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Mountain Bluebird

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Your new favorite species!

Sometimes natural things appear unnatural. For example, have you ever seen a sunset that if you were to capture it with a digital camera, people might accuse you of altering its colors? Or an especially vivid rainbow which looked computer generated? Some things just seem too good to be true, even though they are. And such is the Mountain Bluebird. That blue is so unnatural it is stunning. What a bird!

This is a blue bird, through and through. The male is especially beautiful and is colored like the sky. Unmistakable. And gorgeous. When you see your first male Mountain Bluebird he doesn’t look real. How can any animal be that shade of blue? 

The Mountain Bluebird is a thrush, a cousin of the Robin. But it doesn’t share the chunky genes from that side of the family, instead being much lankier and, overall, a size smaller in stature. But it does share the Robin’s upright posture. 

Returning to coloration: the male’s sky-blue coloring is darkest on the bird’s backside and wings, but fades lighter toward the breast, becoming almost white on its belly. The female is a beautiful bird in her own right, though she is predominantly gray. The blue in the female bluebird is mostly an accent on her wings and tail. She might also have a faint scaling pattern on the chest, but sharing the white belly of the male. This scaling pattern is prominent on juvenile birds and is shared by almost all of the thrushes, including the Robin. Both the male and the female have narrow black beaks and black eyes. 

Mountain Bluebirds are not that difficult to locate. They prefer open fields where they can hunt insects. They often sit on a fence wire and sally out to grab a flying insect or dive down to take one off of the ground. They can also briefly hover. These bluebirds also take readily to nest boxes; so if you want Mountain Bluebirds on your property, post nest boxes along your fence line. Build them and they will come. But if you do chose to build nest boxes, be very careful in their design. They need to be built in a very particular fashion to keep them from becoming wrangled away by House Sparrows or Starlings. There are many specific plans available online. 

Mountain Bluebirds are difficult to locate by sound as they are so quiet, even when singing. I have a difficult time hearing their voices, though the call is distinctive. The best way to locate them is by habitat and, of course, that bright blue coloration. 

As their name suggests, Mountain Bluebirds prefer mountainous terrain, ranging across the western North American continent. In the summer they range all the way up to Alaska, roughly following the Rocky Mountains. In the winter they might travel as far as central Mexico, although many parts of the south- and central-western states have resident populations (meaning that they live there year-round). Our population is migratory. 

The Mountain Bluebird is the state bird of both Idaho and Nevada. Both states host migratory populations throughout their regions and resident birds in their southern parts. Most readers of the River Journal will only see these birds in the summer. 

Are you ready to add this gorgeous bluebird to your life list? This bird is truly a feathered jewel and it will possibly become your new favorite bird. It is surely one of mine. Happy birding!

By the way, you can see images of birds I’ve captured on camera at birdsidaho.blogspot.com.

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Author info

Michael Turnlund Michael Turnlund is a Sandpoint resident who teaches at Clark Fork High School. An avid birder, he's happy to share his knowledge of the area's avian wildlife

Tagged as:

birding, A Bird in Hand, Mountain Bluebird

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