If you question enthusiast birders what birds usually feed on, they will tell you seeds for most birds. But, when it comes to feeding bluebirds, it will be thoroughly different. Bluebirds have a unique diet that doesn’t include any type of seed.
So, what do bluebirds eat? Bluebirds are insectivorous and mainly feed on insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, snails, termites, spiders, and so on, especially in summer, spring, and early fall. As winter comes and insect populations are not abundant, these birds consume fruits and berries. Besides, bluebirds eat mealworms, nutmeats, sunflower hearts or chips, suet dough, and eggshell bits (mostly female bluebirds) offered by birders.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what bluebirds eat in the wild, in the yard, in different seasons, and at feeders. We will also share with you what bluebird feeder you should choose and where to place the feeder perfectly.
So, let’s get started!
What Bluebirds Eat in the Wild
Like American robins, solitaires, and hermit thrushes, bluebirds are thrushes, small to medium-sized ground-living, insect-eating birds. When it comes to a bluebird’s diet, it depends on the season, habitat, and food availability.
“Typically, around 68% of a bluebird’s stomach is made for eating insects, while the other 32% is made for eating fruits and other foods,” said Foster Ellenborough Lascelles Beal in his book ‘Food Habits of the Thrushes of the United States‘ in 1915.
So, what bluebirds eat in the wild includes caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, beetles, spiders, snails, grubs, insect larvae, ants, bees, flies, angleworms, myriapods, tiny lizards, tree frogs, salamanders, sowbugs, black olive scales, weevils, pillbugs, etc.
These birds catch various insects, such as termites, moths, and mosquitoes in flight, especially when many flying insects are out there. Among wild fruits, bluebirds eat sumac, wild holly, dogwood, pokeweed, currants, red cedar, mistletoe, tupelo, honeysuckle, bay, and more.
What Bluebirds Eat in the Yard
Many edible things are out there in your yard for bluebirds. You may be wondering what is out there edible for bluebirds in your yard. Among insects, bluebirds can eat ants, spiders, termites, and mosquitoes in your yard.
In terms of fruits, bluebirds can eat hackberries, cherries, grapes, raisins, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, juniper berries, serviceberries, chokecherries, elderberries, and more, if you plant these fruit trees and berry bushes in your yard.
If bluebirds are likely to eat foods in your yard, make sure you don’t apply insecticide and pesticide to your yard so that bluebirds can find plenty of insects to eat. You shouldn’t remove cobwebs from your yard because they can help increase spider populations.
What Do Baby Bluebirds Eat?
Baby bluebirds can be either nestlings or fledglings. In terms of nestlings, they get food from their parents or are offered food from enthusiast birders if they are abandoned. On the other hand, fledglings can eat almost every food that an adult bluebird can eat.
Now, the question is, what do bluebird parents feed their babies? “Female bluebirds (54.8%) feed their babies more than their male counterparts (45.2%),” said Benedict C. Pinkowski in his book ‘Use of Tree Cavities by Nesting Eastern Bluebirds‘ in 1976.
According to his research, parent bluebirds usually feed their nestlings:
- Grasshoppers (Orthoptera)
- Different Types of Berries
Both the father and mother bluebird feed their babies these insects and fruits every 10 to 15 minutes. Although 68% of bluebirds’ stomachs are made for eating insects, they collect higher than 68% of insects during nesting season because they need more protein in this period.
If you find an abandoned bluebird nestling, what can you offer the baby bluebird? You can provide the baby bluebird:
- Most Dog Food
- Dog/Cat Kibble
- Raw Liver
- Boiled Eggs
What Do You Offer Bluebirds at Feeders?
Bluebirds don’t eat seeds. So, you shouldn’t offer them any feeders with seeds. What you can offer bluebirds is the following insects, fruits, and prepared foods:
What Do You Offer Bluebirds at Feeders? (At a Glance)
Prepared or Other Foods
1. Small Chunks of Fruits
1. Suet Dough
2. Whole or Chopped Berries
2. Suet Nuggets
3. Native Berries
3. Suet Shreds
4. Dried Fruits
4. Sunflower Hearts or Chips
5. Chopped Peanut Hearts
- Mealworms: You may think of mealworms as worms, but these are not worms. These are the larval stage of small black beetles. They could be dried, live, roasted, or canned. You can offer bluebirds any type of mealworms because they can be a great supplement but not a complete diet.
Most experts suggest that you can give an adult nesting pair up to 200 mealworms a day. If you have extra mealworms, you can keep them dormant in the refrigerator for over a month. Otherwise, they could turn into adult beetles.
