For the Birds: The Bluebirds make a much-loved return, by Chris Bosak | Chris Bosack


I’ve been getting quite a few emails about bluebirds lately. I see this as a good sign about the rebound in the Eastern Bluebird population.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s, my go-to website for information on North American birds, lists the eastern bluebird as a species of “least concern.” The site states: “Eastern Bluebird populations plummeted in the early 20th century as aggressive introduced species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows made available nests increasingly difficult for Bluebirds to retain. . In the 1960s and 1970s, the establishment of bluebird trails and other nesting box campaigns alleviated much of this competition, particularly after people began using nesting boxes designed to prevent the greater European starling. Eastern Bluebird numbers have since recovered.

Jim and Eleanore from Keene wrote to say they had breeding bluebirds for the first time in 50 years of being home.

“They are nesting in a house in my flower/vegetable garden,” Eleanore wrote. “Since day one, Mr. Bluebird has been pecking at our kitchen window, all day!”

I received a similar email from another reader informing me that a blue bird was doing the same thing at his house.

Like most birds that peck at windows and mirrors, they are probably trying to chase away the “other” bird. The birds are territorial during the nesting season and will not tolerate other birds of the same species foraging. Robins and cardinals are also notorious window attackers.

To prevent this from happening (maybe anyway), try placing stickers on the outside of the window to break up the reflection. You can also try hanging something in front of the window or putting a flower planted on the outside window sill. Anything to break the thought. This, of course, is also effective in preventing bird strikes.

Last year Jim and Eleanore sent me a lovely story about a baby robin they cared for last summer until the mother bird could take over. The story is fun reading and is now on my website,, if you want to check it out.

Another question came from Renee, who asked how far the bluebird boxes should be from each other. She also has Tree Swallows competing for houses and wonders if that has any impact on distance.

I checked information from the North American Bluebird Society and it suggested that eastern bluebird homes should be at least 100 yards apart. It’s an entire football field (minus the end zones), so it takes quite a bit of space to attract more than one pair of bluebirds.

However, the distance decreases considerably when tree swallows are present and the goal is to have a pair of bluebirds and pairs of tree swallows together.

“When paired, the boxes should be mounted 5 to 15 feet apart. This provides nesting sites for both species and helps prevent competition between them. Different species of native birds generally do not mind to nest next to each other,” reads the NABS website.

Hopefully the abundance of bluebird emails means the species is doing so well that more and more people are seeing them because there are a lot more bluebirds around. I know I welcomed my first bluebirds to my backyard feeder a few years ago. What a thrill it was to see them daily in the backyard.

I hope more people will experience this joy in the years to come.


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