Bluebirds In North Carolina - Carolina Country
February 2005

Bluebirds In North Carolina

By Carla Burgess

Bluebirds In North Carolina

Bluebirds are members of the thrush family and a bit larger than sparrows, about 7 inches. Males are vivid blue with a rusty-red breast and white belly. Females are similarly colored but much duller. Young birds have a gray-and-white speckled breast with a tinge of blue in the wings and tail.

Bluebirds are often described as having a cheerful song and disposition. Adults and children alike are enchanted by bluebirds' stark beauty and docile nature. They spend hours watching them build their nests and peering into boxes to count the eggs and young.

In the temperate season, bluebirds feed almost exclusively on insects. They hunt from high perches, scanning the ground for grasshoppers, grubs and other insects, then swooping down to snatch up their prey. Both the male and female feed their babies meals of primarily soft insects. In the winter, when insects are scarce, bluebirds eat berries. They particularly love the berries of hollies and dogwoods. Beautyberry, elderberry, mulberry and sumacs (staghorn or winged) are other suitable fruit-bearers that homeowners are encouraged to plant.

Bluebirds stay in North Carolina year-round and usually begin searching for nesting sites in late February or early March. So it's best to put up new boxes by January or early February. Days or weeks may pass before the male and female begin collecting grasses or pine straw to build a nest, usually in April. They typically build a nest in five or six days. The female begins laying eggs four or five days later. She lays one light blue (or rarely white) egg each day until the clutch is completed, then begins incubating them. The young hatch in about 17 to 18 days and spend another two weeks in the nest.

Bonded pairs can raise three broods each season—the first brood averages five young, the second brood four and the last one three, though as many as six may comprise a brood. The breeding season lasts until early September.

Building and Mounting Boxes

A versatile and functional bluebird box has a fixed floor, three fixed walls, and a front wall that swivels at the top and latches at the bottom. Entrance holes should be no smaller than 1 1/2 inches and no larger than 1 9/16 inches (to exclude starlings, which are larger than bluebirds). Perches are not recommended. Floor size should be either 4-by-4 inches or 5-by-5 inches. Boxes must have ventilation and drainage holes in each corner. Birdhouses may be mounted on wooden, metal or PVC poles. Baffles on the poles made of plastic or aluminum tubing will discourage predators like snakes and raccoons.

Place boxes at a height convenient for monitoring, usually 5 feet. Allow 100 feet between boxes, as bluebirds are territorial. Select a site near open or mowed areas, but not too open—bluebirds need a high perch nearby from which to spot prey. Boxes may be erected year-round. Put up new ones by mid-winter to recruit birds.

For educational brochures or to order boxes, feeders, specialty hardware or handy cardboard nest cups, contact Homes for Bluebirds, P.O. Box 699, Bailey, N.C. 27807, or (252) 235-4664.

The N.C. Bluebird Society has county coordinators who provide bluebird house plans, tips and reference material. To find the coordinator in your county, visit the society's Web site at Or call Chuck Bliss at (336) 625-5423.

The North American Bluebird Society also offers plans, fact sheets and other resources. Visit  or call (330) 359-5511.

Monitoring and Maintaining Boxes

The Birdhouse Network provides field worksheets and instructions for recording and submitting your data. Your input helps biologists expand the body of scientific information. See or call (800) 843-BIRD. Observe and record nesting activity, including when egg-laying begins each season, what materials the birds use for building the nest, size of the clutches and survival rate of young. Remove any dead babies as soon as you see them but leave unhatched eggs alone. Clean out boxes between each brood, removing old nest material, blowfly larvae and other insects, and debris. Check for and fix any leaks.

Identifying Other Species

Bluebirds build neat, cup-shaped nests made of weed stems, grasses and sometimes pine straw. House sparrow nests are tall and messy, sometimes made of trash. Remove these nests, or better yet, locate your boxes away from places where house sparrows abound—such as close to your house or near a source of grain. Do not disturb nests of other native species that may use the box, such as tree swallows, flycatchers, wrens, chickadees and titmice. These are protected by law and are desirable species you can still have fun observing.

