One of the most welcome signs of spring is the emergence of the cheerful bluebird. Three varieties for this colorful insectivore can be found in North America: the Eastern, the Western and the Mountain. Suffering a population reduction of nearly 90% in the 20th century, bluebirds have been unfortunate victims of deforestation, an increase in competition from starlings introduced to North America in the mid-1800s, and a marked increase in the use of insecticides. Although these problems continue, in the last few decades its numbers have stabilized and are now increasing, thanks, in part, to initiatives taken by bird lovers and gardeners through the construction of bluebird houses.
Easy to build, these DIY shelters can be constructed from scrap lumber. Assembled with specific dimensions designed to replace the natural hollows and cavities found in mature trees, a homemade bluebird house will provide a safe location for bluebirds to nest and hatch their eggs. Mounted along the perimeter of open fields, gardens or large lawns, they provide ideal housing for bluebirds that may otherwise struggle to locate natural shelter and easy access to insects on which to feed.
Introducing subsidized housing for these tiny songbirds provides more than just a feather in your conservational cap. Not only are bluebirds a treat for the eyes and ears, they do a great job of keeping insects at bay. This is a DIY project that will pay off all summer long.
Buy or source a 5’ x 5 1/2” x 3/4” plank of untreated wood. Pine or cedar are excellent choices, but any untreated wood will do.
Measure and cut wood to the following dimensions. Mark and cut each piece before continuing to the next.
One 14” x 5 1/2” (back)
Two 9” x 5 1/2” (sides)
One 7” x 5 1/2” (roof)
One 4” x 4 3/4” (bottom)
One 9” x 4” (front)
Once all pieces are cut, lightly sand any rough edges.
Assemble back, sides, roof, and bottom using nails. Sides should be flush with the base of the bluebird house. Back should hang about an inch below the bottom. A clamp in not necessary, but can be helpful for keeping edges straight during assembly.
Drill a 1 1/2” entrance hole in the front panel centered from the sides and the top of the hole approximately 1 3/4” from the top.
Place the front on the box, leaving a 1/4” gap between the top of the front and the roof. This gap will allow the front to pivot open and also provides necessary ventilation.
Secure the front to the house with a single nail on each side 1/2” from the top.
Make sure the front pivots easily. This panel allows easy access for observation and cleaning.
Drill a small hole at the top or bottom edge of the back for easy mounting.
Painting is not necessary, but light color paint may be applied (dark colors will draw unwanted heat to the nest). Do not paint the interior of the box.
Attach a small pivoting catch at the bottom edge of the door to keep it from swinging open. A bent nail will work. Here we have used a tack intended for securing electrical wires.
Mount the box at a height of at least five feet near open land, but within 100 feet of shrubs, trees or other locations where birds may perch. Multiple boxes are encouraged at distances of 50 to 100 yards.