AUBURN, Ala. – Bluebirds are known to be beautiful singers and are popular among bird watchers. Year after year they build their nests in the yards of many Americans, providing a free, spring time concert. There are several things that homeowners can do to attract these birds so they can experience their beauty.
Roosevelt Robinson, an Alabama Extension home grounds regional agent, offers several tips to attract bluebirds.
“Eastern bluebirds prefer habitat in open areas with low grass and perches to hunt insects. Snag cavities provide nesting and roosting sites for them and a host of other cavity-nesting birds,” said Robinson. “Planting native trees and shrubs can attract them as well. Homeowners should refrain from using pesticides and other lawn chemicals, as they can be dangerous for Eastern bluebirds.”
Robinson said homeowners can also install manmade nest boxes specifically designed for Eastern bluebird and offer live mealworms for them to eat.
Bluebirds consume a variety of foods. Their diet mainly consists of insects such as beetles, caterpillars, crickets and grasshoppers. However, they do eat berries and fruits.
Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said that homeowners can feed these birds by planting a variety of plants.
“Homeowners can improve their yards and gardens as a bluebird habitat by planting trees and shrubs,”said Armstrong. “Other songbirds will benefit from these plantings as well.”
Trees and shrubs suitable for planting include
- Viburnum •Holly •Hackberry
- Bayberry •Maples •Plums
- Wild grape •Oaks •Mulberry •Hawthorn
- Blackberry •Pine •Serviceberry •Birch
- Cedar •Sumac •Greenbriar •Willows
- Blueberry •Cherry •Elderberry •Dogwood, flowering
Armstrong said that some of these trees support a lot of caterpillars, which are high in protein needed by baby birds.
The bluebird population has steadily decreased for the last decade. As many as 90 percent of these birds no longer exist in some of their former habitats. Though there are several reasons for their slow decline, a lot of it has to do with commercial buildings going up where ecosystems used to exist. Eastern bluebirds naturally seek shelter in less populated areas to protect themselves. With the world population growing, there are less and less habitats for bluebirds.Population
“Habitat destruction due to commercial, industrial and residential development is one reason for declining numbers,” said Robinson. “Also, competing for food and nesting sites with more aggressive species, such as house sparrows and European starlings, is another reason for the loss.”
Bluebirds Help Keep Systems in Balance.
The bluebird plays a major role in maintaining the health and stability of forest ecosystems. They disperse seeds, pollinate flowers and consume massive amounts of insects, that if left unchecked, could lead to defoliating outbreaks. If shelter is not provided, or at least if the ability to create their own is unavailable in trees and trails, they will quickly dwindle.
“These feathered jewels are important because they help keep systems in balance by scavenging carcasses, recycling nutrients back into the earth, eating bugs and mosquitoes and much more,” said Roosevelt. “Bluebirds are an integral part of the earth’s ecosystem. They feed our spirits by marking the passage of the seasons and serve as motivation for the creation of art and poetry.”
For more information on bluebirds, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.