Links & Resources
There are many many resources for learning more about Bluebirds Here are just a few that we've found to be most helpful: If you've found other resources you would like to see included on this page, please visit our Contact page and let us know about them!
State and Local Bluebird Societies
Emergency baby bird care
Mealworms info and suet recipes
Bird identification information
Bluebird videos and books
| Bluebird INFORMATION:
The Bluebird Nut Cafe - our own Bluebird Forum for Bluebird lovers.
House Sparrows (actually a Weaver Finch, not a sparrow) are deadly predators on Bluebirds – and other cavity nesters. House Sparrows will peck eggs, nestlings, and adult Bluebirds to death. However, it is imperative that other sparrows not be confused with House Sparrows. Only House Sparrows are a threat. To learn what this predator looks like: House Sparrow. For information on House Sparrow control:
HOUSE SPARROW DETERRENTS AND SPOOKERS
HOUSE WRENS A protected species, the House Wren, is also a predator on Bluebird eggs and hatchlings. It is important to understand, that of all wrens only the House Wren is a danger to other cavity nesting passerines. After claiming his nesting territory, the male House Wren will place twigs/sticks in every cavity (e.g. nestbox) he can find. Often, in this process, he will puncture or toss another bird’s eggs or hatchlings and place his twigs/sticks on top of the existing nest. He sings to attract a female. When she arrives, the male House Wren will show her all of his nest-starts. She will pick one that she finishes into a final nest for her eggs. Then the other nest-starts, which are now (and ONLY now) considered to be "dummy nests", may be removed. Removal of stick deposits at any point before a final nest is chosen is illegal nest tampering. If one has house wrens visiting blue boxes, wren guards should be tried. Once the male house wren has started nests, the starts can’t be disturbed. SO, the only legal effort at this point is prevention by trying wren guards.
The first step in protecting against House Wrens in Bluebird nestboxes is to site the boxes out in the open at least 100 feet away from wooded areas. However, as wrens over-populate their preferred nesting habitats they are known to move out to those open areas and attack Bluebird and tree swallow habitats. ... and, nestboxes in areas with trees are the usually preferred of chickadees who are also at risk of house wren attacks. In such instances, maybe - just maybe - a wren guard will be helpful. Information about the guard developed by the late Mr. Robert Orthwein can be found here: Wren Guard
Mr. Orthwein’s information stops in the late 1990s with his passing. However, many of his expert protégé’s have since gone on to use Wren Guards - for bluebird nestings - with great success. From what I can find, public information on any possible research about tree swallow acceptance of wren guards is non-existent.
NOTE: it is imperative that, when adding ANYTHING to a nestbox, with an in-process nesting, the box must be watched for at least a half-hour to assure that the adult birds have accepted the change. If the adults do not accept the change, un-do it.
Another artificially introduced unprotected species, starlings are usually (but not always) too big to fit through a bluebird sized entrance hole. However, some starlings are able to fully fit through the entrance hole.
Most starlings that visit a bluebird-size nestbox will hang onto the box front and just stick their head into the box. Starlings will eat eggs and toss hatchlings if they can be reached. A starling’s reach will be the length of its beak plus the length of its head plus the length of neck-stretching it can do. This reach can easily be 4 or more inches.
Methods for deterring starlings from bluebird-size nestboxes:
Pretty much … the history on cowbirds … they used to roam the great planes of the “wild west” with massive herds of buffalo … picking bugs and parasites off of those exquisite creatures. As such, cowbirds helped the buffalo. Because of this nomadic life, cowbirds weren't in one spot long enough to nest. So they deposited their eggs in the nests of other birds and then moved on. When the massive herds of buffalo died off … cowbirds were stuck with their ‘roaming’ nature, but nowhere to roam. Now … they still often grace herds of cows with their bug & parasite picking nature … but … they’ve become a “nuisance”. Terribly sad; sort of a pain in the butt. Cowbirds usually toss one egg of the host clutch and lay their egg in its place. Sometimes cowbirds will parasitize the same nest twice. Some host birds will abandon their nests when a cowbird egg shows up in their nest. Many birds will raise the cowbird as their own. Sometimes this 'adopted' baby is so big, compared to the others in the host nest, that the other chicks die of starvation as the adults try to feed the ravenous appetite of the cowbird chick. While cowbirds most often parasitize an open nest, they have been known to manage to get into a nestbox and parasitize bluebird nestings. Some reports say a single cowbird female lays between 60-80 eggs each year.
SOME OTHER EGGS
The two nest identification field guides mentioned above are the best. A site with some clearer pictures of nests of the most common tenants: Nests
All too sadly, some predator raids a bluebird nestbox. Sometimes we find just an empty nest that had eggs or babies; sometimes there are remains; sometimes destruction. Of course, we rarely get to see 'who' the predator was. But, sometimes clues are left. Check the chart at the site below for hints as to what the predator might have been.
We just love this chart!
Ahlgren Construction Company -nestboxes, feeders, traps
12989 Otchipwe Ave. N.
Bluebird Nut Mealworm Feeder - Our own design, now manufactured by Erva Tool. Starling-proof mealworm feeder for Bluebirds and small songbirds.
Sparrowtraps.net - The Deluxe Repeating Sparrow Trap
TMB Studios' Bluebird Shop - Nestboxes, feeders, birdbaths, predator control products - you name it!
Cedar Valley Live traps:
For Gilbertson Boxes and traps:
Droll Yankee Window Feeder at the Big Red Nature Store
BUILD IT YOURSELF PLANS, INSTRUCTIONS, DIAGRAMS
MEALWORMS: It is usually not "necessary" to offer mealworms to Bluebirds. However, in times of cold and/or prolonged-wet weather snaps with a nest full of babies or if one of the adult birds is lost during nesting, mealworms can make the difference in the survival of the babies. It also encourages the Bluebirds to consider your property a good place to nest.
