Bluebirds need high-energy food sources in the winter to survive.
So if you want to know how to attract bluebirds in winter, be sure to feed them adequately, give them appropriate shelter, a reliable water source, and warmth for the freezing days and nights.
Let’s dive into the details of attracting bluebirds during the winter and keeping them in your yard.
- Offer the best winter foods for bluebirds—mealworms, suet, peanut butter, hulled sunflower seeds, and fruits and berries.
- Ensure a reliable water source is available for bluebirds to drink and bathe in.
- Create sheltered areas that provide protection from the elements and predators.
Cold Weather Challenges for Bluebirds
As the temperature drops, getting access to food and shelter is quite literally life-or-death for bluebirds.
While most bluebirds migrate south as the cold approaches, some bluebirds do stay in the frozen winter landscape.
Here are the key challenges they face in the winter.
- Dietary challenges: During the winter season, bluebirds face a change in their diet as they primarily consume insects, snails, worms, and other invertebrates during the warmer months. As their preferred food becomes scarce, they turn to alternative dietary options. Berries and other fruit coming from native trees and shrubs, for example, become one critical in sustaining these little birds throughout the colder months.
- Shelter needs: Surviving winter means finding a safe and warm place to rest and sleep for bluebirds. They’re cavity nesters, and they will gladly roost in nesting boxes when they can find them in the colder months. Bluebirds will huddle up together seeking warmth from body heat.
- Water sources: Finding fresh water can be harder for bluebirds in the winter, as many natural water sources freeze. This is why bluebirds gladly flock to a birdbath or a heated water source that enables them to hydrate.
Ultimately, the key to attracting and helping bluebirds during winter lies in understanding their needs and making appropriate adjustments to your backyard to continue to support them.
Read Next: How to Attract Bluebirds to Feeder
How to Attract Bluebirds in Winter: 7 Key Food Sources
Whether you’re visited by the Eastern Bluebird, Western Bluebird, or the Mountain Bluebird, these lovely little creatures are a coveted sight in many backyards during the winter months.
Attracting bluebirds in the winter can be a bit challenging, but providing the right food can make it much easier.
Bluebirds need high-calorie foods to help them survive bitterly cold winter conditions. So make sure you’re offering energy-rich foods, like:
- Peanut butter
- Cornmeal muffins
- Hulled sunflower seeds
As well, be sure to offer:
- Chopped fresh fruits
- Rehydrated dried fruits
Let’s break down each of these food sources below, and how to offer them to bluebirds.
Mealworms are a critical source of food for bluebirds in the winter as the usual insects, snails, and invertebrates they eat are no longer around.
This protein-rich food source helps keep them strong and healthy throughout the season.
Though the live creepy-crawlies are their preference, dried mealworms can be an excellent alternative if live mealworms are not available.
How to Feed Mealworms to Bluebirds in Winter
- Place mealworms in a hanging bluebird feeder, a platform feeder, or even a shallow dish with edges (as live mealworms can crawl away).
- If you want to do some prime birdwatching, you can try placing a dish of mealworms on a back porch or somewhere relatively unused by people.
For more tips on attracting bluebirds to mealworms, check this article.
Bluebirds will come to suet more in the winter than in any other season. So they’ll appreciate it if you hang suet blends that they like in your suet feeders during the cold season.
Suet blends they’ll eat contain foods like peanut butter (crunchy in particular), mealworms, berries, and hulled sunflower seeds.
You can make your own suet, or buy bluebird suet from the store. Just be sure that the suet contains the types of ingredients mentioned above, as bluebirds aren’t very interested in typical bird seed.
How to Feed Suet to Bluebirds in Winter
- Just place suet balls or nuggets in hanging suet feeders for birds.
- Alternatively, you can put suet nuggets right on a platform feeder with other bluebird food offerings.
3. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a great snack for bluebirds, particularly the chunky kind.
Be sure that the peanut butter you buy for them has no other added ingredients, like salt or hydrogenated oils. Natural is best.
How to Feed Peanut Butter to Bluebirds in Winter
- As suggested above, you can add peanut butter to suet chunks, or you can smear some directly on a platform feeder.
- Otherwise, you can smear some peanut butter right on the bark of trees near bluebirds’ nesting sites.
- You can place it at ground level where bluebirds might be most happy eating it, as long as there are no predators around.