- Crickets: Some birders have been successful in feeding bluebirds crickets. However, keeping crickets in a dish might be a bit difficult because they can crawl like mealworms. That’s why you need to disable the crickets by separating one of their jumping legs.
You can also keep the crickets frozen and serve them cold to bluebirds, as some bluebirds can eat frozen insects. But, most bluebirds cannot eat frozen things. So, serve crickets to bluebirds by removing one of their jumping legs or provide a small supply.
- Small Chunks of Fruits: You can offer bluebirds small chunks of fruits, such as pears or apples. Since bluebirds are among the smallest birds, make sure the pears or apples are sliced as small as possible.
- Whole or Chopped Berries: Different types of berries can be ideal treats for bluebirds. You can offer bluebirds whole or chopped berries, whatever you want. If you want to offer chopped berries, we recommend you provide bluebirds with chopped blackberries or raspberries.
- Native Berries: As bluebirds consume berries, you can also offer them some native berries, such as eastern red cedar, red mulberry, American holly, and different types of dogwoods. These berries can help bluebirds overwinter.
- Dried Fruits: To feed bluebirds, you can provide them with dried fruits, like raisins, currants, cranberries, and blueberries. Make sure the dried fruits you’re going to provide bluebirds are pretty softened.
- Chopped Peanut Hearts: Apart from the previous fruits, you can offer bluebirds some chopped peanut hearts. Make sure that there is no shell in the dish. If you give bluebirds the peanut hearts without chopping, adult bluebirds can eat them without much hassle.
3. Prepared or Other Foods
- Suet Dough: Sometimes, bluebirds feed on suet, especially when the weather gets cold and insects are not abundant. In the summer, when insects are plentiful, feeding bluebirds any type of suet dish is quite difficult.
If you want to offer suet dough to bluebirds, here are the ingredients you need to prepare the food: 1 cup lard, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 cups cornmeal, 2 cups oatmeal, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 ½ cup raisins.
Now, we’re going to share the recipe. First of all, put raisins in a saucepan with water. Wait until the water is boiled. Remove the pan from the stovetop and leave the raisins to be cool. Pick the raisins from the water and cut them in half.
Mix flour, cornmeal, and oatmeal together in a large bowl. Melt crunchy peanut butter, lard, and sugar in a saucepan on low heat. Once the peanut butter, lard, and sugar have melted, pour the mixture into the large bowl and mix well. Finally, add raisins to the mixture.
- Suet Nuggets: Instead of suet dough, you can feed bluebirds suet nuggets. Once you have prepared suet dough, cut the entire suet into square or round pieces. You can freeze them for the next time. For additional flavor, you can add currants with the mixture.
- Suet Shreds: Bluebirds don’t always eat suet. However, if you provide suet shreds to bluebirds, they may love to eat suet. But why? Suet shreds are tiny pieces of suet that mimic the size of insects. So, bluebirds can easily pick the pieces and swallow them. Once you have shredded the suet, refrigerate it until it’s ready to eat.
- Sunflower Hearts or Chips: When it comes to offering foods to bluebirds, sunflower hearts or chips could be excellent treats for them. Always try to feed bluebirds the whole sunflower hearts, putting them in a bird feeder.
- Eggshells: In the nesting season, female bluebirds need extra calcium to produce eggs. That’s why eggshells could be what they actually require. Break the eggshells into small chips so that bluebirds can easily eat them.
- Water: Bluebirds need water for drinking and bathing. If you place a birdbath in your yard, it will invite many bluebirds to drink water and bathe, even in the coldest months. Frequently change the water every other day. The birdbath should be 1.5 inches deep so that the fledglings cannot get drowned.
Bluebird Feeder Plans
When you’re willing to provide food to bluebirds, you will need feeders. However, what kind of feeder should you use? It could be either commercial or homemade feeders. In this case, we’re now going to talk about the feeder plans for feeding bluebirds below. Stay tuned!
Feeders for Mealworms & Crickets
You should serve mealworms and crickets in a shallow container or dish; for example, a dog dish with vertical sides and a smooth finish that prevent the insects from crawling out. The dish you are going to put mealworms and crickets in has to be made of plastic, glass, ceramic, or metal because rough sides, like wood, help these live insects crawl out.
However, many other birds, such as robins, starlings, and mockingbirds, love to eat mealworms and crickets, and they will forage the insects provided for only bluebirds. In this case, you should use a bluebird feeder with narrow entrance holes that only allow bluebirds to enter.
