Discover Nature NotesMore posts

The Bird with the Sky on Its Back

Mar 17, 2019

Poet Henry David Thoreau wrote that the bluebird “carries the sky on its back.” The first warm days of late winter and early spring send Thoreau’s bits of sky looking for a place to nest. Eastern bluebirds once made their homes in tree cavities. Lacking good nesting spots these days, bluebirds have come to rely on nest boxes specially designed for them. A bluebird box placed by March can raise as many as three broods by summer’s end. In fourteen days, the eggs hatch and in another couple of weeks, the young are ready to fly from the box.

Bluebirds are rural birds, seen in open grasslands with scattered trees or fences. They’re more abundant thanks to people putting up nest boxes for Missouri’s state bird that carries the “sky on its back.”

Building a Bluebird House

  • Building a bluebird house will help the birds to nest. Bluebirds usually begin nesting in the first half of March. They lay from three to six eggs, and the incubation period is about 14 days. Young birds fly about 11 days after hatching.
  • Sparrows can be a problem for bluebird houses. Tear out their nests and temporarily plug the hole until they move elsewhere.
  • Wasps can also be troublesome and may even drive bluebirds away. Spray wasp nests and remove them.
  • Predators such as cats, raccoons and snakes can destroy nests. An inverted metal cone or a metal sleeve can help keep these animals from nests.
  • Steel pipes coated with grease also can be used to mount the boxes. While this box is designed for bluebirds, it may be used by wrens, chickadees, titmice, tree swallows or even flying squirrels. If you want to try for these species, place the box in trees 10 to 15 feet above the ground in wooded areas.
  • If these boxes are placed on poles or in dead trees which are in or over water, tree swallows or prothonotary warblers may use them.

Get directions on building a bluebird house.

MO DOC-2019-DNN Mar Wk 4 Bluebirds-MDOC1903-LF04.mp3

Discover Nature Notes Radio
The bird with the sky on its back

Bluebird House Maintenance

Maintaining a Bluebird House
Maintaining a Bluebird House


Eastern Bluebird Song
Eastern Bluebird Song

Recent Posts

Flathead Catfish

Fish Fathers

Jun 09, 2019

Father's Day is a popular time of year for family fishing. Check out two fish fathers who would qualify for "super dad" status when it comes to raising young fry. Learn their techniques and catch some fishing tips in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Hummingbird Hustle

Jun 02, 2019

Hummingbird Hustle: These pint-sized birds pack a lot of power and speed in their game. They can fly backwards, sideways and even upside down with wings beating more than 50 times per second. Hummingbirds also feature a rainbow of colors as they flit about seeking nectar from orange and red tubular flowers. Watch one in slow motion and learn how to attract them to your yard in this week's Discover Nature Note.

female belted kingfisher

The Bird that Fishes

May 26, 2019

With stout frame and a mohawk crest, this potent predator strikes with stealth. Its prey may not see it coming, but you might if you listen for its swooping call. Find out more about this wild fisher on Missouri waters in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away


You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes