Eastern Bluebirds: Biology and Tips for Attracting

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Show notes:

Eastern bluebirds are a conservation success story. Their numbers plummeted in the early 1900s. Then in the 1960s and 70s, consorted efforts were started to establish bluebird trails and similar programs. Growing up in the late 1970s and 1980s, I remember often hearing about the plight of the eastern bluebird and the need to put up nest boxes for them. Today, their numbers have rebounded and they are considered a low conservation concern.

In this week’s episode of the Backyard Ecology podcast, we talk with Michael Patton. Michael is an Avian Biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He also recently completed a research project looking at eastern bluebird nesting behavior.

During our conversation we talk about some general life history traits of the eastern bluebird including population trends, mating behaviors, and nesting behaviors. We also talk about Michael’s research looking at the factors that influence how many clutches a pair of eastern bluebirds will have in a year including provisioning rates of each parent.

Michael also shared with us a variety of tips for attracting bluebirds to our properties. Instead of jumping straight to “put up a bluebird house.” Michael took a big picture view with his answer. He discussed the need to provide the right type of vegetative habitat, the different types of food eastern bluebirds need and how to provide those, and then of course the need to provide cavities for the bluebirds to use as nesting sites. Whenever possible, Michael provided both natural and artificial alternatives. For example, when it comes to providing nesting cavities he suggested leaving standing dead trees for natural cavities if it was safe to do so as a natural option, or providing bluebird nest boxes as an artificial option. We wrap up the conversation with Michael sharing some interesting facts that he learned while doing his research.


Episode image:

  • Male and female eastern bluebirds on a nest box.
  • Photo credit: Michael Patton, all rights reserved

Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.

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