4. Cornmeal Muffins
Yes, you can feed bluebirds cornmeal muffins!
If you’re a home baker, you can easily whip up some muffins for the birds. Here’s a great video recipe for peanut butter cornmeal muffins for bluebirds from Bluebird Landlord:
How to Feed Peanut Butter to Bluebirds in Winter
- Try to keep the ingredients simple and avoid adding too much sugar or ingredients that bluebirds wouldn’t normally eat, or that don’t closely resemble what they’d eat in the wild.
- Otherwise, break up cornmeal muffins into pieces and add them to your bluebird platform feeders or hanging feeders.
5. Hulled Sunflower Seeds
Bluebirds prefer shelled (hulled) sunflower seeds. These are easiest for them to access.
Note, bluebirds don’t usually go for sunflower seeds (or other types of seeds for that matter), but in winter that changes due to other food sources becoming scarce.
So sunflower seeds or sunflower chips are still a good idea to offer bluebirds as a supplementary food option.
How to Feed Hulled Sunflower Seeds to Bluebirds in Winter
- Just place some sunflower seeds on your platform bird feeder alongside mealworms or peanut butter, as those are the bluebird’s go-tos.
- It’s better to put the sunflower seeds near another, more attractive food source for these birds if you want to make sure you attract them.
Bluebirds will also eat berries and fruits, if served appropriately, in the winter time.
Types of fruits bluebirds will eat include:
- Softened, chopped raisins
- Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, and holly berries
- Chopped apple
- Tupelo fruit
- Chopped pears
Blueberries, raisins, currants, and tupelo fruits are all favorite foods for bluebirds, so putting these in your feeding stations increases the chances of attracting these beautiful birds.
How to Feed Fruits to Bluebirds in Winter
- Make sure that if you’re serving up dried fruits (which bluebirds love), you’re first rehydrating them in water to soften them.
- Otherwise, chop up fresh fruits into small chunks and put them on the platform feeder for bluebirds to pick at.
7. Native Plants
During the colder months, wild bluebirds are more reliant on fruits and berries.
So it’s natural for them to be attracted to people’s yards that have plants like juniper bushes, dogwoods, sumacs, hollies, serviceberries, and elderberries, some of the best native plants for bluebirds as they provide a natural source of food for them.
Mistletoe is another option that you can consider, as it’s often available in the winter months and can be a great supplementary food source for these birds.
Bluebird Winter Feeding Tips
Here are a few vital winter feeding and maintenance tips for bluebird enthusiasts.
Selecting Bluebird Feeders
- When it comes to bird feeders, always opt for styles that accommodate bluebird feeding habits.
- Look for tray feeders, platform bird feeders, and suet feeders that allow them to access their food comfortably.
- Bluebirds prefer more open and flat feeding conditions to the caged and tube bird feeders. They also like ground feeding areas, so keep this in mind when choosing your bluebird feeders.
- Bluebird species, such as Eastern bluebirds, often prefer their feeders in locations with a clear line of sight to escape predators or any potential threat quickly.
- Placing feeders at strategic spots, like near a shrub or tree, adds a sense of security.
- Keep an eye on the general area for signs of predators to ensure the safety of your bluebird visitors.
- Putting feeders near nesting and roosting areas for bluebirds is another good way to attract bluebirds in the winter time.
Provide a Consistent Food Supply
- In February, bluebirds tend to form small flocks, joining their peers in search of food sources.
- Be sure to cater to their needs by maintaining a consistent supply of the suggested foods. This will increase the chances of attracting these small flocks, creating a lively and vocal environment around your feeding station.
Mix Up the Food Offerings
- Providing a mix of food offerings has the benefit of attracting bluebirds to their favorite foods while also ensuring a large and, typically, more consistent supply.
- Bluebirds can pick and choose what they need as they can sometimes be picky eaters.
Have Multiple Feeders
- Aside from the specific food options, it’s also important to consider the presentation.
- Having multiple feeding platforms, spread out at different heights, with a mix of fruits and insects, can make your yard more appealing to bluebirds.
- As well, ensure that the food is easily accessible and always fresh for these birds.
- Lastly, don’t neglect feeder maintenance. Keep an eye on feeder cleanliness, as proper hygienic conditions are necessary to avoid spreading diseases among your backyard birds.
