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What Do Bluebirds Eat in the Winter?
While many bluebirds migrate in the winter, some will stay in the northeast year-round. The number of bluebirds remaining in the north has actually been increasing, so expect to see more in years to come. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see a bluebird fluttering around, you might wonder: what do bluebirds eat in the winter?
Bluebirds love insects most of all, but will eat a variety of items when food is scarce. Bluebirds like to eat fruit, mealworms, suet, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds in the winter. Read on to find out more details!
This post will be focused primarily on eastern bluebirds, since they’re the ones we have in the northeast, but many of these tips could be applied to western and mountain bluebirds as well.
When insects become scarce, your bluebirds will naturally switch over to a heavily fruit-based diet. Bluebirds love dogwood berries, sumac, poison ivy, red cedar, wild grape, crabapples, and many other common berries and fruits.
Since the birds love fruit so much in the winter, the best way to feed them is actually one of the easiest long-term – plant more fruit-bearing trees and bushes! This is more effective than putting out food for them.
If you don’t want to change your backyard landscape (or if you’re looking for a quick bluebird food solution), you can offer the birds raisins, currants, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and chopped up apple or pear.
Since a bluebird’s favorite food is naturally occurring insects like spiders and caterpillars, mealworms can be an excellent addition to their winter diet. You can actually keep mealworms out for them year-round if you’d like. The birds often take advantage of extra food during lean times in the spring when their young have hatched.
While you can offer them live mealworms, you’ll need to have a special dish that they can’t crawl out of. Dried ones may be easier to deal with. Kaytee mealworms are a good place to start.
The high-calorie benefits of suet often attract bluebirds, but make sure you choose a variety that has fruit or mealworms in it, not the regular seed blend suet most feeder birds flock to. For a regular suet cake, try Sunny Mealworm or another mealworm-based suet variety. For a non-traditional option, consider Bluebird Nuggets, which are little individual balls of suet.
While not naturally occurring in their world, bluebirds love peanut butter! It has plenty of calories that help keep them warm in the cold. Consider smearing some near the other foods you offer. You’ll likely bring in the many other birds that love it, too!
Make sure you use a natural option, like Teddie’s, which has only ground peanuts without salt, sugar, and other additives.
Hulled Sunflower Seeds
While not their preferred food, bluebirds can also eat hulled sunflower seeds. Buying them already shelled keeps the mess down. Other birds will also enjoy them.
A Note on Bluebird Feeders
Depending on what you choose to feed your bluebirds, you’ll need an appropriate feeder. Here’s a guide to the best bluebird feeders, along with the optimal feeders for many other birds and food varieties.
Keep Your Bluebirds Well-Fed this Winter
You should now have a good idea of what bluebirds eat in the winter, along with what you can offer them if you’d like to start feeding them.
For the best option, mix a few of their favorites together, like fruit, mealworms, and hulled sunflower seeds. You can also try a homemade bluebird suet recipe, which combines nearly all of their preferred foods.
For more bird feeding guides, check out my articles on chickadees and robins.
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