Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.
Attract Bluebirds With a Specialty Feeder
This specially designed bluebird feeder is easy to make, and the birds will quickly learn to enter the feeder to feast on the live or freeze-dried mealworms inside. Bluebirds feed primarily on insects, fruits, and berries, and they are especially fond of mealworms. If you want to attract bluebirds to your feeders, try offering them a feeder filled with mealworms (this feeder also works for the specially formulated and commercially available bluebird nuggets).
Many different types of birds like to eat mealworms, so this feeder is designed to keep out the larger and less desirable feeder visitors, such as starlings, sparrows, and jays. The size of the entrance hole is key to keeping out the larger birds: The 1-½"-diameter holes drilled through each side of the feeder lets in the bluebirds along with other little birds but keeps the bigger birds out.
Placing the feeder in an open area will attract the attention of the hungry birds. Bluebirds seem to know their territory well, and they often inspect the new birdhouses that I add around our property. I placed the feeder in an area near a suet feeder that already attracted bluebirds. It wasn't long before the birds found the worms.
To help the birds adjust to the new feeder, I removed one of the clear plastic panels and left the side open. Using live mealworms also seemed to help: The moving worms caught the bird's attention. They couldn't resist the easy meal and didn't seem to mind entering the open-sided feeder for a meal. After a few days of consistently finding a tasty treat, I replaced the plastic panel. The birds quickly learned to enter through the entrance holes.
Update: After receiving several reports of confused birds that had trouble either entering or exiting the feeder, I made a few adjustments to the original design and added another set of entrance holes. Replacing one of the clear plastic sides with a solid panel may also help the birds to find one of the exits.
The Cutting List
Cut a ¾" thick board into the following parts:
Qty -- Description -- Size
- 1 -- Base (part A) -- 7-½" L x 5" W
- 2 -- Ends (part B) -- 7" H x 5" W
- 1 -- Upper Roof (part C) -- 10-½" L x 5" W
- 1 -- Lower Roof (part D) -- 10-½" L x 4-¼" W
- 2 -- Clear Plexiglas (part E) -- 8" L x 3-½" W
Step 1: Make the Cuts
- Refer to the diagram to lay out the 45-degree cuts on the ends (part B) to form the peaks for the roof of the bluebird feeder.
- Then, lay out and drill the entrance holes using a 1-½" bit. I use a Forstner style bit for drilling clean holes, though you can also use a paddle bit.
- Mill a shallow groove for the clear plastic inserts. Use a table saw, setting the fence ½" in from the side of each edge. Raise the blade about 3/8" high to cut the grooves.
- Repeat the process to cut two matching grooves on each end piece. With the grooves facing inward, attach the ends to the base with weather-resistant screws or nails.
Step 2: Assemble the Feeder
- Cut the Plexiglas inserts to fit between the ends and slip the inserts into the grooves. The 3-½" wide inserts leave an air space along the top for ventilation.
- The roof is attached with screws, making it easy to remove for cleaning or to replace the clear plastic inserts. Line up the edge of the lower roof section (part D) with the peak of the end sections, and then attach it with weather-resistant screws.
- Rip the upper roof (part C) lengthwise into two sections: 1-½" wide and 3-½" wide each, as shown in the diagram. Connect the two sections together with two small hinges. Line up the 1-½" wide section with the end peak and attach it with weather-resistant screws or nails.
- Mount the finished bluebird feeder on a pole in the garden. Bluebirds are often found near fields, pastures, and along the edge of woodlands in rural areas. Add a few bluebird houses and a water source to attract these beautiful birds to your yard.
Bluebirds eat insects and berries, and they will not typically visit feeders filled with wild bird seed. Try offering bluebirds some mealworms instead!
Improving the Bluebird Feeder
The original design worked well; however, after hearing a few reports of confused birds who could not find their way into—or out of—the feeder, I made a few changes:
- Added two more entrances holes. The extra holes are positioned lower (near floor level), making it easier for the birds to find the exit.
- Added a perch on each end of the feeder. Birds often land on the roof, then flitter down to the perch to warily peer inside before entering the feeder.
- Added a cable for hanging the feeder. I drilled small holes through the end pieces near the peak, slipped the plastic-coated cable through the holes, and tied off.
- Made a plywood insert for one of the sides. One reader suggested covering one of the plexiglass sides with tape, making it less transparent and helping to focus the birds towards the entrance holes until they get used to entering and exiting the feeder. Sliding in a plywood insert works well too.
