How to Build a Bluebird House: Nest Box Plans
Bluebirds are as beneficial as they are beautiful, preying on large numbers of beetles, caterpillars, crickets, and other bugs. Because they are cavity nesters, bluebirds seek out woodpecker holes and other natural crevices to build their nesting sites.
They prefer open fields but as farmland gives way to urban sprawl, and with competition from starlings and sparrows, these beautiful birds have an increasingly difficult time finding suitable, natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes for raising their young.
Fortunately, bluebirds can be attracted to backyards where they will nest in birdhouses built to proper specifications. This house is a simple and inexpensive project to build and can be made from pine, cedar, or redwood boards that are commonly available at home centers and lumber yards. The entrance hole is exactly 1-1/2" in diameter, letting the bluebirds in but keeping out the larger starlings.
The Cutting List:
Cut a 1" x 6" x 6 ft pine, cedar, or redwood board into the following parts:
- Front (part A): 5" W x 9-1/2" L
- Back (part B): 13-1/2" W x 5" L
- Sides (part C): 10-1/2" W x 4" L (Qty =2)
- Roof (part D): 7-1/2" W x 7-1/2" L
- Bottom (part E): 4" W x 4" L
- Entrance guard (Part F): 3" W x 3" L
How to Make a Bluebird Nesting Box
Below you'll find step-by-step instructions on how to build the nesting box. Some assembly is required for this project. Be sure to use the diagrams above to help guide you through some of the steps.
Step #1: Lay Out the Pieces
- Cut the sides (part C as seen in the photo above) at a 22-degree angle to create the slope for attaching the oversized roof.
- To determine the angle of the cut, measure up 10-1/2" from one end and make a mark.
- From the same end, measure 9" up the other side of the board and make another mark.
- Use a ruler or straight edge to draw a line to connect the marks. Cut along the line to create an angled side piece.
- The sides are shorter than the front section (part A). When aligned to the bottom edges and joined together, the shorter sides create a 1/2" gap under the roof line for air circulation and ventilation.
- Lay out and the drill the 1-1/2" entrance hole in the front (part A).
- Measure up 6" from the bottom edge, centering the entrance hole across the width of the front section.
- Use a Forstner bit, hole saw, or paddle bit to drill the entrance hole.
- Cut a 22-degree bevel across the top of the front section (part A) to match the slope of the roof and sides.
- Clip off each corner of the bottom section (part E) at a 45-degree angle, creating a gap for drainage gap.
- Drill four or five additional 3/8" holes, spaced evenly in the bottom section for additional drainage.
Step #2: Assemble the Nest Box
- Attach the front (part A) to one side piece (part C). This is the fixed side while the other side is hinged to allow access to the finished nest box for periodic cleaning.
- Attach the bottom (part E) to the sub-assembly.
- Line up the remaining side (part C) with the bottom of the front (part A).
- To create a hinge, secure the side section to the front assembly with one nail or screw driven into edge approximately 1" down from the top.
Step #3: Ensure Easy Access
- Position the partially assembled bluebird house box to the back (part B), leaving 1/2" space above the side pieces.
- Secure the fixed side to the back section with nails or screws.
- Then, create the hinged side by driving one nail or screw one through the back (part B) to form a pivot point.
- Position the hinge screws in the front and back sections directly across from each other, enabling the door to open easily (refer to the side view drawing).
- Drill and countersink a screw hole along the center of the bottom edge. A single short screw will secure the door, yet allow easy access for cleaning.
- Attach the oversized roof to the back and front sections. The large roof creates overhangs along the front and both sides to protect the nest box from rain.
- Drill a 1" hole into the center of the entrance guard (part F). Round off the edges with sandpaper, or use a round over bit to create a finished edge.
- Mount the entrance guard on a bias to create a diamond shape.
- Mount the finished bluebird nest box between 5' to 10' above the ground.
- Use the entrance hole to center and drive a mounting screw through the back and drive a second screw through the lower section of the back below the nesting box. The bluebird house should face out towards an open field or grassy area.
Why Is the Size of Entrance Hole so Important?
The exact size of the entrance hole into the bluebird nest box is very important. The entrance hole must be large enough for the bluebird but small enough to keep out the larger sparrows and starlings.
