Bluebirds at Home

Attracting Heaven

Birdhouse available now to good tenants

Eastern Bluebirds

When a pair of Eastern Bluebirds showed up in my yard, the only thing in life I wanted was for them to move into the birdhouse.

And they did show some interest! They flew back and forth to the wooden box, landed on the roof, and peered in though the round hole. I was thrilled.

But two days passed, and they didn't seem to be actually building inside. It was March. Time for them to begin nesting. They had to choose a nest site soon.

I tried to tell myself I would be OK with it if the bluebirds found a nesting cavity in the woods. They'd still be close by. But I couldn't help it — I longed to watch them nest right there. I wanted to look out the living room window and see the birds with heaven on their backs.

To sweeten the deal...

Bluebird with mealworm

Then I heard about mealworms — a particular kind of moth larvae that could persuade the bluebirds to stay. Mealworms! Supposedly bluebirds find them irresistable. And they are sold to feed pet reptiles. That hour, I sent away for my first batch of mealworms.

Two days later, the Shelley our mailwoman handed me a small cardboard box containing 1000 mealworms. I opened the box, extracted the wriggling mealworms, and shifted them to more permanent quarters. I couldn't wait to try and entice my new bluebird friends.

I picked a dozen of the inch-long mealworms out of the box and carried them in my bare hand to the birdhouse. They were dry and smooth. Although they tickled my hand when they wiggled, they were not unpleasant to the touch. They were dry, clean, and golden.

Eastern Bluebirds

As I put the mealworms on top of the birdhouse, I whistled the best imitation I could muster of a bluebird's song. Then I retreated toward my house. At the door I turned for a last look.

Instant satisfaction

To my astonishment, there on top of the birdhouse stood the female bluebird. She cocked her head to study the pale yellow mealworms, and then she picked up one in her bill and swallowed it. She quickely ate several more, and then her mate flew in from the nearby trees. He landed beside her and ate some too.

This seemed too good to be true. Already I was imagining a box full of baby bluebirds.

I'd read that it might not be good for bluebirds to give them too many mealworms, so I restrained myself for two hours before I put out another supply. The female caught on fast. By my third delivery, the female came to a tree near the birdhouse as soon as I opened the door and did my fake bluebird whistle. Each time, she flew to the bird box before I got back to my house.

Real estate deal clinched

Bluebird eggs

On day three of the mealworm program, the female started carrying soft dry grass into the birdhouse. "The mealworms clinched the real estate deal," my husband Michael commented. A week later I looked into the birdhouse and  saw five lovely, sky-blue eggs .

When the eggs hatched, I increased the daily allotment of mealworms. The female shuttled them directly from birdhouse roof to nestlings below. The male at first picked up a load of mealworms from the top of the house, flew with his beak full into the woods, returning after half a minute or so to feed the babies. Perhaps he was acting out an instinctive pattern, evolved to conceal from predators the fact that he was feeding young.

What bluebirds know

Fledgeling Eastern Bluebird

Although I was not particularly consistent about feeding the bluebirds at the same time every day, they knew when they were about to get mealworms. They didn't come around when I was headed for my car or a walk, but if I stepped out of the house whistling, with mealworms in my hand, the two birds flew toward the birdhouse from wherever they were.

The babies thrived and soon were able to fly from the nest. And after that the bluebirds nested in our birdhouses year after year. The flock grew to over a dozen birds. Ah, happiness.

Where to get mealworms 

You can buy live mealworms in many pet stores. You also can order them online. At our store, Birdwatching Dot Com, we have them sent to our customers directly from the growers. They arrive in two days. You can order live mealworms through us here.

15 Bluebirds