Bluebird and Small Cavity Nester Conservation
Sialis - Bluebirds and other small cavity nesters



QUICK TIPS: If you want to attract bluebirds, try putting up a hunting perch that is 6 to 7.5 feet off the ground.

Feeding photo by David Kineer
A female Eastern bluebird offers a caterpillar to her nestling.
Photo by David Kinneer of VA.
A 1973 study of Eastern Bluebird hunting behavior in Ohio had some interesting observations.

  • Bluebirds like to hunt in areas with mowed grass.
  • They typically perch on low tree limbs and scan the ground for prey, and then fly down about 87% of the time. The rest of the time, they catch insects in the air, or occasionally pick prey off of tree leaves.
  • They chose perch heights that ranged from 0.5 feet to 27 feet high, but on average, used perches about 6 to 7.5 feet off the ground. Perches enable them to scan the ground.
  • They may beat large prey against a hard substrate.
  • Adults are better hunters than fledglings, as you might expect.
  • Probably because it's more economical, they prefer larger prey (compared to Tree Swallows that will take mosquitoes and roll them up into a "bolus" to feed young.)
  • Most prey items observed in this study were as long, or longer than the bluebird's bill.
  • Adults were more likely to bring bigger items to their nestlings, and eat the smaller ones themselves. Fewer trips to the nest site might make it less likely that predators would discover it.
  • During active nesting, the parents hunted, on average about a football field (82 to 92 m) away from their nest site.

Note that Mountain Bluebirds are more likely to hover in the air while hunting.

Source: Peter Goldman, NE Missouri State University, General Notes, Auk, Vol.92, page 798 to 801.


Also see:

When you see a bluebird, it just takes your breath away.
- Barbara Clark, Bickleton, WA

HOME | Basics | Resources | House Sparrows | House Wrens | Nest/Egg ID | Site Map and Search | Suet Recipes | Tree Swallows | Contact me Bluebird Conservation

May all your blues be birds!

If you experience problems with the website/find broken links/have suggestions/corrections, please contact me!
The purpose of this site is to share information with anyone interested in bluebird conservation.
Feel free to link to it (preferred as I update content regularly), or use text from it for personal or educational purposes, with a link back to or a citation for the author.
No permission is granted for commercial use.
Appearance of automatically generated Google or other ads on this site does not constitute endorsement of any of those services or products!

Photo in header by Wendell Long.
© Original photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without the express permission of the photographer. Please honor their copyright protection.
See disclaimer, necessitated by today's sadly litigious world.
Last updated August 23, 2020. Design by Chimalis.