For the Birds: Bluebirds and winter

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern bluebird braves a New England winter and visit a backyard for mealworms, winter 2020.

It’s been another great winter for bluebirds. I haven’t been lucky enough to attract them to my new house yet, but I have seen them several times out in the field and while driving along side roads.

I’ve heard from several readers who have seen these cheerful birds as well, and that’s always good to see.

I remember years ago when I was new to birding and I came across a small group of bluebirds at Surry Dam while snow fell all around. I was surprised and excited to see them. I thought bluebirds were long gone by the time winter came around in New England. I took a few photos (this was back in the days of film) and anxiously awaited the results from the lab. The photos were pretty terrible as I recall, but the day still sticks out in my head as a great birding day.

I, like most birdwatchers I would imagine, like to research new findings. I think curiosity about the natural world is a prerequisite for being a birder. I found out that the sighting wasn’t particularly rare and that many bluebirds, indeed, stay around for the winter. It didn’t lessen my excitement about the sighting, however.

I still recall that initial sighting every time I see bluebirds in the winter. I can still picture in my head one of those subpar photos of a bluebird on a chainlink fence at Surry Dam.

Some bluebirds do, indeed, leave New England for the winter and settle in the Carolinas or even farther south. Some bluebirds migrate shorter distances as dictated by the weather. Many of them stay put.

Last winter was the first time I had bluebirds visit my feeders. I saw a male bluebird perch on the deck railing and look around for something he would like to eat. At the time, I had only seeds offered and bluebirds prefer mealworms or suet. I rushed to grab a handful of mealworms (of course I had some handy) and hastily tossed them on the platform feeder at the corner of the deck. Within minutes, he was back and eating the offering. A few moments later, a female bluebird joined him and I was thrilled to watch the pair on my deck.

As I’ve written before, the bluebirds stayed with me throughout the winter and into the spring before finding a nesting site elsewhere.

How do you attract bluebirds to your yard?

There’s no foolproof way, but there are things you can try. As I mentioned before, offer mealworms. Bluebirds love them and go through them quickly. They will also go to suet, but they prefer mealworms. I buy the large bags of dried mealworms, but you can also offer live mealworms. They’re a bit harder to find and to keep and, I would imagine, more expensive.

The bluebirds were also regulars at my birdbath. Readers have sent me photos of several bluebirds sharing a birdbath.

As a long-term solution, plant some native bushes and trees that produce berries that bluebirds like. From what I’ve read, they like dogwood, cedar, holly, sumac and other native plants, many of which produce berries in the winter.

Even if your property is not suitable for bluebirds to nest (they like open areas), you still may have luck getting them to use a bluebird house in the winter. Like many other birds, they like to hunker down inside birdhouses on cold, windy nights. Hopefully, a chickadee, titmouse or wren will use it as a nesting site in the spring.

Did I miss any good tips on attracting bluebirds in the winter? Drop me a line and let me know.

Good luck and let me know how you do.

2 thoughts on “For the Birds: Bluebirds and winter

  1. We live in Stow, Ma. We have 2 “pairs” and 2 or more individuals! Hard to get exact count! But the pairs do seem to hang together and try to fend off the individuals !! Feeding hulled sun flower seed and dried meal worms!! Just love them and we do have bluebirds in our boxes in the spring, usually early, end of March! Enjoy your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Last winter I saw a bluebird in my yard so purchased a bluebird house and put it up in the spring. A pair immediately took up residence and nested there and I have a pair there this winter too. I have 2 pairs that typically come to my feeders together. I have started feeding meal worms this winter and found that many birds enjoy them as well as the squirrels. 😦
    I need to purchase a new bird bath this year and looking for recommendations.

    Liked by 1 person

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