The Eastern Bluebird - Management Guide
by Charles Kennedy
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Eastern Bluebird is one of the smaller members of the thrush family.
The male has a blue back, a rusty red breast, and the lower belly is
white. The female is similar but the colors are not as bright. Young
birds have a speckled breast with no red and are mostly gray in
appearance. A little blue may show in the wings. The bluebird song
is 3 or 4 soft gurgling notes. Their call is a cheerful chur-wi or
feed mainly on insects but will eat fruits and berries, especially
in winter. They will come to a bird feeder to eat suet and will
readily use a birdbath. Bluebirds are cavity nesters. They use old
woodpecker holes and natural cavities in trees and posts. They
cannot resist a birdhouse if it is of the proper size and in the
right location. The range of the Eastern Bluebird is east of the
Rockies from southern Canada to the Gulf States. Their close
cousins, the Western Bluebird and Mountain Bluebird, are not found
east of the Mississippi River. Most Eastern Bluebirds migrate into
the southern part of their range in winter.
the 1950's birdwatchers and ornithologists started to notice a
decline in the number of Eastern Bluebirds. The decline has
generally been attributed to a loss of good nesting habitat and
sites, indiscriminate use of pesticides, and competition from other,
more aggressive, cavity nesting species like House Sparrows and
Starlings. In recent years a bluebird recovery has begun. This has
been due to management programs carried out by organizations and
individuals throughout the eastern states. The most successful
management technique has been providing houses for nesting.
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Specifications - Location - Installation
will use tree holes and other cavities of a variety of sizes and
shapes, but studies have shown that they prefer nest holes that are
generally 4 X 4 to 5 X 5 by about 8 inches deep. The entrance hole must be at
least 1½ inches in diameter. The front
should be hinged to provide for easy opening and cleaning. The 1½
inch hole should be in the front, 6 inches from the bottom. There
should be holes in the bottom to allow for drainage. The house
should be ventilated to help keep it cool in summer. This can be
accomplished by leaving a space above the door or by drilling
several holes slightly below the roof line.
manufacturers use copper or other metals on the outside of houses
for durability or decorative purposes. This is
not a good idea. These metal parts can get very hot in the
summer sun, especially in the deep south. There is also a bluebird
house on the market that does not have a roof. This
is another lousy idea!
you would like to build your own bluebird house here are a couple of
links to house plans.
Cornell Lab of
Ornithology Birdhouse Plans
No. Am. Bluebird Society Birdhouse Plans
If you are not
inclined to build it yourself the take a
look at the houses in the