This bluebird nesting box is designed to be attractive to bluebirds, simple in design and construction, easy to monitor, and resistant to inclement weather and predators. You know a birdhouse is well-designed when local bluebirds are immediately attracted to it.
Bluebirds & Nesting Sites
Every species of bird has its own unique needs for a suitable nesting site. By understanding bluebirds and their native habitat, we can better understand what the birds need for nesting and how to provide it.
Birdhouses Versus Nesting Boxes: What’s Best For Birds shares what to look for when selecting a nesting box.
- About Bluebirds
- Tips For Choosing a Nesting Box Site
- Free Bluebird Nest Box Plans
- Frequently Asked Questions
This selection from Audubon Birdhouse Book is used with permission from Quarto Publishing Group USA who also provided a review copy of this book.
There are 3 species of North American bluebirds: Eastern, Western, and Mountain.
- All three types of bluebirds migrate north for breeding season, which is when we get to enjoy them here in Canada.
- Diets vary based on location and all consist mainly of insects plus some fruits and berries.
- There have been various initiatives over the past 50 years to protect and grow bluebird populations that were in decline due to loss of habitat. Our inclination to remove dead trees and clear forests removes vital living quarters for countless insects, birds, and animals including these beautiful birds.
Tips for Choosing a Nesting Box Site
- Bluebirds prefer a nesting site away from humans, pets, and other birds competing for the same food sources, including other bluebirds.
- Optimal nesting sites include wide, open country backyards near forests or wooded areas with full sun.
- Place your nesting box at least 5 to 10-feet off the ground on a secure pole that will not wobble. There should be a clear flight path to the box.
- Chickadees and titmice are not competing for the same food and may nest in a bluebird nesting box if the location suits them. You can set up two boxes, up to twenty feet apart, to allow bluebirds in one and other, non-competing birds, in the other.
See the Frequently Asked Questions section for more tips.
Bluebird Nesting Box Plans
Dan Sparks and other members of the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) designed this updated bluebird nesting box. The aim was to make it attractive to bluebirds, simple in design and construction, easy to monitor, and resistant to inclement weather and predators.
This was named the Xbox simply because it came from the design marked X. It has proven to be beneficial, providing safe, dry housing for countless, happy bluebirds.
The design is suitable for Eastern, Western, and Mountain bluebirds.
Lumber: cypress (used here), white cedar, hemlock, or local weather-resistant wood with low toxicity.
- One 1 x 10 x 11″ (roof)
- Four 1 x 6 x 10″ (front, sides, and back)
- Two 1 x 6 x 4″ (floor and inner roof)
- One 2 x 2 x 9″ (pole-mounting block)
Exterior screws: twelve 1 5/8″ (basic construction); two to six 1 1/4” (roof to inner roof); and two 2″ (pole mounting block to back)
Caulk or sealant (sealing between top and inner roof)
One 2 1/2″ galvanized nail (bent, latch nail)
Mounting: One 1/2″ x 5′ galvanized metal conduit, one 1/2″ x 4-5′ steel rebar (for stake), and one conduit coupler (you can see how this works in the photo below)
- The entry hole should be 1 9/16″ (optimum size) or 1 1/2″ in diameter.
- The vent holes on the side panels should be 3/4″ in diameter.
- Sand all edges prior to assembly.
Hole saws (you can see them here on Amazon) were used for the Xbox entrance and ventilation holes, as well as the mounting block. A table saw with its blade lowered was used for the drip kerfs on the underside of the roof and for the ladder kerfs on the inside of the front.
The back piece of the Xbox is attached to the inner roof. Two deck screws (15/8”) are installed with an impact driver.
Test-fit the attached back, unattached sides, and inner roof. Use a pencil to mark the placement of the recessed floor. Drive in screws.
Top of sides are attached to the inner roof above the entry hole.
Pivot screws, driven into the front piece from the bottom of both sides, allow the front to open easily for checking and cleaning.
One galvanized nail (21/2”) is bent to create the latch nail. Drill the latch nail hole slightly downward.
The mounting block for the Gilbertson pole system is installed on the back of the Xbox with two exterior deck screws (2”). Note the predrilled ¼” hole on the mounting block.
Apply a bead (line) of all-purse low VOC caulk to the tip of the inner roof prior to installing the exterior roof.
