Eastern Bluebirds are a gorgeous backyard bird native to the eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. Eastern Bluebirds are more well-known than their close cousins, Mountain Bluebirds, and Western Bluebirds since they have a more expansive range.
However, the populations of all of these species have experienced declines related to the introduction of aggressive non-native birds like House Sparrows and European Starlings.
Providing food for bluebirds in your yard will benefit them during the winter months when resources are scarce.
Since bluebirds aren’t your typical songbird – they are technically a member of the thrush family – it’s extra important to choose the best bird feeder to increase the odds a bluebird will visit your home.
Do Bluebirds even eat from bird feeders?
Bluebirds will readily visit feeders if conditions are right. It’s important to consider a bluebird’s diet and behavior to make the best choice for your location.
- Bluebirds are low on the pecking order compared to many other wild birds. Species such as jays, woodpeckers, cardinals, and finches can be too aggressive toward bluebirds and limit their ability to eat from communal feeders.
- Even large thrush species like the American Robin can be too intimidating to an Eastern Bluebird. Some feeders offer specific protection for bluebirds, which is why you should consider a specialty bird feeder if you want the most bluebirds on the block.
The best time to provide food to bluebirds is in winter and early spring, when cool temperatures and wet weather make thermoregulation and feeding chicks especially challenging.
Bluebird houses are an added bonus to establishing reliable pairs on your property. A bed and breakfast is an ideal place to lay eggs!
As with all birds, this species has a specific diet and should be provided the best selection of food items to both attract and maintain healthy local birds over time.
What do Bluebirds eat?
Bluebirds are in the thrush family and are not a typical “feeder bird” – they don’t eat seeds like cardinals and finches! Bluebirds lack a strong beak to husk seeds but sometimes will consume sunflower hearts if offered. The most preferred food types include:
- Mealworms – easily purchased alive or freeze-dried, mealworms are a bluebird delight and the main attraction to most bluebird feeders
- Scrambled eggs – perhaps the simplest food to provide, scrambled eggs are a great source of nutrients and protein! these should be replaced daily at the feeder
- Eggshells – not actually a food item, crushed eggshells are a supplement that provides calcium to all birds and helps them to lay eggs in the breeding season. if you scramble eggs for your bluebirds, don’t throw out the shells, crush them and add a small pile to your feeder on the side!
- Fruit – dried or fresh, any soft and malleable fruit item can be enjoyed by bluebirds. examples include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, rehydrated raisins, and currants
- Seeds – some seeds can be provided supplementally but should always be shelled and chopped. husked sunflower seeds and peanut pieces are good choices
- Suet – composed primarily of fat, suet cakes can be bought pre-made or created at home with a few simple ingredients
Example homemade suet recipe:
- 1 cup rendered fat (bacon grease, lard, beef fat, or vegetable shortening)
- 1 cup chunky peanut butter
- 3 cups ground cornmeal
- ½ cup flour
- Optional add-in: ¼ cup of dried fruit
- Optional add-in: ¼ cup mealworms
To render fat, melt and strain it through cheesecloth multiple times using a low heat setting until it is as pure as possible. Store-bought fats like lard and shortening should already be rendered and safe, but fat scraps from meat must be purified more carefully.
Melt the purified fat and chunky peanut butter together until blended, then add cornmeal, flour, and optional add-ins to make the suet cake easier for birds to eat and more attractive to visiting birds. Refrigerate or freeze your suet cakes if made in large batches until you are ready to put them outside.
Types of Bluebird feeders
Most bluebirds feeders have one main feature in common – they exclude large birds. There are several designs that accomplish this to create a safe space for bluebirds to avoid competition. Bluebirds can eat more at specialty feeders than they could at those without large bird prevention features.
- Bluebird jail feeders – Made with vertical bars and sometimes small holes like in birdhouses, jail feeders are a cute way to prevent large birds from accessing bluebird food.
- Gilbertson feeder – Instead of vertical bars, Gilbertson feeders are made with a single horizontal bar but serve the same purpose to prevent large birds from stealing bluebird food.
- Dome feeders – A unique concept, dome feeders are made with a large, often transparent, top dome that protects seed from rain and wind but also excludes large birds from food contained in a smaller dome held below. Small birds are able to swoop under the top dome to land on the feeding tray, which most large birds cannot maneuver around.
