Tips for Feeding Bluebirds

Picture taken out back of the shop.

Male bluebird getting as many worms as he can.

Maybe you saw our video we posted last week of the three handsome male Bluebirds eating mealworms on our loading dock (it's also re-posted below).  If you haven’t you can can see it in last weeks blog titled Get Ready For Bluebirds and for more videos visit our you tube channel.  And now you are interested in getting started.  Eastern Bluebirds feed primarily on insects and berries so feeding them can be a little tricky.  We have a great deal of experience feeding bluebirds and would like to pass on our tips and tricks to help you have success. 

We at The Wood Thrush Shop would never suggest that the way to attract Bluebirds is with mealworms.  Mealworms are really the second part of the equation.  We would always recommend that one attracts Bluebirds first with nesting boxes.  Feeding them then becomes a lot easier.  Why? Because natural food sources for Bluebirds are literally available everywhere they travel.  Nest-boxes are not.  Their need for nest boxes takes precedence during the breeding season and will bring them to your yard more predictably and reliably, and for several months.  

When Bluebirds begin checking out a nest-box that is the best time to begin offering the kind of food they prefer, like live mealworms.   The type of feeder to use is really not very important.  I use a small clay dish which is placed on a large rock easily seen from the nest-box, maybe 10 feet away.  Platform type feeders tend to work very well.  We can show you several Bluebird feeder types we stock. 

When I see the first signs of Bluebirds showing interest in the nest-box that’s when I bring home the mealworms and look for the first opportunity to walk out to the feeder and offer a small amount of worms, maybe a dozen.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!  The key is I make sure the Bluebirds are there to see me make the offering.  Most times, over the many years I’ve done this, I have immediate success.  They fly right down to the dish and gobble them up.  I’ll repeat this little scene every time the opportunity arises over the course of a few days or a week.  Usually 3 or 4 times is enough for the Bluebirds to catch on to what you are doing.  If during that first offering they fly away do not leave the mealworms there.  The longer the worms are there the greater the likelihood that a Robin, or Mockingbird sees them.  If they catch on to this offering feeding the Bluebirds will then become almost impossible.  So, keep the offerings minimal until the Bluebirds really catch on.  Then you can increase the amounts of mealworms being offered as they raise their young.  Soon they will be waiting for you, or even seeking you out in your yard as I’ve experienced in the past. 


Ø  Offering mealworms when Bluebirds are not present is a sure way to feed a lot of other birds.  Wait until you see them before offering.

Ø  If birds that you do not want are getting the mealworms suspend offering the mealworms for a few days or more and start over using the suggestions we’ve outlined.

Ø  Bluebirds may partake of other foods like dried mealworms, suet, Bluebird nuggets (a type of suet), raisins, blueberries, chopped apple and grape.  Experiment and let us know your results.

Ø  Location is important.  Don’t try to feed them near birdfeeders or a place that gets a lot of bird traffic.

Ø  Some people employ the method of making a sound, like whistling, while they offer the worms.  Like Pavlov’s dogs Bluebirds will key in on the sound and associate the treat about to be given them.  I’m convinced that the Bluebirds we fed behind the store one year became familiar with the sound and sight of my truck arriving in the morning.  As soon as I would get out of the truck they would be landing on perches waiting for me to enter the store and bring out worms.

Remember, Bluebirds will not become dependent on the mealworms but will simply take advantage while they are offered.  You may suspend feeding them any time and not worry that they will starve.