Maintain Your Bluebird Boxes

Even though February, being one of our coldest months, may seem like a time to sit inside and enjoy our garden from afar, there are a few things we can do to maintain our garden and its many visitors. 

The N.C. Bluebird Society and the North American Bluebird Society recommend that we clean out our bluebird boxes during the winter.  In North Carolina the best time is during the month of February.  Both sources state that not cleaning out the boxes can lead to diseases and parasites. After each breed, clean out the box.  This will let the bluebirds know the box is not being used.  Not cleaning out the box will also create a buildup of nesting materials that can raise the nest closer to the entrance hole.  This can make bluebird families easier targets for predators.

Here are the steps they report are best for our bluebird friends:

  • Open the box and clean out all nesting materials with a screw-driver like tool.
  • You may use a garden hose to spray out the inside of the box.
  • An additional step is to rub the interior of the surfaces with unscented ivory soap as a wasp deterrent.
  • Do not forget to clean around the entrance hole of the box.
  • Be sure not to leave the old nesting material around the foot of the box.  Leaving it there can encourage disease.
  • Close the box and wait for your new family of bluebirds to arrive!

-Diane Horvath

Want to know MORE about Eastern Bluebirds?


This morning, a pair of bluebirds perched on my golden Chaemaecyparis, brightening an otherwise dreary day (blogger’s note – I often write articles ahead of the posted date. Your weather may vary.) Bluebirds’ first nesting cycle typically occurs during April and May here in NC, depending on our weather conditions. If bluebirds have chosen a site in your yard, you may already have young birds as neighbors. Bluebirds can have two to three nesting cycles in a year.

Here are some ways to attract bluebirds.

  • Provide Housing: Bluebirds prefer boxes with an entrance diameter of 1 1/2 inches. Site bluebird boxes in an open area of your yard, on a pole with a baffle to deter predators. Facing the opening in a southeastern direction is preferred. Although you can add bluebird boxes to your yard at any time, having them in place by February will increase the chances of your box being chosen. Bluebirds prefer good landlords, so cleaning the boxes after the nesting season is beneficial. Monitor your boxes during nesting season as well.
  • Provide Food Sources: Bluebirds prefer insects, but also eat berries. You can provide food, especially in fall and winter, by planting berry-producing trees and shrubs. Dogwoods are a favorite. A list of plant choices can be found here. Raisins, currants, and mealworms can be placed in a feeder during winter months
  • Provide Fresh Water: You know you want another cute birdbath. Here’s an excuse.

For more information:

-Ann Barnes