We recommend you use the Perky-Pet Dried Mealworm Bird Feeder that can attract multiple bluebirds in your backyard. This feeder is ideal for dried, canned, and roasted mealworms. For live mealworms, you can purchase the Window Bird Feeder (both links take you to Amazon).
Feeders for Suet Dough, Nuggets & Shreds
Like mealworms, different types of suet dishes can be offered in a glass, plastic, metal, or ceramic dish. Bluebirds will perch on the dish and eat suet, especially in the coldest months when insects and fruits are not abundant.
Instead, you can offer crumbly suet dough, suet nuggets, or suet shreds to bluebirds in a suet feeder. For suet dough, you can install the Squirrel-X Squirrel-Proof Double Suet Feeder in your backyard, which prevents squirrels and large birds from eating suet.
On the other hand, you can pick the Perky-Pet Hanging Tray Bird Feeder, but other birds may eat suet from the feeder. For that, you can use the Wild Wings Cedar Blue Bird Box House, which allows only the small birds to enter and eat suet nuggets or shreds.
Feeders for Fruits & Berries
In a shallow dish, container, or tray, serve fruits and berries so that bluebirds can eat them. Make sure the fruits and berries you are going to serve are chopped or sliced. To feed bluebirds professionally, you can offer the fruits and berries in a bluebird feeder.
The Birds Choice Copper Double Cup Bluebird Feeder is excellent. You can serve a wide variety of fruits and berries in it but a small amount. For the large amount, you can use the Wild Wings Cedar Tray Bird Feeder, which could be a bit difficult to clean.
Feeders for Peanut Hearts, Sunflower Chips, and Eggshells
To offer your bluebirds some peanut hearts, sunflower chips, and eggshells, you can use any wide tray so that multiple bluebirds can eat these foods at a time. If you want to ensure a professional approach to the bluebirds, we suggest using a bluebird feeder.
The Dome Feeder from Heath Outdoor Products could be what you are looking for feeding bluebirds nutmeats, sunflower hearts, and eggshell chips. You can also install the Window Bird Feeder that comes with some strong suction cups to attach the feeder to your window.
Feeders for Water
If you are willing to offer bluebirds fresh water, we recommend you hang the Perky-Pet Water Cooler Bird Waterer in your backyard. Bluebirds, as well as other thrushes, such as robins, starlings, and mockingbirds, can drink water from the feeder.
There is an alternative to the water feeder. If you install the Burley Clay Butterfly Ceramic Bird Bath in your backyard, you can attract many bluebirds along with other thrushes to drink water and bathe, even in the winter months. This will, of course, increase the beauty of your backyard.
Bluebird Feeder Placement
Once you have purchased your desired feeders, you might be wondering where to place bluebird feeders. You don’t need to worry about the matter. We’re now going to share with you some suitable bluebird feeder placement tips below.
- You should place bluebird feeders in an area so that bluebirds can easily notice the feeders.
- Set the feeders in a place where bluebirds frequently visit.
- If you have purchased a window bluebird feeder, you have to mount it with one of your windows, attaching it to the window with suction cups.
- In terms of most bluebird feeders, you have to hang them with wire with trees in the most visible place in your backyard.
- You can also use bird feeder poles where you can hang multiple feeders. Each feeder may contain different types of foods.
What Bluebirds Eat Depending on Various Seasons
Throughout the spring, summer, and early fall, bluebirds eat various insects, including snails, caterpillars, grubs, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, termites, mosquitoes, moths, tiny lizards, tree frogs, pillbugs, wasps, etc.
Apart from the insects, bluebirds, in these seasons, eat a variety of fruits, such as sumac, wild holly, pokeweed, dogwood, cherries, grapes, raisins, currants, pears, apples, red cedar, mistletoe, tupelo, honeysuckle, bay, and different types of berries.
As soon as winter temperatures kill insects, bluebirds don’t find enough insects to eat. Therefore, they depend on eating wild fruits. But, when fruit trees are covered with snow, bluebirds’ foods are not so abundant.
So, what do bluebirds eat in the winter? In cold weather, bluebirds eat wild fruits and berries, such as hackberry, red cedar, sumac, dogwood, wild grape, etc. If wild fruit trees are covered with snow, bluebirds eat mealworms and suet offered by many birders in their backyard.
