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Nebline Newsletter Article

Build a Bluebird House
This article was submitted by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County. The article appeared in the Nebline Newsletter. Dates: August 1997 and updated October 1998. 


nest boxBluebirders all over North America know that there is a severe shortage of available nesting cavities for the bluebird. With competition from house sparrows and starlings, we know bluebirds are so desperate for nesting spots that they will attempt to nest in anything that comes close to resembling a nesting cavity.

Does this mean we should not be concerned about the type of nest box we use? Absolutely not. Veteran bluebirders are upset when they see stores selling what they would consider a "junk" bluebird box to uninformed people who just want to attract a few bluebirds. When we set up a trail of houses deliberately to attract bluebirds, we should feel obligated to use a box built with their best interests in mind.

If you stop and think about the time spent looking for a perfect location, mounting the box properly and monitoring the box on a weekly basis, the little bit of extra money and effort spent on finding the right wood and making a better box (that will last longer) does not seem like much.

So, what is a good nest box? Here are six points to always consider when building or buying a bluebird box. The box should be:

  • Well ventilated (but not too much).
  • Well insulated (but not too much). 
  • Predator resistant (also starling-proof). 
  • Easy to monitor (i.e. easy to open). 
  • Easy to clean (i.e. easy to open). 
  • No perches (ever)!

Bluebirds will begin to arrive in Nebraska in March or early April. So, put your box out early. Bluebirds like open, sunny areas to nest. Stay at least 200 feet from wooded areas if you want to discourage wrens from nesting in the box. Face the box's entrance to the east or north. Make sure the entrance is at least 5 feet above the ground.

There are several types of bluebird boxes that can be used. A North Central Regional Extension Publication (NCR Pub. 338), "Shelves, Houses and Feeders for Birds and Mammals." has plans for four different bluebird houses. This is a terrific publication because it also gives plans for a number of other bird houses and even a bat house. This publication costs $4 and can be obtained at local extension offices throughout Nebraska. If you are out-of-state, you can order this publication through the University of Nebraska Department of Communications and Information Technology at: http://ianrpubs.unl.edu/

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