I commented to my husband the other day that it seemed like we had an awful lot of birds hanging round the farm this year. From cardinals to starlings, mourning doves to crows, we’ve had no shortage of feathered friends flitting about the place!
The bluebirds, though, are some of the most remarkable to behold. I love seeing bluebirds in and around my garden because it means they are hard at work eating all the bugs and pests that want to munch on (and systematically destroy!) my crops.
We are lucky enough to have all the bluebirds we could ever want on our property. However, if you’re looking for ways you can attract bluebirds to your garden for natural pest control, you’ve come to the right place.
How Do Bluebirds Help With Pest Control?
As some of the most desirable backyard birds, bluebirds can help your garden in several ways. There are three main North American bluebirds you might find. All are small thrushes, which are birds that are closely related to the varied thrush, gray catbird, and American robin.
The three main types of bluebirds you might attract to your garden include the eastern bluebird, mountain bluebird, and western bluebird. All three kinds are migratory, but occupy certain portions throughout the year. Therefore, you may be able to attract bluebirds during any season.
It doesn’t matter quite as much what kind of bluebird you have so much as that you attract some type of bluebird to your garden. All have gorgeous plumage with blue backs and lighter-colored underbellies.
They eat primarily insects, making them welcome guests to your garden as they will eat all kinds of moths, larvae, and insects – getting rid of a ton of pests that can plague your plants in the meantime.
They are voracious eaters and will go after all kinds of common garden pests, including mosquitoes and aphids. Although bluebirds can be helpful in just about any kind of garden, they are most helpful when it comes to growing fruit trees, which are easily decimated by insect pests, like aphids, apple maggots, codling moths, and Japanese beetles.
Bluebirds have beautiful songs, too, giving you a nice soundtrack to listen to as you work among your plants.
Provide Them With Food
Bluebirds have quite the varied diet and will eat different kinds of foods for all different seasons. They eat a wide variety of bugs and insects, especially when their protein needs are higher during the nesting season.
If you are growing a healthy, productive garden, you might have all the insects they need to stay healthy. However, there are some other steps you can take, too.
For example, try to avoid insecticides in the garden. These often get rid of pests, but can get rid of beneficial pollinators as well, as the creatures that feed on pests (like bluebirds!) in the meantime, too.
You may want to add a few mealworms to the garden for your bluebirds, too. You can put these in platform feeders or in trays. If you add mealworms, just be mindful of where you install your “feeder.” Putting it too close to the nest box can attract predators (like skunks) who will also go after the birds.
Consider growing a few bird-friendly shrubs. Bluebirds love berries, including holly, sumac, and elderberry. You can also add suet cakes to the garden, which will attract bluebirds with their tasty fruit and insect blends.
Some other foods that blueberries will eat include sunflower seeds, scrambled eggs, mulberries, and dogwood berries. If you put out food, though, be sure to keep an eye on the leftovers so you don’t draw in pests like bears, raccoons, and skunks.
If you already have bird feeders out, keep in mind that bluebirds may not necessarily visit them. Bluebirds will sometimes eat seeds, but would prefer other sources of food, as mentioned above. Therefore, you’ll want to provide them with unique options like peanut butter, raisins, berry or insect suet, and mealworms instead.
Make Sure They Have Water
Like most birds, bluebirds need fresh, clean water for both bathing and drinking. Put a birdbath in the garden, ideally one that is large enough to accommodate dozens of birds all interested in a long, cool drink. You may want to install a fountain or bubbler in the birdbath, too.
This will serve several purposes. Not only will it attack the bluebirds with the movement and sparkling light, but it will reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes using your birdbath as a breeding site, too.
If you live in a colder climate, you don’t have to pull your birdbath during the winter – just use a heated birdbath, and you’ll marvel at all the bluebirds that still continue to come to your garden!
Grow a Few Trees
Trees can also help attract bluebirds. They are more likely to visit gardens with mature trees spaced widely apart than they are to visit a spot with dense thickets of trees.
Grow just a few trees and grow some low groundcover plants. This combination of foliage will help the bluebirds feel safe while they are foraging for goodies.
Give Them Some Shelter
You can also add a few roosting boxes for the winter months. These will help protect your birds from freezing temperatures and gusty storms. If you don’t want to build roosting boxes, consider leaving a few blowdowns or hollow snags for birds to roost in.
Bluebirds nest in cavities, so they’ll also nest in wooden birdhouses if you can provide them. Houses should be placed about five or six feet off the ground in an open area, ideally with the entrance away from the prevailing wind. You can fill the house with nesting materials like cotton scraps and pine needles to encourage them to come inside.