- Reattached the roof with screws instead of nails, making it easy to swap the clear plexiglass with the plywood panel. When I hung the feeder in its new location, I slid the plywood panel on one side and left the other side open. After the birds got used to coming and going, I closed off the side with a plastic panel. They quickly adjusted to using the entrance holes.
Bluebird Fun Facts
- There are three species of bluebirds in North America: the Eastern, the Western, and the Mountain bluebirds.
- Bluebirds eat bugs and berries but are not attracted to 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 the help from concerned birdwatchers. The North American Bluebird Society was formed to encourage and instruct and encourage people to build and hang bluebird houses.
The North American Bluebird Society
- North American Bluebird Society
The North American Bluebird Society is a non-profit education, conservation and research organization that promotes the recovery of bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting bird species in North America. Become a member today!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do you get live mealworms?
Answer: Most pet stores sell live mealworms, including the major stores such as Petco and PetSmart. I prefer to buy freeze-dried mealworm online. The bluebirds love them!
Question: Will this mealworm feeder keep out the starlings?
Answer: The size of the entrance holes is key: the 1-½" diameter holes drilled through the sides of the feeder lets eastern bluebirds and other little birds in, but keeps out the larger birds like starlings.
Question: We recently put up a couple of bluebird nesting boxes and are going to put up some feeders as well. Should we place the feeders near the nesting boxes?
Answer: We placed our bluebird feeder near our deck and about 50 feet from the nearest bluebird house. The bluebirds found the feeder quickly, and we can now enjoy watching the birds from inside our house.
Question: How long and what diameter dowel is required for the entrance perch of this bluebird feeder?
Answer: The 1/4" diameter dowel is about 2" long. While I don't add a perch to my bluebird nest boxes, the perches seemed to give the birds a little more confidence when they first find the feeder. I've watched the birds land on the perch and peer cautiously at the mealworms inside before they enter the feeder.
Please note: Many birding resources such as the Massachusetts Audubon Society recommend building bluebird birdhouses without an entrance perch. Cavity nesting birds including bluebirds don't need them, and a perch may only make it easier for predators or unwanted birds to get in. I only add perches to the feeder.
Question: How high do I hang a bluebird feeder?
Answer: The height does not seem critical, though it should be high enough to protect the birds from cats and other predators. Our bluebird feeder is about 7 feet above the ground. A friend placed their bluebird feeder on their deck railing. The birds happily visit both feeders to dine on mealworms.
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna
Share Your Tips For Attracting And Feeding Bluebirds
Rege on March 08, 2018:
I made this feeder and added dried mealworms, the bluebirds came and sat on the opening afraid to go in. I had this setting out for about a week and decided I needed to make it friendlier. I cut another hole about 3 inches below the first hole and cut out the wood remaining between the 2 holes. Within a few hours our bluebirds were going in and out of the feeder munching away on the mealworms. A few times I found both the male and female in there together, but most of the time when one is inside feeding, the other sits on a branch and waits it’s turn. This has been an enjoyable addition to my garden.
Fay Favored from USA on March 17, 2014:
My husband and I were just saying this morning how we haven't seen any bluebirds around lately. This was perfect timing that I should visit.
geosum on April 15, 2013:
Nice lens! Had several bluebird houses when I lived on a farm.
Hal Gall from Bloomington, IN on March 12, 2013:
I wasn't aware that bluebirds won't eat seeds if you put them in a feeder. Good thing to know!
anonymous on June 04, 2012:
It's a special thing to have bluebirds, so you may as well make them a nice home and invite them to stay and now everyone can follow your excellent plans!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 27, 2012:
Since there isn't much for my early bluebird arrivals to feed on, I want to provide some nourishment for them. I plan to build this bluebird feeder. Thank you for the instructions!
Annamadagan on March 03, 2012:
I love blue birds! I would love to make, or even just own one of these lovely little houses to attract some friends :) Nice lens!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2011:
Know what? The bluebirds that visit us in the cottage love peanuts. I hope it is alright that we put these out for them.
anonymous on September 09, 2011:
You sure are teaching us about birds along the way. I didn't know that bluebirds don't eat seed and dine on insects and berries. The bluebird feeder for giving them their favorite meal of meal worms will have people building to entice these beautiful birds to their yards and meal worm sales with certainly go up! I love on the video how Bird Man Mel suggests giving a whistle when you put meal worms in the feeder and the birds will be lining up....I guess its like a special buffet for them with everyone's favorite food!