Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bluebird House Makeover

Most of the bluebird houses in my backyard are the Peterson houses. I like this style of bluebird houses and so do my bluebirds. There's only one thing about these houses I really don't like and that's the fact that the sheltered area underneath the nesting platform is the perfect spot for wasps to build their nests (see blue arrow in photo below).
A couple of years ago at a Bluebird Recovery Program conference, I learned about a modification to the Peterson houses that the folks at Bluebirds Across Nebraska were having some good success with eliminating wasp nests on these houses. The ideal thing, of course, would be to build your bluebird houses using this modified plan, but you can also make over your old style houses with just a few cuts of the jigsaw. In the picture below, you can see where I've cut away a triangular shape at the bottom of the house.
This eliminates that dark, sheltered area where wasps loved putting their nests (the orange-ish colored wood on each side shows where the sidewalls were cut away.

I also had to cut a couple inches off the bottom of the door to complete this makeover (pink arrow below shows how much of the door was cut off). This makeover is purely cosmetic and affects only the outside of the house. There is no reduction to the nesting area inside the box.
It was beautiful outside this afternoon and a perfect day for working on this task, however it takes a lot longer than I thought it would and I only managed to complete makeovers on four of my bluebird houses. But I did get those completed houses put back up and while I was putting the houses on the poles where the bluebirds nested last year, I could hear Mr. Bluebird singing over in the neighbor's backyard, so I'm hoping I got these houses ready in time for him to find a mate and start moving in.

Check out these beautiful California strawberries we found at the grocery store today--super sale priced at $1.48 a pound. These were the two biggest ones in the container, and boy were they yummy!


Kallen305 said...

You are so lucky to get bluebirds! I can't wait to read all about them. Those strawberries look wonderful!

Kelly said...

...this is such a helpful post! I'm going to forward it on to a friend of mine who has also had problems with wasps in her bluebird boxes! (Yum on the strawberries...)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Kim,
I don't get as many bluebirds as I used to since so many of my trees have grown up now, but it's still nice to see at least one pair in the backyard. There's an open field nearby and I have to check with the landowners to see if they'll let me put some nestboxes over there too.

Thanks Kelly. I think there are some other things you can to do discourage wasps from building under the nesting platform like that, but I'd rather do it this way and guarantee that they can't put their nests there anymore (plus I don't have to remember to keep checking to see if the other methods are working).

stch said...

Thank you for sharing the information on the bluebird house modifications. I've told a friend of mine to read your post and make the changes to the houses he has in his yard to rid them of the wasp nestings that keep appearing, even after they've been removed. Oh, and those strawberries sure do enhance the wish that summer where here already and to be out in the garten puttering about and harvesting.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Did the wasps co-exist with the bluebirds alright? Or did they attack the bluebirds?

The wasps here make nests on my front porch every year. They don't usually bother anyone comeing and going. Of course we don't have people in and out many times per day.

I can't wait to see if you get bluebirds. I wish they would nest here.

I am busy chasing house sparrows out of the Purple Martin houses here. Ha.. I hope the PM's nest here this year. Last year a pair "looked" at the houses. It was near the end of breeding seast on for them though. I hope they liked what they saw and will come back this year.

Jayne said...

That is a great modification on the houses. Wonder why they make them that way? I just hope I never have to deal with hornets making a nest in one of my houses like I did a couple of years ago. What a nightmare!

Wow, now THAT is strawberry heaven!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Stch,
Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I hope my bluebird house makeover helps your friend out too.
I'm anxious to get out into the garden too now that spring seems to have arrived. I've ordered some dwarf blueberry plants and hope to be successful at growing them in my backyard.

Hi Lisa,
I don't think the wasps were bothered by the bluebirds at all. This thing was that everytime I would open the door of the bluebird house to do a nest check, the door would bump the wasp nest and the wasps would come out after me! One of my houses last year had a wasp nest that filled up the entire cavity under the nesting platform. Boy what a surprise for me when I dropped that door down and a whole bunch of wasps came buzzing out!
Good Luck with purple martins this year. Do you watch the migration results at It looks as though martins have already hit southern Indiana, but if you haven't seen any in your neighborhood yet, try to keep the doors on the house closed to discourage sparrows and starlings and then open the doors when your first martins arrive. I keep my houses closed up until I see a martin sitting on top of the pole!

Hi Jayne,
I thought of you and that hornet-ridden bluebird house while I was doing these makeovers. My wasp problem seems pretty minor compared to what you had to deal with!

Red said...

Good tips Ruthie! Should I ever make a birdhouse - or buy one even - I'll be sure to look for spots like that in it and modify it :)

I can't believe strawberries are ready yet! I haven't been in a grocery store in months, so I haven't seen them, but I'm shocked they are from California and not Mexico, lol, maybe Baja California ;)

Anonymous said...

I have had several bluebirds nesting in houses I have made for several years. I live in Middle Tennessee. However, I have lost several broods to blackbirds just pulling the babies out of the nest, for no apparent reason. Bless there hearts the bluebirds keep trying. What can I do to prevent this. I was thinking of making a deeper box but I thought they may deter the bluebirds from inhabiting.

Thanks for your help.