We usually clean out the Bluebird nesting boxes when we see birds starting to make nests. That’s usually in late February but since spring is so late this year, we just completed this task on thirty of our boxes. The infamous English Sparrows are starting to carry nesting material into the boxes. English Sparrows are not native to North America and they are very aggressive, easily out-competing our native Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows for the nesting boxes.
We destroy English Sparrow nests whenever we can.*
We put the nesting boxes up to attract Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. Eastern Bluebirds are here year-round and will eat insects, worms and berries. Tree Swallows are migratory and the males usually arrive in Swoope in late February to early March. Tree Swallows are exclusive insect eaters.
Clean out nesting boxes about the time the male Tree Swallows arrive. We take a bar of soap along with us to rub on the bottom of the lid to the box to keep wasps from building their nests inside the box. Take a few tools along as well to do minor repairs to the boxes.
We have an assortment of boxes but all of them have a 1.5-inch diameter entrance hole. This is to make certain the European Starling doesn’t get in. They are also non-native and aggressive. Here is a link to the North American Bluebird Society website. They have several really good designs for nesting boxes. Garth Clifford has some really good tips for attracting bluebirds at worldbirds.org.
Wear gloves when cleaning out the box and take a tool to scrape old nests out. Watch out for deer mice. They like to make nests in the boxes too.
*English Sparrows take over nesting sites for many native birds and will kill adult Bluebirds and Tree Swallows sitting on their eggs.
Hey there! I’ve been reading your web site for a long time now and finally got the courage to
go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx!
Just wanted to say keep up the excellent job!
This is my first year of dealing with birds. I have a beautiful bird house that was given to me as a gift, and I thought I’d never be able to use it. I have it sitting on my upstairs patio. But, I am so pleasantly surprised when I saw a pair of Eastern Bluebirds come make a next in the box. I am sooo happy to see them. I read that the box is supposed to face N NE but, mine is facing West towards the sun, and it is awful hot on my patio. I live outside of New Orleans, LA. North and East face my apt. I bought a patio screen to put up, to shade the box, but, then, the birds won’t be able to watch for predators on the next apartment roofs, as they do in the evening at their window. I want to do everything I can to protect them, but, whenever I go near, the adults fly out of the nest. My box doesn’t open, but, I tried to look in and looked like a dead baby bird in there? I would like any help I can get. I don’t want to loose those beautiful birds, but, never had birds before. I could send photo of bird box.
Cathryn, thanks for reaching out. Don’t worry about what direction your box is facing and the shade is good. That baby inside may be asleep. Your biggest predator is going to be cats. If the baby or babies fledge they will be easy prey for cats. After they fledge, you should clean the box out. Maybe there is a way to get inside that box. You may want to consider an easier box to clean.
Thank you for replying to my message. I need all the help I can get with my first babies. I never took care of birds before. I’m glad I haven’t seen any cats around this summer. Where I get special food for the babies? And what plant to grow for food for adults? Will they leave in the winter? I haven’t seen any kind of birds last winter.
Cathryn, you don’t need to do anything. Let the birds do their thing. Thanks for being so caring.
My bird box is on a hot patio. It will be 90 degrees this weekend, and high humidity, with no vents in box. How do I keep the box cool?
Are there babies in the box now? I’m not sure there is anything you can do at this point. Just watch and enjoy.
It is so hard to look into the box, since there is only one entrance hole, and one section at the bottom for cleaning, which would be full of straw. I tried to get a very small flashlight into the entrance hole and look in, and was upset because it looked like there was a featherless bird in there that I thought was dead because I hear no noises but, the parents keep going to and fro, so would they continue if there were dead birds? It must be so hot in there. I wish I could drill holes for ventilation. Would I be able to do that, drill holes with electric drill while babies are in nest? Would sawdust get into their eyes and mouths? I don’t know what I”m doing. This is my very first time with any birds. Thanks for you help.
Cathryn, relax. It’s okay. Try not to bother them. They should be fine. Enjoy them.
I clean the HOSP nests out of my bluebird box every day. My bluebirds don’t have a chance this year. I have had babies for three years but these sparrows are relentless! Any suggestions?
Debra, I am so sorry you have House Sparrows. I’m doubly sorry to inform you to take the nest boxes down and move them far away from humans. The HOSP will kill sitting Blue Birds or Tree Swallows. I had to move ours farther out on the farm. I would say a half mile away from human habitation would be safe.
