Wild Birds Unlimited was filled with local residents on March 5 to hear David Gillem, president of the Anne Arundel Bird Club , teach attendees how to attract bluebirds to their yards.
Maryland’s native bluebird is the eastern bluebird. They are “cavity” nesters and use hollowed out trees when nest boxes are not available. Due to the destruction of old trees for commercial development projects, it is important to offer bluebirds a man-made home.
A nest box requires a 1½-inch hole, a wide roof, ventilation and an inspection door. Boxes need to be mounted 5 feet about the ground on a bluebird pole in an area that has 8 empty feet around.
“Don’t place your nest on a fence or in a tree,” Gillem said. “This only allows predators in.”
The same is true for a perch. “Never have a perch on a bird box,” Gillem said.
A “predator guard” should also be on the bluebird pole to keep away bluebirds’ main ground predators: black snakes and raccoons.
Boxes should be checked weekly to ensure the birds are safe and to monitor another predator, the house sparrow. “House sparrows are non-native, aggressive, and will kill bluebirds,” Gillem said. As a non-protected species, house sparrows are allowed to be killed, though Gillem strongly discourages the activity.
Bluebird eggs are blue. Both parents feed the young, with their favorite food being insects. “Plant native plants (in your yard) or insects to feed the birds,” Gillem said.
Bluebirds love mealworms, and live ones are best for feeding the young.
“I’ve found bluebirds also love peanut butter based suet,” Wild Birds Unlimited owner Lou Cafiero said.
Monitoring the nest is a must, lest you breed house sparrows. It is best to check the boxes through the inspection door in the early afternoon. Owners should knock gently on the side of the birdhouse so the birds fly away. “If they don’t leave (the box), give it a couple of days,” Gillem said.
“Clean the boxes as soon…