Not all bluebirds migrate to southern regions. To feed the non-migratory bluebirds, you can plant native fruit trees and shrubs. Besides, bluebirds may find ants, termites, mosquitoes, and spiders in your yard. So, don’t apply chemicals to your yard at this time.
What Do Different Types of Bluebirds Eat?
Three types of bluebirds are out there in the United States and Canada.
- Eastern Bluebirds
- Western Bluebirds
- Mountain Bluebirds
What Do Eastern Bluebirds Eat?
Eastern bluebirds mostly eat insects and berries. They mainly feed on various caught-on-the-ground insects, such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, earthworms, snails, rarely tiny lizards, and tree frogs.
In the late fall and winter, eastern bluebirds eat many berries, including sumac, mistletoe, blueberries, tupelo, currants, dogwood, wild holly, pokeweed, hackberries, honeysuckle, juniper, bay, and black cherry.
What Do Western Bluebirds Eat?
Western bluebirds mostly eat insects and berries. They mainly feed on many ground-dwelling insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, wasps, pillbugs, spiders, snails, earthworms, crickets, and many more.
In the late fall and winter, bluebirds switch to eating fruits, such as mistletoe, juniper, elderberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, serviceberries, sumac, chokecherries, juniper, dogwood, pokeweed, honeysuckle, black cherry, etc.
What Do Mountain Bluebirds Eat?
Mountain bluebirds mostly eat insects and berries. In warm months, they mainly feed on insects, like caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, ants, bees, spiders, and many more. Parent mountain bluebirds primarily feed their nestlings grasshoppers and beetles.
When the cold weather comes, mountain bluebirds shift to fruits and berries, such as mistletoe, hackberry, juniper, wild grapes, currants, cedar berries, elderberries, sumac, chokecherries, black cherry, honeysuckle, etc.
What Bluebirds Don’t Eat
Bluebirds don’t eat the most common foods offered to most backyard birds. The foods are:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Mixed Birdseed
- Hummingbird Nectar
- Whole peanuts
- Cracked Corn
When the staple foods are not available, bluebirds sample sunflower chips. These birds don’t drink hummingbird nectar because they don’t like sweet water, and they don’t have long beaks (or bills) like hummingbirds.
Since bluebirds are among the smallest birds, eating whole peanuts is quite difficult for them. They can only eat nut meats. Do bluebirds eat corn? Many birders said that bluebirds didn’t like cracked corn when they offered them in a bluebird feeder.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Do bluebirds eat dried mealworms?
Bluebirds are among bird species that dried mealworms. Although bluebirds love to eat live, juicy mealworms rather than dried ones, you can offer the birds a mixture of live and dried mealworms to attract them to your backyard. To increase the mealworms’ protein value, you can add wheat bran, oatmeal, and cornmeal to the mixture. Ensure moisture by putting a slice of apple, potato, or carrot on the mixture at least once a week.
2. Do bluebirds eat earthworms?
When insects are not abundant, bluebirds eat earthworms. However, eating earthworms is not suitable for bluebirds. They cannot digest the earthworms properly, and therefore become very sick. It is proved that earthworms can cause severe diarrhea if larger nestlings eat them.
3. What kind of food attracts bluebirds to my backyard?
Many foods can mostly attract bluebirds to your backyard. The foods include mealworms, nutmeats, raisins, sunflower chips, suet nuggets, suet shreds, and crumbled bark butter plugs.
4. What does it mean if my bluebirds don’t go into the feeder I provide them?
Bluebirds may not understand how to use the bluebird feeder you provide them. Place the dish on top of the feeder to train bluebirds. Once they notice the feeder, they will go into the feeder. Besides, if you set a bluebird feeder with plexiglass sides, bluebirds are probably trying to go through the glass rather than the feeder holes. Once the bluebirds can go inside, they will understand how to enter the feeder.
5. If I place a nest box for bluebirds, do I have to feed them?
You don’t need to feed bluebirds if you place a nestbox for bluebirds in summer, spring, and early fall. However, when winter comes and foods for bluebirds are scarce, it’s your responsibility to feed the bluebirds a small number of mealworms, suet recipes, and chopped fruits and berries.
Now that you know what bluebirds eat, you can easily attract these birds to your backyard. Apart from feeding bluebirds, you can place a beautiful birdbath, especially a heated birdbath for the winter months, in your yard to entice plenty of bluebirds to visit your surroundings.
You can also set a suitable bluebird house or eye-catching roosting boxes for chilly weather to make your backyard bluebird-friendly. Anyway, do you have any experience of feeding bluebirds in your backyard? You can share that with us!