- Also be sure to repair any damages to the feeders and surrounding structures, including bluebird houses or nest boxes, to provide a safe habitat all year round.
Providing Winter Water Sources for Bluebirds
Bluebirds, like so many other birds, need access to water for both drinking and bathing, especially during the winter months.
Since water sources can be scarce during colder months, providing a suitable water source in your yard can significantly increase the chances of attracting bluebirds.
Get a Bird Bath
- One effective way to offer water for bluebirds is by setting up a birdbath.
- Birdbaths are shallow basins designed for birds to drink and bathe in and are relatively easy to maintain.
- When selecting a birdbath, choose one with a gentle slope and a depth of no more than 2 inches. This allows birds, including bluebirds, to safely use it.
Consider a Heated Bird Bath
- During winter, you’ll need to make sure that the water in the birdbath doesn’t freeze over. To achieve this, consider investing in a heated birdbath.
- A heated birdbath is designed to keep water at a constant temperature, preventing it from freezing and providing bluebirds with a reliable source of liquid water during freezing weather.
Other Ways to Keep Water from Freezing
- Aside from heated birdbath, there are other methods you can use to prevent water from freezing. For example, you can place a small heater in a regular birdbath, use a birdbath with a built-in heater, or even opt for a solar-powered birdbath heater.
- Whichever option you choose, ensure that the heating element is safe for birds and water-tight to avoid any electrical hazards.
Keep the Area Clean
- Don’t forget to regularly clean and refill the birdbath, as bluebirds are more likely to visit a clean water source.
- Also, consider placing the birdbath in a location with nearby trees or shrubs, so the birds have a safe place to perch and survey their surroundings before entering the water.
Setting Up Nest Boxes and Birdhouses
Another important aspect of attracting bluebirds is providing appropriate shelter. Setting up nest boxes and birdhouses not only provides them with a safe place to rest, but also offers protection against harsh weather conditions.
Bluebird House Selection
- To begin, select the right type of nest box or birdhouse specifically designed for bluebirds.
- These houses should have an entrance hole 1.5 inches in diameter to accommodate bluebirds while deterring larger, competing birds source.
- Make sure the box is built from untreated wood, as it’s more suitable for bluebirds’ needs.
- Position the bluebird house in a more open space, as bluebirds prefer open areas for hunting insects on the ground when the spring comes.
Read Also: How to Attract Bluebirds to Bluebird Houses
- Location plays a crucial role in successfully attracting bluebirds. Mount the nest box or birdhouse on a pole or tree, about 5 to 10 feet above the ground.
- Ensure the entrance is facing east, away from direct sunlight and the prevailing wind source.
- Keep the birdhouse away from other bird feeders to minimize competition and maintain a predator-free environment.
- Another helpful tip for attracting bluebirds is adding perches near the nest box or birdhouse.
- While bluebirds can comfortably land on the box itself, perches provide additional resting spots and make your yard even more appealing source.
Adding Platform Feeders
- Supplement your nest box or birdhouse set up with platform feeders that offer bluebird-friendly food like mealworms, fruit, and suet source.
- Bluebirds have different diet preferences in winter, so providing such staples ensures they have their nutritional needs met.
Vary Birdhouse Offerings
- Keep in mind that male and female bluebirds can have slightly different preferences in terms of habitat and nesting conditions. So, it might take some adjustments to attract both genders.
- Providing several birdhouses at different heights or facing different directions can help accommodate these variations.
Remember to periodically clean out the nest box to keep it sanitary and safe for its occupants.
If you follow these steps, you can enhance the bluebird population in your area, providing them with safe havens and consistent food supply.
Nesting Materials for Bluebirds
If you want to attract bluebirds in the winter, providing appropriate nesting materials can be key.
- Nesting materials such as pine needles, cotton scraps, and small bits of bark can be particularly enticing for bluebirds as they build their nests.
- Try placing these materials in an accessible spot out in the open, or near a bluebird feeding station to increase the chances of attracting them.
- While nestlings thrive in the warmer months due to the abundance of insects like snails and worms in their diet, winter poses some unique challenges for bluebirds. By offering them a safe haven with convenient nesting materials, you can support their migratory habits and help them find a cozy spot in your yard.
While it may take some time to find the perfect mix of materials, your persistent efforts will ensure that these stunning birds find comfort and security in your backyard during the cold winter months.
