Sixteen years ago, I built my first bluebird house. I placed the nest box in my backyard, about 30 feet away from our dining room window. I mounted it so close to the window because I wanted to be able to watch the bluebirds flying in and out of the nest box. The location worked out, and I attracted my first pair of bluebirds that spring! But, there are actually some best practices when it comes to where to place a bluebird house that I wish I would have known back then.
Where Should I Place My Bluebird House?
As a general rule, you should place your bluebird house in an open, sunny area where there is plenty of short grass where bluebirds can catch insects. Mount the nest box at least five feet off the ground, not too close to buildings, and at least 50 feet away from brushy or wooded areas.
That is the short and sweet answer for where to place a bluebird house. If you follow the above guidelines, you should be OK. However, there are a few more questions you might want to consider as you decide on a nest box location. For example:
- What direction should you face your bluebird house?
- How far apart should you space your bluebird houses (if you’re putting up multiple)?
- Can you (or should you) hang your bluebird house from a tree?
In this article, I’ll go through some basic guidelines for where to put up a bluebird house. I’ll also answer some questions you might be asking as you decide on the best nest box location in your own yard.
Best Nest Box: My all-time favorite nest box for bluebirds is the Nature’s Way model CWH4. It has so many features that I love. Get one of these bird houses on Amazon here.
1. Place your bluebird house in an open area
Bluebirds’ main source of food in the summer is insects. So, they prefer to nest in sunny, open areas with lots of short grass where they can catch their prey.
When you’re picking the best location in your yard for your bluebird house, consider placing it somewhere where it can face an open expanse of grass. Try placing it on the edge of your property overlooking the rest of your backyard, if possible.
Each yard is different, so do whatever works for you. Just remember that placing the nest box in and around an open area will be important for attracting bluebirds.
Bonus Tip: Give your bluebirds somewhere to perch
Bluebirds love to hunt from low perches. They will hang out on fence posts, small trees, shrubs, and low tree branches just waiting to spot an insect. When they do, they’ll swoop down and grab their prey. So, bluebirds will be highly attracted to your yard if they have somewhere to perch.
If your yard has a row of wooden fence posts, some tall shrubs, or low trees, you’re in good shape for attracting bluebirds. Even if the neighbor’s yard right next to you has these things it will help out. My old neighbor had a fence row that my bluebirds loved to hunt from. Luckily it was right next to the spot I placed my bluebird house, so their yard made my nest box location extra attractive.
If there aren’t many low perches in your yard or in the area around your nest box, you could add in some make-shift perches. Drive a few 4′ metal stakes in the ground in the 50 foot area around your nest box. You could even stick some other object into the ground, like a pitchfork (that’s what I did once). Bluebirds will appreciate any kind of hunting perch that’s about 3-5 feet off the ground, they won’t care what it is.
Now that we’ve established what type of area is attractive to bluebirds, let’s talk about how high to mount your bluebird house.
2. Mount your bluebird house about 5 feet off the ground
If a bluebird house is too low, predators like snakes, raccoons, and cats might be more tempted to reach into the box. To avoid this, mount your bluebird house at least five feet off the ground to deter climbing predators.
A good rule-of-thumb when setting up your nest box is to mount it with the entrance hole at eye-level. This is a good way to keep the box about five feet off the ground. As long as you can stand up straight and be looking directly into the entrance hole, the nest box will be at a convenient height for you to monitor, and it won’t be too close to the ground.
Admittedly, this “five-feet-off-the-ground” rule has more to do with human preference than the preference of bluebirds. You can successfully mount a bluebird house much higher than than five feet (as you’ll see later in this article). But, five feet off the ground is a good starting point for deterring crawling predators.
To further deter predators, mount your nest box on a metal pole, and consider installing a stovepipe-style baffle under the nest box.
Now, let’s look at the third guideline for where to place your bluebird house.
3. Keep your bluebird house at least 50 feet away from brushy or wooded areas
It is important to place your bluebird house at least 50-200 feet away from brushy or heavily-wooded areas to avoid competition with house wrens. That’s the distance that the North American Bluebird Society recommends to avoid having territory issues with this species (source).
For a little background information on house wrens: house wrens are a native, cavity-nesting bird in North America, just like bluebirds. Unfortunately, house wrens tend to be very territorial, and they regularly destroy bluebird eggs and nestlings when they perceive that they are competing with bluebirds for a nesting location.
Learn more about house wrens in the article I wrote called 10 Other Birds That Nest in Bluebird Houses (click here to read the article).
Since house wrens are a protected species in the US, and you cannot legally remove house wren nests from your bluebird houses, your best option is to avoid their preferred territory – brushy and wooded areas.
So, if your property is on the edge of the woods, or if you have a brushy patch of land, make sure to place your bluebird house at least 50 feet away, 200 feet away to be safe.
