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Photo by Steve Zamek

Invite a Family of Bluebirds to Share Your Yard

A peaceful farm in the country, just minutes east of Charlottesville, is home to our horses and an ever growing population of deer, squirrels, foxes, groundhogs, beaver, rabbits and just about every bird native to Central Virginia.  Even Canada geese who fly to and from neighboring ponds call it home, as well as titmice, house wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches, woodcocks, woodpeckers and especially our good friends, Eastern Bluebirds.

This seasonally warm first weekend in March beckoned bluebird scouts back for a brief visit in quest of making sure last year's nest boxes had been cleaned and readied for their return migration from North Carolina later this month.

But you don't have to live on a farm or even have much acreage to invite a family of bluebirds to share your yard, even if you live in town. Birds adapt quite well, in fact, "If You Build It, They Will Come"!

In more developed areas, bluebirds are likely to be found around large open lawns, quiet roadways, old railroad paths, parks, cemeteries, golf courses, new housing developments, and neighborhoods on the edge of cities. They usually don't hang out in heavy woods or city centers. So, rest assured, your yard will do just fine! But beware… your invited guests may return year after year!

When installing a bluebird house, consider:

  • Location: While scattered trees or shrubs are fine, choose a fairly open spot away from woods.
  • Mounting: A pole or fence post is ideal, especially if you can add a baffle to keep out predators such as cats, snakes, and raccoons. Mount the house at around 5' high, so that you can easily reach it to monitor and clean.
  • Orientation: Ideally, face the opening toward a safe perch, such as a small tree or fence. Also try to face it away from prevailing winds, and away from midday sun in hot climates. If you are installing the house near a road, face it parallel to the road, so the birds won't fly out directly into traffic.
  • Spacing: Bluebirds are competitive and usually claim two or three acres, so be sure their houses are widely spaced. Ideally, Eastern bluebird houses should be 100-150 yards apart.
  • Organic Garden: Since bluebirds eat insects, they can provide natural insect control, but avoid areas with heavy application of pesticides.

 The Challenge of Competitors:

One of the biggest challenges for bluebirds is the threat of other birds competing for the nesting space. European starlings and house swallows pose the largest threat to bluebird nesting, and these non-native birds will attack bluebird nests and destroy the eggs.

You can reduce the risk by making sure your bluebird house has the right size opening by purchasing (try Tractor Supply, Lowes or Amazon) or making it yourself using bluebird specific dimensions. Here is a link to How To Build Bluebird boxes by Audubon's specifications.

These gorgeous birds are so sweet and charming, swooping from tree to post to guard their nests and checking you out. And if their stunning beauty weren't enough, they're also great for natural summer insect control!

Enjoy your new neighbors and many thanks for helping reestablish our Eastern bluebird's diminishing natural habit! 

By Carol Solis, Montague Miller & Co. When not assisting REALTORS® with their marketing needs, Carol can be found "on the farm" with her family enjoying everything country living has to offer.