winter and when the fledglings have left the nest. Check out the National American Bluebird Society (NABS) mealworm factsheet to learn more about attracting bluebirds with mealworms. 

Eastern bluebirds will also eat peanut-based suiet, shelled sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, and blueberries. 

3. Plant Native Shrubs, Vines, and Wildflowers 

Some eastern bluebirds migrate while others stick around during the winter months. Overwintering bluebirds have a diet of various berries that persist on trees and shrubs throughout the winter. 

Because of this, you can attract year-long eastern bluebird residents to your backyard by planting native fruit-bearing shrubs, trees, and vines. This will also help you create more habitats for other native birds and insects and provide perching areas for the eastern bluebirds. 

Native fruit-bearing shrubs, trees, and vines include: 

  • Elderberry (Sambucus nigra var canadensis)
  • Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Mulberry (Morus sp.)
  • Winterberry (Llex verticillata)
  • Wild grape (Vitis spp.)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Eastern Bluebird Eats a Berry
Image by Louis Ruttkay via Flickr.

Because eastern bluebirds predominantly eat insects in the warmer months, you can plant perennial wildflowers to attract pollinators and predatory insects. 

By planting a diversity of native plants near a semi-open area you create an ideal habitat for attracting bluebirds and other native wildlife. 

4. Don’t Use Pesticides if You Want to Attract Eastern Bluebirds

In extension to the last point, don’t use pesticides if you want to attract any bird species to your yard. 

When you use pesticides in your lawn and garden (including herbicides), you’re endangering insect-eating birds by exposing them to dangerous chemicals. 

Furthermore, if you use pesticides, you’ll dissuade not only eastern bluebirds from your yard but also many other birds, such as the American robin, tree swallow, kingbirds, and more. 

5. Set Up a Birdbath 

Setting up a birdbath is one of the best ways of attracting eastern bluebirds, alongside providing their preferred food and nest boxes. 

Eastern bluebirds love to be near water to bathe and drink. Whenever I see eastern bluebirds on my hikes, they are almost always in open woods within 50-100 feet of water. 

The key to attracting eastern bluebirds to a birdbath is to have moving water. You can add a solar-powered fountain to your bird bath to accomplish this. 

Regularly clean out your birdbath and add fresh, clean water. Eastern bluebirds (and other birds) are less likely to visit dirty birdbaths with algae growing in the water. 

6. Use a Nestbox to Attract Nesting Bluebirds

It wasn’t that long ago that eastern bluebird populations declined rapidly due to habitat loss. As cavity nesters, they rely on trees and semi-open areas to build their nests and feed their young. 

With available cavities in decline and the aggressive competition from house sparrows and European starlings, eastern bluebirds were left with little nesting habitat. 

However, the population has bounced back thanks to bird-lovers who set up nestboxes. You can join in protecting and nurturing eastern bluebird populations by setting up a nestbox in your backyard. 

Eastern Bluebird with Nest Box
Image by Peter Schreck via Flickr.

Eastern bluebirds are easily attracted to nest boxes if you have their preferred habitat and feeding opportunities (mealworms, native plants, and water). 

Before doing this, there are a few things to consider, for example, competitor birds and predators. If there is a large house sparrow population close by, you don’t want to set up a nestbox unless you’re willing to remove house sparrows. Check out NABS’ House Sparrow Control factsheet to learn more. 

You’ll also want to add predator protection to your nestbox so that snakes and raccoons can’t harm the eggs or fledglings. You can do this by adding a PVC pipe guard or sheet metal guard to the nestbox pole. 

The National American Bluebird Society provides nestbox specifics on their Nestbox recommendations factsheet. On there, you’ll learn how to set up an eastern bluebird nestbox, how far away the nestbox should be from food, which direction it should face, and more. 

If you’re ready to set up a nestbox for attracting eastern bluebirds to your backyard, consider ordering Nest Box Live! With our AI-powered nestbox, you can watch eastern bluebirds build their nest and raise their young – in real time! 

Enjoy the Results

All your hard work in attracting eastern bluebirds to your backyard will soon pay off. Reap the rewards of watching eastern bluebirds at your feeders, bathing in your birdbath, and possibly making their home in a nestbox you have set up!

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