About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Unusual bluebird behavior

Good morning! I am a resident of Northeast Arkansas, and a bluebird lover. We have two bird houses in our backyard that have been up for 5 years. Each house produces at least five bluebird chicks a year (most of the time more)!

Our blueies usually stay over winter and stop in to feed during the day. Over the last two weeks, I have noticed four blueies in the backyard frequently. We have also noticed that a pair of bluebirds has taken up residence on top of one of the speakers we have mounted on our covered patio. They have been there just about every night for a week. I was a bit alarmed because they have never come this close to the house and they don’t fly away when we let our puppies out for a bathroom break.

I do have a few questions: 1) Is this behavior normal for eastern bluebirds? 2) Why are they now coming so close to the house? 3) Is there anything I can do to help make sure they make it over the winter? 4) I have put mealworms out, but is there another food source they enjoy? Thank-you for your time! ~ Paragould, Arkansas

I’m glad you have been so successful in growing the bluebird population! Bluebirds are very beneficial in controlling the bug population as well as bringing happiness into our lives.

1) Is it normal for bluebirds not to be afraid of humans or dogs?
In order to survive, birds have to adapt to their surroundings. It’s not unusual for birds to become very unafraid of man, their best friends, and their machines especially if you are feeding them.

2) Why are they coming up close to the house?
The birds may have found the perfect roosting spot out of all the winds and in a safe location. At night or during bad weather bluebirds often find shelter in tree cavities, birdhouses, or under the eaves of houses.

Or you might have young birds scouting out future nesting sites. Research has found that the basics in nest construction are primarily instinctive, but birds’ nesting skills improve through trial and error. They may try nesting on the speakers under your covered patio. If it has a favorable outcome, you can expect them to try and nest there again. If his nest fails, they'll move on to another location.

Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be spaced at least 100’ but preferably 300' apart. I suggest you put up another bluebird box, if possible, or encourage your neighbors to start a bluebird trail.

3) How can I help the bluebirds survive the winter?
Bluebirds are attracted to water. If your area freezes like mid-Michigan, you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds to get drinks or clean their feathers.
Photo by Tom T. WBU So. Yarmouth, Ma.

Feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds must keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. The feathers also provide insulation by trapping body heat close to the skin.

4) What do you feed bluebirds?
The only time it may be hard for birds to find food in the winter is during storms. Freezing rains or heavy snows can cover their food and make it almost impossible to feed. Otherwise in the winter, bluebirds forage naturally for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.

If you want to supplement their diet or attract bluebirds to a feeder, most people like you do, feed mealworms. I also like to add chopped apples in the same tray I offer the mealworms. Both bluebirds and live mealworms enjoy eating my apples.

Other foods you can offer are shelled sunflower seeds, nuts, berries, or suet. Bluebirds enjoy raisins or chopped grapes too but these can be harmful to dogs so I don’t suggest that if your little buddies can access the feeding area.

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Kaneko said...

These bluebirds are beutiful! keep it going :)

BYBirdBlog said...

This is very helpful information. Thanks!