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Feeding Bluebirds
Jan Ahlgren

Bluebirds do not usually come to bird feeders.  However, they may be conditioned or educated to find food offered to them such as mealworms or nutritional bluebird food mix.  The best time to begin a feeding program is the early spring when the birds are first returning to their nesting areas in the Upper Midwest and natural food sources are scarce.  When the birds return in the spring, insects may not be fully active and few of last year's berries remain on shrubs and trees.

Types of Feeders:

Bluebirds are most likely to accept food offered in an open tray or dish.  The food is easy to see and the tray can be moved a little at a time until you have decided on the best location.  The difficulty of open trays or dishes is that the food may be taken by other bird species or may become saturated by rain or snow.  Enclosed feeders may solve some of these problems, but will not be as quickly accepted by the bluebirds.

Training the Birds to Use the Feeders:

Begin by placing the feeder in the open within view of the bird's favorite perch.  For a quick start, place the open dish or tray on the ground about 5 feet in front of a nestbox which they have chosen to use.  Once you see the birds feeding from the dish, you can gradually move it to the site you desire - a post, deck railing, bird bath, clothesline post etc.  To hurry the process of getting the birds to accept the food mix, place some live mealworms or grubs on the mix.  The insect motion will attract the birds and encourage them to move in and sample the food.  When using an enclosed feeder, you may have to remove one side and sprinkle food on the roof and sides to entice the more reluctant birds to go in; then replace the glass side after they have become regular users of the feeder.  Watch carefully for the occasional bird who may go into the feeder, become confused by the glass, and not be able to find the hole to get out! (Taping small horizontal strips of tape across the glass may help-) If you work with the feeding/training persistently for 5-10 days, you should be very successful at teaching them to accept your food, come in close for you to watch them, and all you will need to do is keep the feeder clean and filled.

Good luck, and enjoy your bluebirds!


Posted with permission from the February 2001 Bluebird Recovery Program Newsletter "BLUEBIRD NEWS"


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date of last change 01/20/15Web space provided by the Audubon Society of Omaha.