"SUET" RECIPES While Bluebirds prefer insects, after much patience (like a couple of years) they sometimes learn to enjoy mixtures made of a fat source, peanut butter, and some dry ingredients. In the meantime, these recipes will be adored by woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, juncos, cardinals, etc.
The Suet-Lard-Shortening question
Bluebird Nut's Own Recipe
Brenda's super mix:
Bluebird Monitor's Guide (Page 75)
Janie May's Recipe
NEST BOX MONITORING: Bluebird conservation requires monitoring nestboxes once they are in place. For information on the proper way to monitor your nestbox see the NABS Monitoring Fact Sheet.
A very extensive list is available in the form of a downloadable 8-page pdf document here: Bird name alpha codes
The earlier these larvae are found, the better for hatchlings and nestlings. Sometimes, by gently rubbing through the ‘dust’ on the box floor - under the nest – blowfly larvae can be felt before they can be seen (they really blend in with that dust!).
Common methods for trying to control these larvae:
Use of a hardware cloth screen on the nestbox floor to keep the nest about a half-inch off the box floor. Debate about these screens include mention that by the time the larvae are heavy enough to fall out of the nest and through the screen, they’ve done most of their damage to the baby birds.
The nest may need replacing. (Note: technically, this is illegal. But then, technically, most of what monitoring calls for is illegal.) This may be necessary repeated times for the same nesting as new blowfly eggs are laid and hatch in as little as 36-48 hours. Moving the baby birds from the infested nest to the replacement nest can be dangerous to the baby birds’ soft bones. One key factor about moving nestlings … don’t "roll" them.
Low-level (0.03 – 0.1%) pyrethrin pesticide can be used under the nest. However, this is a toxin and is considered a choice of last resort.
Check Blowfly Information and Research to learn about this parasite and the Bird Nest Research project. This site shows interesting pictures of blowfly larvae of varying sizes as they grow. This research project needs nests from which baby birds have fledged and is for the main purpose of examination of the nests to determine the occurrence of parasites such as blowfly larvae, mites, etc.
Solution: If a severe infestation has already occurred, a replacement nest may be the only option.
Mites: mites are rare for bluebirds, common for Tree Swallows (TRES). Providing TRES with all their feathers for nesting can prevent mite infestations. This is probably unrealistic for large trails. Then the nest replacing and pyrethrin as described for ants could be tried.
WEST NILE VIRUS
Nestboxes offered in any area even thought to have raccoons should be on baffled poles. Although no baffle is 100% guaranteed, this is a highly effective baffle and very simple to make ... inexpensively! Raccoon Baffle
This same baffle is helpful against skunks and opossum as well. With well-fit hardware cloth (or other solid cap), it can also help against squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and rats ... as long as those critters cannot otherwise jump to the box.
For any baffle – before mounting (and annually) it might be helpful to spray inside it with a ‘no-stick’ cooking spray to help deter paper wasps from building inside the baffle.
However, most often, the adult birds see a snake long before it is at the box (i.e. anywhere near the trap). If there are babies in the box, at the mere sighting of a snake, the adults will make extreme efforts to fledge the 'kids'. If the 'kids' are of any age passed open-eyes they will make every effort to heed the adults' panic call. Unless the 'kids' are of full fledging age they will otherwise fledge prematurely and most often drop right to the ground into the snake's path.
Keeping grass well trimmed within a large perimeter of the box might well be the best deterrent for snakes. However, that's piddlin' little protection against a snake.
Perhaps, the most important concern ... in any area prone to snakes, the monitor should always exercise care when opening a nestbox. To be 'greeted' by a coiled snake in a box is an unnerving experience.
*Currently affiliates of North American Bluebird Society - Contact information from NABS website.
Tips for interim baby bird care information, provided only as a temporary resource for care until the bird can be delivered to - or picked up by - a trained, licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
BIRD BANDING The purpose of putting leg-bands on birds is for research ... things such as migration patterns, nest site fidelity, survival length, etc. are just some examples of research. Banding migratory birds is legal only with a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The specific part of the site that covers information on how to apply for a federal permit is found here: Bird Banding Permits.
Scriven, Dorene "Bluebird Trails A Guide to Success", Bluebird Recovery Committee of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis ISBN: 0-9639661-1-1 Check here for the best price I've seen: Bluebird Recovery Program
Berger, C., Kridler, K., and Griggs, J. "The Bluebird Monitor's Guide". Harper Collins ISBN: 0-06-273743-0
Stokes, Donald & Lillian, "The Bluebird Book", Little Brown & Company ISBN: 0-316-81745-7
Troyer, Andrew M., "Bringing Back the Bluebirds – Even on Your Hand", Carlisle Printing ISBN: 0-9642548-4-0
Zickefoose, Julie, "Enjoying Bluebirds More, The Bluebird Landlord's Handbook", Bird Watcher's Digest ISBN: 1-880241-03-X
Grooms, Steve & Peterson, Dick, "Symbol of Hope - Bluebird"
(Nest Identification) Harrison, Hal H., "Eastern Birds' Nests". Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0-395-93609-8. (This is the paperback Eastern guide).
(Nest Identification) Harrison, Hal H., "Western Birds' Nests". Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0-618-16437-5. (This is the paperback Western guide).
Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye, "The Birder's Handbook A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds" A Fireside Book published by Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-671-65989-8. (Ok, not specifically about Bluebirds, but an excellent birding book!)