If you end up having persistent problems with house wrens competing for your bluebird houses, try following some of the suggestions I wrote in this article: How to Keep House Wrens Out of Bluebird Houses (click here to read the article).
4. Don’t mount your bluebird house too close to buildings
Another important thing to keep in mind when putting up your bluebird house, is to keep it away from buildings, like houses and barns. House sparrows (an invasive species and bluebirds’ main competitor) thrive next to human-made structures, like houses and barns, especially if there might be food scraps or animal feed nearby.
Therefor, house sparrows will naturally be attracted to your nest box if you place it next to a barn or too close to a house. So, set your bluebirds up for success from the outset and place your bluebird house in an open area, a good distance away from these types of buildings.
What if I have to place my nest box close to my house?
Now, everyone’s yard is a little bit different, and you might not be able to place your nest box too far away from your house. Ultimately, if you need to mount your bluebird house close to your home, go ahead and do it. As long as it’s in an open area, receives plenty of natural light, and bluebirds can find it, you should be fine.
My first bluebird house was actually close to my house (I mentioned it was about 30 feet from our dining room window). For whatever reason, this location worked out, and we never had major issues with house sparrows at that spot. But, as a general rule, it’s more helpful to bluebirds if you spread out a little bit from buildings like houses and barns.
Extra questions to consider
Question: What direction should a bluebird house face?
Bluebirds primarily prefer nest boxes that face east, north, south, then west – in descending order of preference (source). Dorene Scriven documented this nest box selection process in the book Bluebird Trails: A Guide to Success.
Bluebirds probably choose east-facing nest boxes more often to avoid the afternoon sunlight overheating their nests, and/or to avoid prevailing winds and storms.
So, an east-facing nest box might be best, but, I wouldn’t stress too much about which direction you face your bluebird house. Just keep in mind how much wind and sun your nest box will receive in its particular location and adjust accordingly.
Question: How far apart should you space bluebird houses?
Many people who are excited to attract bluebirds to their yard make the mistake of placing bluebird houses too close together. Because bluebirds are territorial towards other bluebirds, if you want to attract more than one bluebird pair, there are some recommendations you’ll need to follow.
How Far Apart to Space Bluebird Houses
According to the North American Bluebird Society, to attract multiple pairs of bluebirds to your property, you should space out your nest boxes the following distances based on their species:
|Bluebird species||Distance between nest boxes|
|Eastern Bluebirds||100 yards (125-150 yards preferred)|
|Western Bluebirds||100 yards (200-300 yards preferred)|
|Mountain Bluebirds||200-300 yards|
Source: The North American Bluebird Society Factsheet “Getting Started with Bluebirds”
Note: In areas where two species of bluebirds overlap, opt for the larger distance of space between nest boxes.
Question: Can you hang bluebird nest boxes from trees?
While most experts recommend mounting bluebird houses on poles, it is possible to attract bluebirds by hanging nest boxes from trees.
The Michigan Bluebird Society (MBS) cautions against hanging bluebird houses from trees. According to MBS, bluebirds prefer sturdy nest boxes that don’t sway in the wind (source).
This seems like common sense, since natural cavities, like woodpecker holes, would be sturdy and would not sway from side-to-side. However, bluebird landlords in California have found success with hanging nest boxes from trees.
For example, Vicki Butler oversees a bluebird trail of 18 nest boxes spread across two different golf courses in Sacramento, California. Her bluebird houses are topped with large hooks and hung from tree branches that are anywhere from 10-18 feet high (source).
Even though Butler’s nest boxes sway with the wind, and are hung over ten feet in the air, they have been very successful. Butler fledged 81 bluebirds from 18 nest boxes in 2020 alone! Read more about Butler’s bluebird trail in this Medium.com article linked here.
So, yes, you can hang bluebird nest boxes from trees. However, you may only want to do this in areas where you are worried about vandalism to your nest boxes, like at public golf courses. For the average person monitoring a nest box in their back yard, it makes more sense to mount nest boxes on a metal pole.
To summarize the main point of this article: the best place to mount a bluebird house is in a sunny, open area where there is plenty of short grass for bluebirds to hunt for insects. Beyond that, following the tips mentioned above should help you make the best decision possible.
If you want to attract bluebirds to your yard THIS YEAR, the best place to start is the Bluebird Landlord Audio Guide. In this audio guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about attracting bluebirds in just 59 minutes and 38 seconds.
Check out the Bluebird Landlord Audio Guide here.
Then, click here to check out my Recommended Tools page to see the bluebird houses, bird feeders, and other tools that I use and recommend.
Where to Place a Bluebird House
Find the perfect spot in your yard for your bluebird house. Follow these 4 guidelines to choose the most successful location for your bluebird nest box.
- Bluebird Nest Box
- Metal Pole
- Place your bluebird house in an open area.
- Mount your bluebird house five feet off the ground.
- Keep your bluebird house at least 50 feet away from brushy or wooded areas.
- Don't mount your bluebird house too close to buildings.