Keeping Bluebirds Safe in the Winter
As winter approaches, it’s a good idea to safeguard bluebirds from various predators and pests.
- Safe Shelter: Keep nesting sites away from areas frequented by cats and other predators that might target bluebirds and their eggs.
- Roosting Boxes: During the colder months, supplement bluebirds’ shelter with medium or large roosting boxes to protect them from storms and freezing temperatures source.
- Extra Food: Planting native berry bushes, such as holly and cedar, can provide extra food and shelter for bluebirds in the winter. Offering suet as a high-energy food source can also help these birds maintain their body heat during extreme cold.
- Deterring Unwanted Birds: House sparrows and European starlings are notorious for trying to take over bluebird nesting sites. To deter them from setting their sights on your bluebird box, consider installing a hole guard or an entrance hole reducer on the birdhouse. These simple modifications can be effective in keeping unwanted birds out while allowing bluebirds to access the cavity source.
- Avoiding Pesticides: Pesticides are harmful to bluebirds as they often feed on insects found on the ground between spring and fall source. Avoid using these chemicals in your yard to ensure a safer environment for bluebirds to thrive.
- Keeping Cats Away: Additionally, beware of roaming cats, as they are responsible for killing millions of songbirds each year. Placing predator guards or deterrents around your yard can help keep bluebirds safe from such threats.
Read Also: How to Keep Cats Away from Bird Feeders
Designing Bluebird-Friendly Habitats All Year Round
Creating a bluebird-friendly habitat is important for attracting bluebirds during the cold winter season.
- Start by focusing on the landscape. Bluebirds prefer open areas with a mixture of trees, grass, meadows, and shrubs. Ideally, the habitat should have an open space surrounded by trees, allowing bluebirds to find shelter while still having access to hunting grounds.
- In this habitat, ensure there are a variety of trees, as bluebirds rely on them for perching, hunting insects, and finding nesting sites. Dead trees and pine trees with their needles can provide excellent nesting spots. Aim to include native trees and shrubs, such as dogwoods, junipers, sumacs, hollies, serviceberries, and elderberries. These plants not only offer cover and nesting sites but also provide a valuable source of food with their berries during winter.
- It’s also important to maintain open areas with short grass or meadows, which make it easier for bluebirds to spot and catch insects in the warmer months. They feed mainly on insects and small invertebrates like beetles, larvae, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and spiders, so keeping the grass short and providing open spaces will encourage these food sources in the habitat.
- Lastly, consider adding a bluebird house or nest box to the environment. As secondary cavity nesters, bluebirds appreciate nesting spots in tree cavities or human-made boxes. Make sure the nest box is placed in a protected area, away from busy streets or other animals that may pose a danger to nesting bluebirds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you feed bluebirds in the winter?
During the winter, bluebirds primarily consume berries and other fruits from native plants. To attract bluebirds, you can offer them fruits like (source):
- Chopped raisins
But it’s important to also offer things like mealworms, suet, and peanut butter to sustain their calorie needs.
Do bluebirds use nest boxes in winter?
Yes, bluebirds often use nest boxes in winter to roost and stay warm during the cold months.
If you want to provide a winter shelter for bluebirds, make sure to clean out the nest box after the breeding season to keep the birds healthy.
What can I put out to attract bluebirds?
To attract bluebirds, you can set up the following in your yard:
- A birdbath with moving water
- Native trees and shrubs that produce berries
- Nesting boxes or roosting boxes
Additionally, reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals in your yard can appeal to bluebirds.
Do bluebirds eat dried mealworms in winter?
Yes, bluebirds will eat dried mealworms in winter.
In fact, dried mealworms are a good supplemental food source because they provide important nutrients and protein for bluebirds during the colder months.
How to attract bluebirds to your feeder?
To attract bluebirds to your feeder, you can:
- Offer foods such as dried mealworms, fruit, or suet
- Place the feeder in an open space, near native trees and shrubs that produce berries
- Keep the feeder clean to avoid diseases source
How to attract bluebirds to nesting box?
To attract bluebirds to a nesting box:
- Place the box in an open space with low grass
- Keep the entrance hole facing away from prevailing winds
- Set up the box at least 5 feet above the ground
- Clean the box after the breeding season ends