Secondary cavity nesters choose their home primarily based on the availability of nesting cavities. Bluebirds, for instance, aren’t very particular about where they build their nests. Under natural conditions, the bird may nest in anything from a hole in the wall to a slit within a thick tree trunk.
Nevertheless, placing bluebird nest boxes in a suitable habit that they like will go a long way in attracting these lovely backyard residents.
This article is a precise guide that answers some of the questions you probably ask when deciding on the best bluebird house location in your yard.
Where to Hang Bluebird House?
All three bluebird species show a high preference for nest boxes constructed:
- In an open and semi-open area
- 4-6 feet above the ground
- In an area with large expanses of short grass
- In an area with a clear flight path
We also need to consider two more things when putting up a bluebird house:
- Orientation: what direction should your bluebird nest box face?
- Predator proofing: how do you deter common birdhouse predators?
Bluebird Nest Box Placement
Even with their attractive plumage and melodious songs, bluebirds are predators whose diet mainly consists of insects. The birds have indeed been shown to choose nesting houses based on their ability to forage insects in the immediate vicinity.
The vegetation surrounding the birdhouse should make it easy for bluebirds to get their next meal. Generally, some of the best hunting grounds are fields:
- With expansive short grass cover
- Not densely overgrown
- With a clear line of vision
Because of the nature of the food that bluebirds eat, they primarily catch their prey by drop-hunting. Drop-hunting is a feeding method in which the bird identifies its prey from a height and swoops down to snatch it from the ground.
Dense vegetation and tall grasses reduce the efficiency of the drop-hunting technique. Thus, place a bluebird house in an open, grassy spot where the birds can catch their prey easily.
Pro Tip: tall, dense vegetation around the nest box may make it less visible to bluebirds in addition to hiding such predators as snakes.
How High Should Bluebird Houses Be?
It’s generally recommended that bluebird nest boxes are constructed about 4-6 feet above the ground. When the birdhouse is built too close to the ground, predators like cats, raccoons, and snakes may take it as an invitation to reach into the box and feast on whatever they find inside.
Studies have also demonstrated that bluebird nest occupancy improves when the boxes are built:
- 50-200 feet away from heavily-wooded or brushy areas. This limits competition with house wrens.
- A good distance away from human habitations, barns, and other buildings. This cuts down on vandalism, dogs, as well as competition with house sparrows.
- In locations where insecticides have not been used extensively
- A good distance from open water and ponds. This is to limit competition with tree swallows
Caution: Nest-box locations will not prevent other birds from using boxes intended for bluebirds. However, the above points can limit competition from house wrens, sparrows, and swallows.
Where to Mount Bluebird House
Bluebirds hunt from low perches. The birds love hanging out on low tree branches, shrubs, fence posts, etc. Therefore, the birds will be attracted to a house if it’s placed close to such perches as a fence line, a row of wooden fence posts, shrubs, low trees, or some other make-shift perches.
Note that it’s best to place the birdhouse on a post. Bluebirds can’t tolerate a birdhouse that sways. Therefore, their house must be anchored firmly to an upright pole.
Pro Tip: east-facing bluebird houses are recommended by most birdhouse-siting guides. Several studies, however, suggest that the optimal direction of bluebird boxes varies with location, more so with the latitude. For instance, in Georgia, northwest facing boxes are preferred. However, in Michigan, bluebirds show a preference for southeastern facing boxes.
Making a Bluebird house Predator Proof
Various predators often target bluebird homes. The following measures can be implemented to protect a bluebird nest box from predators:
- Wooden guards installed at the entrance hole
- Sparrow shields installed on the bluebird house
- Cones or slinky toys placed on the bluebird house pole to deter snakes
- Buttering the pole to hinder potential climbers
Other Useful Tips When Placing a Bluebird House
- Provide nesting material such as small twigs, pine needles, grass clippings, etc. near the nest box for easy nest construction
- Don’t paint the birdhouse or if you do, use a natural shade
- Clean the nest box after each brood to encourage nest-site fidelity—the propensity for adults to raise other chicks in the same location.