- Eastern Bluebirds fit comfortably through a 1 1/2" entrance hole.
- In areas with Mountain Bluebirds, increase the size of the entrance hole to 1-9/16" in diameter.
- Western Bluebirds will use either size, though some bird watchers report a higher success rate when using the 1-9/16" diameter entrance hole to the nesting box.
- Do not use nest boxes with a 1 5/8" entrance hole, which is large enough for starlings to enter.
Step #4: Hang the Birdhouse
A Simple Cleat Makes It Easy
Make a simple cleat system for hanging projects such as birdhouses and window boxes. The cleat is made by ripping a piece of stock at a 45-degree angle.
- Start with a piece of wood at least four inches wide and slightly shorter than the width of the feeder.
- Tilt the table saw blade to 45 degrees, then set the fence to 2" from the blade to rip the stock into two mirror-image pieces, each with a 45-degree bevel cut along one edge.
- Attach one of the pieces to the back of the project with the 45-degree angle of the cleat pointing downward to form an inverted "V" between the back of the feeder and the outside surface of the cleat.
- Attach the second piece where you want to hang the feeder, this time with the "V" of the cleat facing upward. Use weather-resistant screws and make sure the cleat is level. When fitted together, the two 45-degree "Vs from each piece lock together to securely hold the feeder in place.
- Add a filler strip along the bottom edge of the feeder, below the cleat on the backside, to hold the feeder upright and plumb.
- Cut the filler strip to the same thickness as the cleats.
Have you seen a Bluebird in your yard?
How Do I Attract Bluebirds to My Garden?
Bird watchers and gardeners try to attract bluebirds into their yards, both for their beauty and for the beneficial role they play in eating many different types of insects.
Bluebirds inhabit open spaces in rural areas, and they are often found near fields, pastures, and in open areas at the edge of woodlands. They can also be enticed to visit gardens that cater to their basic needs while providing an environment that makes them feel safe and secure.
Our garden strives to provide the four essential requirements for bluebirds and other feathered visitors: food, shelter, water, and nesting areas. Plants include a mixture of native and cultivated perennials and shrubs, planted along and under the mature oak trees where the birds can find berries and hunt for bugs.
What Do Bluebirds Eat?
Bluebirds eat grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, moths, and other insects
Bluebirds love eating mealworms, and this specialized feeder is equipped with entrance holes that are just the right size to let bluebirds in but keeps larger birds out. The bluebirds can eat in peace!
Fun Facts on Bluebirds
- There are three species of bluebirds in North America: the Eastern, the Western, and the Mountain Bluebirds.
- Bluebirds eat mostly bugs and berries, and they are typically not interested in bird feeders filled with birdseed.
- Bluebirds like mealworms and will visit feeders filled with live or freeze-dried mealworms.
- Eastern bluebirds can have up to three broods per season.
- Bluebird eggs are pale blue in color.
- In winter, several bluebirds will often roost together in a bluebird house for warmth.
- Bluebird populations suffered and declined in the 1960s but rebounded with help from concerned birdwatchers. The North American Bluebird Society was formed to encourage and instruct people to build and hang bluebird houses.
Baby Bluebird Hatching In A Nest Box
Peterson's Slant Front Bluebird House
This slant-front bluebird house is a bit more challenging to build than the basic nesting box, but the interesting design is worth the effort. Bluebirds like this nest box too, and they will readily move in to raise their brood. This article shows how I built this bluebird nest box, including diagrams, photos, and step-by-step instructions.
Folk Art Bluebird Houses
These birdhouses are built to the specifications preferred by the Eastern Bluebird. A bit of whimsy, a shaped entrance guard, a little paint, and a few repurposed items transform a basic nest box into an interesting piece of folk art that looks great in the garden.
Questions & Answers
What do you recommend for sealing the wood of the bluebird house?
I use oil-based stains and latex paint (thinned with water) to seal and color the exterior of many of my pine birdhouses. This helps to protect the wood from the elements. I also use tung oil to protect and bring out the grain of hardwoods including mahogany, walnut, and teak.
Sealing the wood isn't necessary, and I often leave the birdhouses unpainted to weather naturally. The wood quickly takes on a silvery-gray patina, and the birdhouse will last for several years.