I have had a pair of eastern bluebirds raise one clutch and the fledglings left. I took the old and dirty nest out but now the parents are back again and showing a good deal of interest in the box but have not started a new nest. I put the old nest back in for a few hours but they still didn’t build on it. The male is still showing interest but I don’t know what to do. Should I put the old nest back again? I live in Tallahassee Florida
Deanna, thanks for your comment. Nest building is part of the process. I recommend leaving it out and let them figure it out. Aren’t they beautiful?
I have a few birdhouses in my suburban backyard against woods. I just saw a male Eastern bluebird checking out one of my houses. I have not cleaned it out for the spring yet. How long should I wait before I go back and clean it out. I do not want to discourage the bluebirds from nesting there.
Kim, thanks for reaching out to me. Go ahead and clean out the box as soon as possible.
Does it matter what kind of soap you use?
Ken, thanks for stopping in. Any kind of bar soap will work.
Should you clean out the nest for tree swallows after the young birds fledge?
Yes. Thanks for reaching out to me on this. Good luck.
I had 3 broods this year for a total of 12 babies, very exciting! I could barely clean out the nest and they were laying eggs again. All the birds have been scarce the last month or so, not exactly sure why, I live in Florida. However, last weekend I had two males and a female bluebird start up a nest again, just a small bit of pine straw but it was weird. Should I do a good cleaning in a month or so? What exactly should I use. Thank you 🙂
Hi, Lynn. Thanks for your comment and question. I would clean out your box as soon as the next brood fledges. Wear some work gloves and simply scrape it out with something like a screwdriver then dust it with some agricultural lime.
My wife and I have a bluebird house that was given to us two years ago by a friend. She said a snake had gotten into it. We have tried unsuccessfully to clean it so we could attract bluebirds. We have had a number of bluebirds examine the house but they weren’t interested. Neither have many other types of birds. Any ideas about what we can do?
Regarding the statement that “Your biggest predator is going to be cats,” in general, chipmunks and raccoons are much greater predators of nesting bluebirds than cats.
I am not much of a bird enthusiast, but I do have several feeders and keep them filled year round.
I live in southern NH and tend to see a lot of finches, cardinals and blue jays. This is the first year that I have seen the Eastern Bluebird.
My sister gave me a decorative bird house for Christmas and I didn’t have time to hang it, so I put it on a table on my front porch. Last month (June) I saw a bird fly out of the house. I couldn’t believe that a bird would make a home in a house so close to my front door. I was even more surprised to discover that it was an Eastern Bluebird with 6 eggs!!
We kept a close eye on their comings and goings and we’re so excited when the babies hatched and relieved (and sad) when they flew the coup.
I suspected that they were done with the house and as I am in the process of moving to Nevada, I was planning on cleaning it out and taking it with me. Until this morning when we noticed that they have come back!! I couldn’t believe it. Both the male an female have been visiting the home all morning.
My question is, will she have another brood and if so, when is a good time to clean out the house?
Also, is it likely that they will return next year?
I guess I wont me taking the house with me to Nevada.
Thanks for your comments and question. As a general rule, it’s always good to clean out the box after each brood has fledged. Nest building is part of the process. Bluebirds will have multiple broods as long as food supply is abundant. They will return to the same box but they can find another cavity somewhere. Good luck at your new place in Nevada.
Bethany beach, Delaware July 4, 2021
I put up a bluebird box in March and I just saw my second brood fledge two weeks ago. Should I take the bluebird box down? Might there be another clutch yet?
Patricia, thanks for your comment. No need to take the box down but go ahead and clean the nest out. Nest building is part of the process. And there may be another brood.
I Got an official Bluebird nest box since I wrote the above questions years ago. It is on my upstairs patio and the Bluebirds have accepted the area and my presence every year.
My question is what do I wash the nestbox out with to get ready for the next season?
Cathryn, thanks for stopping in. I try to clean out nests as soon as the babies fledge. I simply remove the nest. I don’t wash with anything. Sometimes I’ll take a scraper to scrape away material. Some on the internet recommend washing with a one-part bleach solution.
I cleaned out my bluebird box two days after the parents stopped delivering food and it was quiet. There were a few bluebirds that fledged, and it under neath the top 1/2 inch of nest debris there was one dead one, it appears to have died quite a while ago. Is it common for one of a brood to die prior to fledging? Do you think it couldn’t compete or perhaps some kind of disease.
Steve, thanks for your question. I think it is not uncommon for one baby to perish. It’s sad but it happens.