One word of caution – if you build a bluebird house, make sure you monitor it closely to discourage European starlings and house sparrows, both of which can harm bluebirds.
If you are lucky enough to have a bluebird nest inside the house you built, clean it out afterward. Removing the nest after it’s been vacated will encourage other bluebirds to build their nests inside, too.
Discourage Feral Cats
There are plenty of reasons to discourage feral cats in the garden. One reason is that they can spread toxoplasmosis in the soil with their droppings, which can make you quite sick (particularly if you are immunocompromised).
Feral cats and pet cats alike can also go after bluebirds and other wild birds – something you definitely want to dissuade in the garden!
Keep the Lawn Mowed
Keeping your lawn mowed and all brush trimmed down will help bluebirds keep an eye on the insects and worms popping out among the blades of grass. They’ll feed more easily, meaning they’ll be more attracted to your lawn.
Add a Few Perches
Consider placing a few old fence posts or wire fences in your garden. This will give bluebirds someplace to hang out while they’re waiting for food to arrive.
You can use artificial perches, like these, or you can use low branches of trees, shrubs, and even small, low-to-the-ground trees to give your bluebirds a place to perch.
Play a Song
You can even draw bluebirds to your garden with some lovely songs! You will want to avoid doing this during the nesting season, as it could confuse the birds when they need to be tending to their young, searching for food, and guarding the nest.
However, playing a recorded song during other seasons will help draw bluebirds in. Just don’t do it year-round, as it could interfere with the birds’ behavior, and their chances for survival.
Tailor Your Birdfeeder to Bluebirds
If you’re going to put out a bird feeder, make sure it’s specifically designed for bluebirds. You will want to choose one with a large roof and a tiny entrance hole, along with a large roof to protect it from the rain. Make sure it is squirrel-proof and consider painting it blue, as bluebirds are attracted to structures of this color.
Plant Some Native Plants
Bluebirds, like many other birds, love eating berries and other fruit during the winter. Therefore, you may want to plant a few berry-producing shrubs and trees to draw them in.
Some good options include red cedar, dogwood, hackberry, Virginia creeper, baby emery, and blueberry. Plant these among the other plants in your garden – it will not only add beauty and interest to your landscape but will also attract bluebirds and a whole host of other pollinators.
Cultivate a Few Open, Grassy Areas
Sure, it can be more work to maintain these, but cultivating a few open, grassy areas is a great way to encourage bluebirds to frequent your property. Keep a few fields or stretches of open space mowed and trimmed for bluebirds, where they’ll hunt for insects each and every day.
Watch Out for Mites
If you’re attracting bluebirds to your garden, you’ll need to do your best to prevent mites – for several reasons.
The first is only applicable if you raise other kinds of birds on your property, like chickens and ducks. The mites and parasites from wild birds can easily be transmitted to livestock like chickens.
Plus, they can also make the bluebirds very sick, reducing their ability to boost your garden’s productivity.
Use a power sprayer as often as you can to clean off dirt and bird droppings from birdbaths, nests, and feeders. If you see specks moving in the bird feeders, it’s probably mites – so discard the feed immediately.
If you suspect that mites have invaded, you can spray infected areas with soapy water. This will also get rid of ants.
Build a Bluebird Trail
Recently, a new trend has arisen in attracting bluebirds that involves building “bluebird trails.” You’ll put up lines of bluebird houses, ideally back to back. Monitor and maintain these so that mites don’t invade and drain the young chicks of blood, and keep an eye out for other predators, too.
Otherwise, you can mount the boxes in pairs about 100 yards apart. The entrance holes need to be large enough so that bluebirds can get inside but too small for bigger birds to invade or prey on chicks or eggs. You can place a larger nest box about 20 feet away to give these bigger, more aggressive birds another place to go.
Attracting Bluebirds is Great for the Environment
Encouraging bluebirds to hang out in your garden isn’t just beneficial for you and your garden – it’s a wonderful gesture for the environment, too. Bluebird numbers are in rapid decline because of the loss of habitat, as well as due to natural predation from cats, snakes, raccoons, and unfortunately, invasive bird species.
Although bluebirds are protected under the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it’s essential that you do your best, too, to help protect these beautiful creatures. Providing them with an attractive, welcoming place to hang out in your garden is the easiest way to reduce pest problems among your plants – and do your part in preserving biological diversity, too.
And as beautiful as these birds are, why wouldn’t you want to welcome them in with open arms?
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.