Bluebirds and other native birds like Tree Swallows , chickadees and titmice nest in cavities. Because of development, a lot of their natural habitat is gone. You can help these birds survive and thrive by putting up a bird house, called a nestbox, that they can raise a family in. You can buy a nestbox (one specifically designed for bluebirds) at a birding store, from your local bluebird society, or online, or you can make your own. See nestbox specifications for recommended box and entrance hole size and mounting height.
Here are some sources of plans. The best, most comprehensive site that has both photos and drawings is NestboxBuilder.Com
- The North American Bluebird Society (NABS): regular NABS style boxes, top or side opening, Gilbertson and Peterson styles (see downloadable Word or PDF file for Eastern Bluebird plans)
- Bluebirds Across Nebraska – including Troyer and modified Gilwood
- Handout (PDF) that includes plans for a NABS, Peterson and Gilberston box (Eastern Bluebird)
- Nestbox Builder – Fred Stille’s site with plans for many wood and PVC boxes that appeal to bluebirds
- REALLY useful website on Nestwatch.org with plans and recommended habitat, height and spacing.
- Gilwood, original (by Steve Gilbertson)
- Gilwood, Modified (from Bluebirds Across Nebraska)
- Loren Hughes Slot Box: This a nice design that may deter House Sparrows. The Troyer plan is shallow and also may not be preferred by House Sparrows.
- Peterson, the original plan by Dick Peterson (obtained by Tom Comfort) – large file. There are a number of modifications to the original plan also.
- Texas Bluebird Society: Roomy boxes with good ventilation – excellent for high heat, and for nestcams
- Troyer, Modified (from Bluebirds Across Nebraska)
- Hanging Nestboxes
- Links to numerous plans – on nestbox pros and cons page
Nestbox Pros and Cons – links to plans for more than 50 styles, and a list of the pros and cons of various nestbox styles.
If you make your own nestbox, use PVC or unpainted, untreated 3/4″ – 1″ wood, put on an overhanging (2-5″ overhang) roof (a shallow saw kerf (groove) will keep rain from soaking into box), no perch, a round 1 1/2 ” diameter hole (or 1.375″ x 2.250″ oval hole. Mountain Bluebirds need a 1 9/16″ hole), ventilation, drainage holes, and make it deep enough so predators can’t reach in and get to the eggs. Make sure it has a door that opens for cleaning and monitoring. If rough wood is not used, add kerfs to inside of door to enable fledglings to climb out.
Please do not let House Sparrows nest in your boxes. These non-native birds attack and kill bluebird adults, eggs and babies. See tips on how to manage House Sparrows. If they are in your neighborhood, at least put up a Sparrow Spooker as soon as a bluebird lays an egg in a box. Also, remove House Sparrow nests and eggs 1-2 x/week if you are sure the occupant is a House Sparrow.
More Information and References:
- Bluebirding Basics: proper nestbox design, suitable habitat, etc.
- Nestbox Specifications – the proper size box for different bird species
- Nestbox preference study in NY
- Bottom Line Advice for New Bluebirders
- House Sparrow Management and House Sparrow Identification
- Nest and Egg Identification
- Top Tips and Tricks to Attract Bluebirds to your yard
- How to Monitor Nestboxes
- Why Monitor?
- How to Start Your Own Bluebird Trail
- Is it safe to use a bluebird nestbox made of PVC?
- Building and Locating Backyard Houses, 18 page University of Wyoming free booklet
- State and Local Bluebird Societies
How the waiting countryside thrills with joy when Bluebird brings us the first word of returning spring. Reflecting heaven from his back and the ground from his breast, he floats between sky and earth like the winged voice of hope.
– WL Dawson, Birds of Ohio, 1903