- Platform feeders – These feeders do not exclude large birds and are best for those looking to attract a variety of species rather than only bluebirds. If you don’t want a specialized bluebird feeder, a platform feeder is a good option.
- Window feeders – Window feeders are similar to platform feeders in their form and function but bring birds closer to view by attaching to windows and sliding glass doors. These are best for homes with children, cats, or the elderly.
Tips for attracting Bluebirds
- Use live mealworms whenever possible because they are more attractive to bluebirds than freeze-dried ones
- Using blue-colored items near a new feeder will initially attract a bluebird’s attention
- If using a bluebird feeder that excludes large birds, introduce it to your yard WITHOUT exclusion bars at first so that the bluebirds will go in and recognize it as a place to get food
- Attracting a variety of other wild birds (like chickadees and titmice) with seeds will clue in local bluebirds to visit. Consider using a general feeder in conjunction with your bluebird feeder.
- Offer about 15 mealworms per bluebird per day
- Protect your feeder’s food by using one with a roof against rain and snow
- For fun, try training your birds to come to the sound of a bell or whistle
- Don’t put your feeder too close to a bluebird nest box to keep predators away (100 feet is a minimum recommendation)
- Don’t supply feeders during summer months when the weather is nice and birds can forage on their own. Providing supplemental food can fool breeding birds into laying too many eggs, which takes so much energy it can limit their ability to migrate later! Let wild birds gauge their breeding ability based on the natural resources available.
How to choose a Bluebird feeder?
- Large-bird exclusion – Bluebirds are not aggressive and can easily be chased away by large thrushes, jays, cardinals, starlings, or woodpeckers. Choosing a feeder exclusively for bluebirds that has ways to prevent large birds from eating from it is the best choice. Feeders that exclude aggressive species incorporate bars, small openings, and/or domes.
- Mealworm bowl – Since mealworms are a bluebird’s favorite food, finding a feeder with an incorporated spot to hold mealworms (alive or dead) is a perk. The best bluebird feeders have a mealworm dish built-in.
- Rain protection – Keeping bird food fresh, dry, and protected from rain or snow will reduce the chances of mold and mildew building. Look for feeders that have a roof to shield bluebirds and their food options from the elements.
- Squirrel-proofing – Although mealworms are not a squirrel’s first pick, they can prove to be pesky and will eat whatever they can find in any bird feeder. Protect your bluebirds’ worms, peanuts, and fruit from squirrels by looking for feeders that come with a squirrel baffle.
- Color – Bluebirds are attracted to the color blue, and blue feeders will make their plumage pop if you are an avid wildlife photographer looking to capture visitors to your yard. Consider purchasing a bluebird feeder with blue accents to add intrigue and visual appeal.
Best bluebird feeders
#1. Erva Bluebird Feeder
This Erva Bluebird Feeder comes with a stunning blue powder-coated top and bottom and has multiple features for feeding bluebirds specifically.
Vinyl-coated wire surrounding the feeder prevents large birds like Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, or European Starlings from coming in.
The center holds a removable glass cup for mealworms that is especially easy to clean. This feeder is compatible with live or dried mealworms.
Mealworms that spill from the center cup are contained on the floor of the feeder and can still be eaten by visiting bluebirds. The container holding mealworms are not large and require daily attention, but most bluebird feeders require more maintenance than birdseed feeders regardless.
What we liked
- The perfect feeder with every feature for attracting bluebirds
- The wire excludes large birds and squirrels
- Mealworm cup is removable and easy to clean
- Small holes are truly the right fit for bluebirds and will keep out European Starlings
- Bluebirds easily adjust to this feeder within 24 hours of installation
What we didn’t like
- No landing perch, but you can create one and add it to the outside
- Still susceptible to mobbing House Sparrows, but few feeders have features to keep them away effectively
How much seed/food can fit: 6 ounces, about ¾ cup
What special about it: comes with a special mealworm cup
Measurements: 14 x 14 x 9 inches
Mounting options: pole mounted
#2. Nature’s Hangout Window Bird Feeder
If you want to see bluebirds up close, then consider The Nature’s Hangout Window Feeder.
This feeder features strong suction cups to attach it to a window or sliding glass door, which is of special interest to kids and pets that may want to enjoy wild birds more intimately.
The feeder is made from transparent acrylic which is easy to clean. It has drain holes to allow water to escape quickly and limit the growth of mold and mildew.