The Gilberton pole system is easy to assemble. Drive rebar into the ground, leaving two feet above ground. Attach to the end of the conduit. Tighten upper, shorter screw against the coupler. Slip coupler over rebar. Tighten lower, longer screw against the rebar. Clean pole with steel wool and coat it with furniture polish. Add baffle if needed.
The Xbox is place onto the Gilbertson conduit/rebar pole, ready to become home for bluebirds and others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Advice varies but these answers come from the most recent research I could find.
Bluebirds tend to nest at the edge of forests or other wooded areas as well as in open country backyards. They prefer to nest away from humans, pets, as well as other birds that are competing for the same food resources.
Yes, some bluebirds nest in the winter months. Eastern bluebirds may nest as early as February and continue until early fall, raising two to three broods each year.
Yes, bluebirds will reuse their nests. If you have provided a nesting box, be sure to clean it out thoroughly between broods, when the juveniles have fledged, to prevent the spread of disease.
A bluebird nesting box should be made from natural, untreated wood and not painted or stained. Bluebirds will recognize a well-designed nesting box by the shape, dimensions, size of the entry hole, and location, not the color. Dark wood may retain too much heat for the babies to survive.
The entry hole to a bluebird nesting box should be 1 9/16-inch (first choice) or 1 1/2-inch in diameter.
Perches are not necessary on bluebird nesting boxes and are considered unsafe because they help predators access the nest inside. A clear flight path to the box will allow the bluebirds to go to and from without any need for a perch.
Bluebirds like their nesting boxes in open, sunny areas with a clear flight path. Face the entry hole where it will get full sun. Avoid areas that get shade if possible.
Bluebird nesting boxes should be spaced at least 125 yards apart. Bluebirds do not like competition for their food sources which means they naturally keep distance between nests. When placed closer together, the boxes made be used by non-competing species including chickadees and titmice but they will not be occupied by more than one mating pair of bluebirds.
There are a few reasons why bluebirds may not use a nesting box.
Are they commonly found in your area? If not, a box is not going to attract them.
If they do live locally, is your nesting box specifically designed for bluebirds? Every bird species needs a box designed specifically for their unique needs.
The box should be securely mounted on a pole, at least 5 to 10-feet off the ground, in an open, sunny area away from your house, people, or pets with a clear flight path to and from the box.
The surrounding gardens should be pesticide-free and provide plenty of food (insects, fruits, berries) to sustain the bluebirds and their young.
If all these things are in place, it can still take several nesting seasons for birds to finally use an available nesting box. Building trust takes time.
House sparrows may also bully bluebirds and disturb their nests.
Get the Book
The Audubon Birdhouse Book includes plans for building and locating nesting boxes for:
- Berwick’s, Carolina, or House Wren
- Prothonotary Warbler
- Eastern, Western, or Mountain Bluebird
- Ash-throated or Great Crested Flycatcher
- Tree Swallow or Violet-green Swallow
- Juniper, Oak, Black-Crested, or Tufted Titmouse
- Barred Owl
- Eastern or Western Screech Owl
- Barn Owl
- Norther Flicker
- American Kestrel
- Black-capped, Carolina, or Mountain Chickadee
- Wood Duck
- Hooded Merganser
- Purple Martin
- Mourning Dove
- Barn Swallow
- American Robin
- House Finch
- Eastern or Say’s Phoebe
Find out which species are present in your area and build one a home.
Here is some footage from my backyard bird camera:
Attracting Wild Birds to Your Garden
Just like us, birds need food and shelter.
- Grow a diverse selection of plants including flowers, trees and shrubs that support the web of life.
- Grow bugs. Many bird species eat a lot of insects and other invertebrates.
- An eco-beneficial garden is a “messy” garden: dead and decaying things nourish life.
- Provide fresh water. Puddles and ponds both help.
- Avoid the use of any products toxic to birds and their food sources including caterpillars.
- Keep pets out of your garden.
- Decorative birdhouses are not safe for birds.
- Use nesting boxes intended to safely house specific bird species.
- If using feeders, provide clean fresh water and the right types of seed.
- Clean bird feeders frequently. Remove feeders immediately if you notice any sign of disease or problems like salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, or avian pox are reported in your area.
TIP: Use a wildlife camera with a motion sensor in your garden to get a candid look at life in your garden.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