What Do Bluebirds Eat?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: November 2, 2021


This doughty little bird with its sweet song is a type of thrush and a member of the Sialia genus. The bluebird has long been a symbol of cheerfulness and a harbinger of balmy weather. It’s also an omnivore and an efficient predator.

There are three species of bluebird: the mountain bluebird, the eastern bluebird, and the western bluebird. The male mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides is found west of the Mississippi River, is all over cerulean blue, and has no subspecies. The males of the other species are also bright blue but have areas of white and rust.

The western bluebird, Sialia mexicana is also found in the western United States and Mexico and has six subspecies. The Eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis is found in eastern North America from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico and Central America. It has seven subspecies. The females, as is usually the case with extravagantly colorful birds, are duller.

What Foods Do Bluebirds Eat?

What do bluebirds eat
Bluebirds are omnivores, eating anything from mealworms to fruit.

Because the bluebird is an omnivore, its diet is varied. It eats mostly arthropods during spring and summer and fruits and berries during the cooler months. The arthropods are:

What Do Bluebirds Eat in the Winter?”

Bluebirds are known to migrate to warmer climates during the winter, but if they stay in their home range during the cold months they’ll find that many of the arthropods listed above are scarce. In that case, they turn to plant material, especially fruits. Since the three species of bluebird live in different regions, the plant material they eat varies a bit. For example, during winter the eastern bluebird will eat:

  • Wild grapes
  • Dogwood berries
  • Blackberries
  • Honeysuckle berries
  • Cedar berries

On the other hand, mistletoe berries are the mainstay of the diet of western bluebirds. They also eat:

  • Grapes
  • Raspberries
  • Elderberries
  • Chokecherries
  • Serviceberries
  • Poison oak drupes

During the winter mountain bluebirds will also eat:

  • Mistletoe berries
  • Hackberries
  • Juniper berries
  • Elderberries
  • Russian olive berries
  • Currants
  • Wild grapes.

They also eat sumac seeds.

What do baby bluebirds eat?

Baby bluebirds are fed by both their parents, who bring them arthropods such as:

The parents are kept busy feeding the baby bluebirds every 20 minutes at first, but feed them less and less often as they grow. The parents feed the chicks mostly small animals because the growing babies need animal protein. By the time the bluebird chick is about a month old, it can find its own food.

What kind of food attracts bluebirds?

Bluebirds can’t resist mealworms, especially live ones. Mealworms can be bought at a bait shop or pet store. If live ones squick you, you can buy them freeze-dried. If they don’t squick you, you can grow your own. Eventually, mealworms turn into a type of darkling beetle and begin the life cycle all over again.

Bluebirds also have berries, figs, and other fruit in their diet, especially in the winter. They will readily eat berries that are poisonous to people, such as mistletoe berries and the drupes of poison oak. They’re also attracted to peanuts.

What do bluebirds eat
A Western Bluebird sitting on a fence with a mealworm.

How Do Bluebirds Hunt Prey?

Bluebirds hunt prey in a fascinating way. The reason they need an open space bordered by trees, shrubs, or posts is that they wait on a perch and watch for an insect in the grass. Then, they simply fall upon it. The mountain bluebird is especially good at this and will even hover over the grass until it sees potential prey. Bluebirds also snatch insects on the wing, though this isn’t their preferred method of capture.

How Do I Attract Bluebirds to My Yard?

One of the first things to do to attract bluebirds is to create a clear, grassy space, but make sure there are places, such as trees, shrubs, or fence posts where the birds can perch. Make sure that the grass doesn’t get so high that the birds can’t see their prey. You also need to provide lots of fresh water. Ideally, the water should be moving or running, since bluebirds prefer running water. A pump that turns a plain old birdbath into a fountain can be bought for not much money.

If there’s a dead tree in the yard and it doesn’t pose a threat to anyone, leave it. Bluebirds love to nest in the cavities of dead trees. As for living trees and shrubs, plant native species that produce berries in the fall for the birds to eat.

Don’t use pesticides during the warm months. Let the bluebirds eat the pests for you.

If you have a cat, keep it indoors. Cats are literally murder on all kinds of songbirds, including bluebirds.

What Animals Eat Bluebirds?

Though the bluebird is a bold creature, it is a little and defenseless bird, no more than 8 inches long and 1.20 ounces in weight. Therefore, it is preyed upon by all sorts of beasts. The mountain bluebird often falls prey to:

The bluebird’s eggs are robbed by:

Weasels also eat hatchlings.

Chipmunks seem to be the bane of the western bluebird, especially grey-necked, yellow pine and Townsend’s chipmunks. If it’s not chipmunks, it is various species of squirrels, including Douglas’s squirrel and red squirrels. Opossums also eat bluebirds and deer mice attack chicks. Chicks are even attacked by bees, wasps, and earwigs. Fortunately, the male bluebird is undaunted and will attack the invaders in turn.

The list of animals that prey upon eastern bluebirds seems even longer than the list of animals that attack its cousins. They include:

They are also parasitized by blowflies, lice, and mites.

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