The feeder does not have a large capacity, but this is not much of an issue for bluebirds who only need a dozen or so mealworms per day. In addition, the compartments allow you to split food types to either attract multiple bird species or add more food like fruit or suet for bluebirds.
What we liked
- Brings bluebirds to close so they are easy to see
- Compartments allow you to use multiple food types, either for bluebirds or to attract more than just bluebirds
- A roof keeps food dry
- The removable food tray is very convenient to clean
- Great for cat owners
What we didn’t like
- Does not prevent large birds from chasing away bluebirds
- Not squirrel-proof
How much seed/food can fit: 2 lbs (0.9 kg)
What’s special about it: mounts to windows and brings birds up close
Measurements: 11.8 x 5 x 4 inches
Mounting options: windows
This is an understated feeder that provides protection to visiting bluebirds without bars or mesh.
The dome’s height from the feeder tray can be adjusted to accommodate whatever size range of birds you would like to attract.
Made of heavy-duty UV-resistant polycarbonate, the transparent dome will shield birds and seed from rain, snow, and aggressive bird species.
A coincidental perk, the dome is a natural squirrel baffle and will prevent squirrels from climbing down the feeder to reach the food below. This feeder is compatible with live or dried mealworms, fruit, seeds, and suet.
You will need to purchase a bird feeder pole to suspend this feeder if you do not already own one, and a bottom baffle is recommended to prevent squirrels from reaching horizontally from the pole to the feeder’s tray.
What we liked
- Protects food and bluebirds from rain
- Will keep out most large aggressive bird species
- Holds a generous amount of mealworms – more than most other feeders
- The level of food left in the feeder is visible from far away, making it easy to tell when it needs to be refilled
What we didn’t like
- Design works to deter grackles and jays but not starlings
- The thin edge is not padded for birds to perch on
How much seed/food can fit: 1 to 1-½ cups (0.32 L)
What special about it: adjustable dome protects food from weather and large birds
Measurements: 11.75 x 5.125 x 11.75 inches
Mounting options: hanging from a pole
#4. Kettle Moraine Cedar Bluebird Feeder
This Cedar Hanging Bluebird Mealworm Feeder is produced in the US.
With a beautiful natural design, the cedar will blend into your yard unobtrusively to feed bluebirds with rustic style.
The wood is constructed with durable stainless steel screws and the roof is hinged so the feeder can be easily refilled and cleaned.
The sides of the feeder are made of clear plexiglass to view birds who enter from the holes on each side.
Fill the feeder with mealworms and/or other food items to cover the bottom. If you find your bluebirds are messy eaters, this bird feeder will reduce spillage and keep mealworms contained to save you money. Best mounted hanging on a pole, it can also be held up from below and will look great in any corner of your yard.
What we liked
- Easy to see when it is empty because of the clear acrylic sides
- Will shelter feeding birds from wind and rain
- Keeps out large birds and squirrels
- Well made and durable; quality American construction
What we didn’t like
- Only the plexiglass on one side can be removed to clean the feeder
How much seed/food can fit: variable
What special about it: natural, cute design for small birds
Measurements: 11.3 x 8.6 x 8 inches
Mounting options: hanging or pole
# 5. Stokes Select Bird Feeder
Coming in last is the most affordable bluebird feeder on the list.
Featuring a perch on two sides, this can comfortably feed up to two bluebirds at once.
It comes with a removable dish held inside the blue dishwasher-safe plastic bottom tray, making this feeder a snap to keep clean.
The feeder is installed using a metal hanger and can be quickly added to your regular feeder setup by attaching to an existing pole or branch.
The dish has a 0.8 ounce capacity (about ¾ cup) suitable for mealworms, suet, fruit, or seeds. Without incorporating a dome or mesh to exclude large birds, this feeder is versatile and can easily be switched to provide food for whatever species you are interested in attracting if you find bluebirds are not abundant in your area.
A portion of all Stokes Select proceeds is donated to bird habitat and conservation.
What we liked
- Versatile feeder depending on what bird species you want to attract; will work on more birds than just bluebirds
- Metal hanger does not tip in strong wind
- Attractive, simplistic design
- Very easy to refill and clean
What we didn’t like
- Not ideal for live mealworms because they can escape through the drain holes
- No protection from squirrels or large birds
How much seed/food can fit: 0.8 ounces (¾ cup)
What special about it: cheap, easy to install
Measurements: 5 x 7.2 x 8.5 inches
Mounting options: hanging