Show them the food and they will come!
Believe it or not it took me 12 years to figure out how to get bluebirds to come to a feeder. I’m not an expert on the matter, just sharing my experience to help others enjoy and learn how to feed bluebirds.
The first year we moved to the country I put up a nestbox to attract bluebirds. They came to our yard but didn’t nest. A few years later I added more nest boxes. I never tried to help the birds in anyway. A few more years passed and still none of the bluebirds nested successfully. I found problems with bugs or predators when checking the nest after the birds went away.
Last year I decided to do some reading about placing and maintaining bluebird nestboxes. I’m not going to get into that. There are many great websites where you can find information on caring for your nestbox. Make sure you read up, it will help you tremendously.
Do’s and Don’ts
Put a bluebird box up (if you have room for it) to attract the birds. Don’t put the box near trees. House wrens may try to nest in it. They poke holes in the bluebird’s eggs and toss them on the ground. When you get a pair of nesting bluebirds check the box every day or two for bugs underneath the nest material. If you find bugs are becoming a problem, research nestbox maintenance to find out how you can get rid of them safely without causing harm to the birds.
I have been putting seed feeders out for years. I never thought feeding eastern bluebirds would be any different, but it is. I tried feeding dried mealworms to the birds for three years, but no birds ate them. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong? So many people told me how their bluebirds gobble up live mealworms. I thought they must not like the dried mealworms, but they’ll be able to find live ones, right? Well I was wrong. What I didn’t know about bluebirds is that they don’t find the food. You have to show it to them! I learned this out after putting live mealworms in a dish and setting it out in the yard. I watched for hours but the birds didn’t come, so I did some research on the internet. That’s when I found out that you need to train bluebirds to find the food.
I may have been lucky because I didn’t start feeding our bluebirds until late spring. A prolonged period of bad weather might have limited their food supply, so they were hungry. Find a place where the birds are perching that’s away from their nestbox. I noticed our birds were perching on an adjacent nest box which was empty. I flipped the door down and placed several live mealworms in a bright blue dish on the empty nest box. The article I read suggested to blow a whistle when the food is placed out so the birds will learn that sound means food, and that’s what I did.
It took them a while but with the food right at their feet, they found it! I continued for the next few day with a few more mealworms on the dish every few hours, blowing the whistle and waiting for them to come. I always watched the dish when I placed the live mealworms out to make sure no other birds or predators ate them. After a day or so they started to come to the dish very quickly. I had them trained on the third day. Now I was ready to move the dish to a better location. A location that was further away from the nest and much closer for us to view them. I added a flower box and a small tree to our deck, and placed the blue dish in the flower box. It’s a great place for me to keep my distance while getting some wonderful photographs.
Our pair of bluebirds are beautiful to watch. They have four chicks so I’m feeding six hungry birds now! They eat a lot of mealworms. I started with 7-12 worms at a time, now I’m feeding 20-30 mealworms a few times each day. They gobble them up in less than 5 minutes. I’ve also been supplementing with dried mealworms which last longer because the bluebirds don’t like them as much. I found a great place to buy live mealworms online, “Rainbow Mealworms and Crickets” based in California. I was extremely pleased with them. Ordering was easy, price was great, shipping was quick, and not a single mealworm was dead upon arrival. In fact those little buggers were thriving!
This is my first year feeding the bluebirds, but it truly feels like a lifelong bond. I will continue to feed this pair as long as I can, and I look forward to feeding more bluebirds for many years to come. I hope this information is helpful when you consider feeding the eastern bluebird in your own backyard.
Walk softly, let nature be your guide…
Fine Art Photographer