Feeding Bluebirds

Unlike typical feeder species, bluebirds must be coaxed to eat from a specialty feeder. Supplements like berries and mealworms can help birds survive harsh winters when starlings have stripped shrubs and trees of fruit. For training tips, consult any of the sources listed above, learn about bluebird boxes, or read about a North Carolinian who specializes in making his own.

Sights and Sounds

Ready for more bluebirds? See and hear the Eastern Blue bird at these multimedia sites.
  • Cornell's Web site at  features a "nest cam" that lets you observe activity inside a box in real time.
  • Listen to the bluebird's song at

About the Author

Carla Burgess is a Carolina Country contributing writer who lives in Raleigh.

Comments (14)

  • i love your website

    oshanla |
    November 16, 2015 |

  • This morning, January 22, I noticed two male bluebirds going into our cleaned-out bluebird house. They’ve been in and out several times staying in For a few minutes, then flying out. They don’t seem to be building a nest, just hanging out. Is this normal?

    Maggie |
    January 22, 2018 |

    • I'm in Clayton, NC. (1-22-20) We have a male and female hanging around. I've been feeding them live mealworms. They are going in and out of our bluebird box but I don't think they are building yet. I think they are just looking for a place to stay warm.

      Sandy |
      January 22, 2020 |

  • We have 2 bluebird houses in our small backyard. The bluebirds nested in both this past spring/summer. It is now November and they are continuing to come everyday and go in and out of the houses. Is this unusual?

    Susan Taylor |
    November 07, 2018 |

  • Today is March 7 and my box has 2 eggs! If it gets cold again, will they survive?

    Amy |
    March 07, 2020 |

  • We have a male and female that have made a nest inside the birdhouse on our covered porch. Nest was completed around 3/4 and she layed her first egg on 3/9. As of 3/11/20 we have 3 eggs. Yay!

    Brenda B |
    April 12, 2020 |

  • I have heard to not clean out the old nest, and I have had bluebirds in the box for 12 years......? Get 2 broods a year

    Priscilla Ridgell |
    March 05, 2021 |

  • I've had BB nest in my yard for 4 yrs but this yr I'm seeing something a little strange. A pair has been collecting straw since March 11th and putting it in box. As of today March 29th they are still putting straw in box but not making a nest. This is the first I've seen a pair do this. What could be happening?

    Pam |
    March 29, 2021 |

  • Why are the blue birds at our house attacking our cars and pooping on them. It’s horrible!

    Victoria |
    June 21, 2021 |

  • Just put up a bluebird house. Bluebirds came the very next day. They seem hesitant to go into the house. Hole is exactly 1 1/2 inches.

    Mark Fisher |
    December 03, 2022 |

  • I just put up my first blue bird box and feeder. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because we have seen them in years past.

    Dawn |
    February 14, 2023 |

  • We have had bluebirds in our nests for several years. Our son and his wife gave us a brand new log cabin bluebird house along with a nesting cam for Christmas. Been watching it every day. So far no bluebirds but can hardly wait to see our residents raise a family this year!!

    Nora |
    March 01, 2023 |

  • We screwed a bluebird house to a pine tree. I’d this a bad idea because I guess a snake could crawl up the tree and into the blue bird house?

    Sandra |
    May 21, 2023 |

  • Past several years have bb generally have 3 broods per year. I did a modification and added an extra hole on the right side of the box (both have predator guards). To my surprise the bb had no problems. He or she would go in one whole and the bb would pop out the other. Easy for feeding and the male removes the trash bag time. Guess she bags it and he flies it away. I generally clean the box after the 2nd nesting. On occasion might be after the first brood. Again no problems. Box is set about 5 and 1/2 feet facing generally East. The right side hole is facing generally north. Now for the past month and into November 2023 a pair are in and out periodically. Not doing any building more house hunting. I expect the house will be occupied during the start of breeding.

    Richard Samuel |
    November 04, 2023 |

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