Experiencing the Joy of Bluebirds!


Male bluebird feeding a female bluebird - photo courtesy of Dave Kinneer

The Michigan Bluebird Society is a group of individuals dedicated to helping bluebirds and other native cavity nesting bird species in the state of Michigan. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and an affiliate of the North American Bluebird Society. 

Why There is a Need to Help Bluebirds and What You Can Do

Because of habitat loss, environmental pollution, and competition of non-native bird species (House Sparrows and European Starlings), bluebirds have suffered large declines compared to their original numbers. However, bluebirds have been shown to thrive in areas where there is human-provided housing that is actively monitored. As a result, through the efforts of many people, bluebirds have increased in numbers in the last 10 years.  Putting up a nest box is the easiest and most important thing you can do.  Not only are you helping bluebirds to populate, but watching a pair of adults build a nest, lay eggs, and feed their young is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things you will ever experience.  Just ask any bluebird landlord - you'll be hooked and changed forever!

The Michigan Bluebird Society is an affiliate of the North American Bluebird Society.

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Michigan Bluebird News......


As Spring approaches, we start to think about having plenty of nestboxes in place, so the Bulebirds will have their choice of nesting sites, when they arrive. It is not unusual for Bluebirds to start looking for nesting sites as early as February in Michigan. Since Bluebirds will not nest just anywhere they find a nestbox, please keep in mind the following information when locating your nestboxes.pipe baffle

Preferred Nesting Habitat: Bluebirds prefer open or semi-open grassland habitats with an open canopy with few or no small shrubs and sparse ground cover or low grass.  That means that orchards, mowed meadows, large lawns, cemeteries, church yards, farm fields, pastures, golf courses, metro-parks and areas with scattered trees and short ground cover will be their choice of habitat.  They need perching spots.  Fences and fence posts, telephone lines, and medium size trees are preferred for hunting and nest-guarding.

Nestbox Location:   Nest boxes should be placed about 5 feet above the ground and preferably on a metal pole.  Avoid placing nestboxes in direct sun, as the inside of the box can really heat up in the Summer.  The optimal position will have morning sun and afternoon shade.  Place nestboxes away from dense cover and woods.  Also keep boxes away from outbuildings and other structures where House Sparrows may be nesting or otherwise attracted to.  Place nestboxes away from bird feeders and at least 50 feet away from your house.  Face the entrance hole away from the West, North or Northwest, since this is the primary direction Spring and Summer storms come from. If  you have a box in place, which is not used by native birds for two years, try moving it to a different location.

Recommended Distance Between Nestboxes: Boxes should be a minimum of 250 to 300 feet apart. Bluebirds may nest closer to each other, if  the foraging habitat is good, boxes are plentiful and/or they cannot see the other nestbox from their nest site, because something (such as a building) blocks their view. However, never say never or always! There have been reports of bluebirds nesting approximately 70 feet apart within sight of each other.

Bluebirds are territorial, and two pairs generally will not nest in boxes that are closer than 100 yards apart. However, you can pair (see below) boxes in the hopes that two different species will nest side-by-side.  A paired box should be set 20 to 24 feet from the first box.  Also, if nesting Bluebirds are harassed by Tree Swallows, or more than 50% of Bluebird trail boxes are occupied by swallows, consider setting up a second,  paired box.

Pairing:  As with single boxes, space paired boxes 250 to 300 feet apart.  Tree Swallows sometimes work in mobs and can overwhelm a Bluebird. If nesting Bluebirds are harassed by Tree Swallows or more than 50% of Bluebird trail boxes are occupied by swallows, try setting up a second, paired box 20-24 feet away from the first. Some people recommend putting pairs 5-15 feet apart, some say no more than 10 feet, others say 12-18, and others say 20-24.  You may need to try various distances until you find one that works for you.

Note - If  House Sparrows are a problem in your area, it's doubly important to monitor paired boxes and manage the house sparrows.  House Sparrows will not hesitate to occupy boxes that are right next to each other.  Neglected boxes can result in a House Sparrow population explosion and you do not want that to happen.

Boxes that are 25 or more feet apart may both be used by Tree Swallows. In some cases, Tree Swallows will even nest 10 feet apart, especially in areas abutting open space where populations are high or food supplies are abundant.

Also, be careful if a House Wren uses one box in a pair.  They may attack eggs and or nestlings in the nearby box, or fill it up with sticks. 

Pairing boxes will not increase the number of  Bluebirds nesting in an area, since they prefer not to nest close to each other.  Pairing can prevent all available boxes from being taken over by Tree Swallows, House Sparrows and House Wrens.

Note:  The above information contains excerpts from our Nest Box Basics page and from  sialis.org/habitat.htm. See the sites for more information.

Please don't hesitate to contact MBS with any questions or problems you might have.  We are available to assist you in your bluebirding efforts.  To find a County Coordinator near you or for a general contact at the MBS, please go to Contact Us.

Your friends at the Michigan Bluebird Society



To improve the nesting success of the Eastern Bluebird & other native cavity-nesting birds in the state of Michigan through education of our members and the general public, as well as promoting active nest box management and habitat improvement.


 Proceeds go to help bluebird conservation.


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Buy Gift Memberships Here

 MBS Does Bluebird Programs


 If you would like someone to do an interesting program on bluebirds for your group,contact MBS to schedule a day and time. We can do talks to nature groups, civic organizations, schools, gardenclubs, etc. in most areas of the state.  Go to our Contact Us page, and send a message to the  Coordinator for your county. If there is not one for your county, contact Kurt Hagemeister, MBS President.

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