bluebird box

Fall Bluebird Activity

We are often asked “when is a good time to put up a bluebird box”?  Every day is a good day to put up a bluebird box.  After all, the sooner they have a chance to see it the better.  Fall is a particularly good time to put out a nest box because bluebirds often show great interest in boxes at this time.  Many people that had successful nesting bluebirds will see them return to nest boxes in the fall and actually go through some of the motions of courting and nesting.  Sometimes they will even put nest material in a box.  What you are seeing is probably just a bonding behavior, not nesting.  Perhaps a successful male and female pair from the previous breeding season is back to stake an early claim on the box, or maybe a male showing a potential new mate a good nesting spot.  So, if you want to get a head start on attracting bluebirds now is a great time to put up a bluebird box.  Now is also a good time to do a little maintenance on existing bluebird boxes.  It’s a good idea to clean out the old nest material now so it doesn’t attract insects that can be a real danger to developing chicks next spring. 

November 11th through 16th take 20% off all Bluebird houses and bluebird house poles.

And don’t forget the mealworms.  We stock mealworms all winter long and as harsh winter weather descends upon us Bluebirds will be very appreciative of the protein rich larvae.  Bluebirds will accept a variety of foods around the feeding stations during the winter months.  Suet and shelled sunflower are the two most notable.  I have seen them at tube feeders as well as platform and hopper feeders for shelled sunflower, and for peanut butter suet at a hanging suet feeder.

Join the Tennessee Bluebird Society

All you Bluebird enthusiasts listen up!  The Tennessee Bluebird Society is looking for new members.  If you have a strong interest in and would like to help protect the Eastern Bluebird, and other native cavity nesting birds in Tennessee, the TN Bluebird Society would love your help.   Please visit their website, tnbluebirdsociety.org.  The Wood Thrush Shop is a proud member and supporter.

Get Ready For Bluebirds

Have you been listening?  Birds are beginning to sing.  They know spring is fast approaching.  It’s apparent Eastern Bluebirds have already begun searching for potential nest-sites.  Several times in the past few weeks I’ve seen two and three Bluebirds land on and look in some of the nest boxes around my yard.  Their biological clocks are telling them the breeding season is almost here.  Although most Bluebirds won’t begin their first nesting until early to mid-April, their search for nest sites will typically intensify in the last weeks of February and into March.  Some eager Bluebirds may get on nest as early as mid-March.

So, get a jump on your neighbors and offer a couple of nest boxes in good locations.  If you already have nest boxes now is a good time to make sure they are cleaned out and free of old debris left over from last year’s nesting’s.   

Here are a Few Tips on Choosing a Location:

Ø  An open lawn area may be preferable but not absolutely necessary.  Choose the most open location available in your yard even if it means there will be a little more human traffic. 

Ø  Bluebirds would be more sensitive to a lot of bird traffic so it’s not recommended nest boxes be placed near bird feeders.  What’s a comfortable distance?  It’s impossible to be exact but we would suggest 50 to 100 feet away.

Ø  You may have heard that nest boxes need to face east.  While this may be helpful to keep wet weather from being a detrimental factor this is not something Bluebirds require.

Ø  A Bluebird box does not need to be on a pole.  The advantage of a pole, however, is it allows you to position the box in the location you determine to be the best.  Bluebird boxes can be mounted to trees, fences, structures like garden sheds, and utility poles.  A height  of 4’ or 5’ is just fine.   

Ø  How many boxes can be offered in a typical yard situation?  So, there is no harm in offering lots of nest boxes (birdhouses) in your yard but do not expect them to all get used at the same time especially if they are close in proximity to one another.  For instance, two nest boxes within 25 feet of one another are not likely to be occupied simultaneously.  Birds are too territorial to accept this situation unless they are colony nesters like Purple Martins and Cliff Swallows.  But feel free to decorate your yard with lots of birdhouses if that’s your thing.  Offering multiple nest-boxes is great and it does lessen the competition for a single box, but do consider the nature of the species you are trying to attract and what kind of setting would be most appealing.

And PLEASE remember to not let your desire to attract Bluebirds cause you to clean out Chickadee, Wren, and Tufted Titmouse nests.  In no way does cleaning out a Chickadee nest ensure you will get Bluebirds instead.  Chickadees typically nest earlier than Bluebirds and only once.  Bluebirds will nest up to 3 times per season and have plenty of time.  Even if you do not get Bluebirds during the first nesting there is still time for two more.  Besides, if a Bluebird wanted the nest-box it would easily out-compete a Chickadee.

….Next Week How to Feed Bluebirds