Bluebirds: Bird Watching Guide, Facts, Identifying & More

How To Identify Blue Birds

If you enjoy feeding and watching songbirds that come to your yard, you may have seen some vivid blue visitors. Bluebirds, also known as blue thrushes, are among our most popular songbirds and are equated with happiness. When winters are mild, some stay around in the North to cheer us with melodic tunes of “Turee! Turee!”

Did you know that blue thrushes are native to North America? Fortunately, they are easy to identify by their size and iconic shades of blue. Maybe you have seen some of these azure beauties at your bird feeders.

Bluebird perched

Eastern Blue

These brilliant songsters are usually found in the eastern section of our continent, from Eastern Canada down through eastern parts of Mexico. Like all Bluebirds, the Eastern type is slightly bigger than a sparrow, with a rounded head and prominent shiny black eyes.

You will notice that the males of this type have a solid blue head and upper body with a touch of rusty hue on their breast and flanks. The females have the same coloration, just slightly duller. It’s delightful to watch them fly around the yard, just taking their time to check out what goodies your yard offers.

Western Blue

If you live west of the Rocky Mountains, perhaps the Eastern Blue’s cousin pays your feeders a daily visit. The key to telling the cousins apart is to look at their necks. While the Eastern Blue Thrush has a blue throat, his Western counterpart has a rust-colored one that matches his chest and flanks.

Mountain Blue

Here is another indigo songster that’s native to the western parts of North America. Mountain Blue Thrushes prefer the open woodlands, where you’ll often find them nesting in hollowed-out trees, foraging the skies for tasty insects. Unlike his Eastern and Western cousins, this bird has no rust-colored feathers and is solid blue, except for some white on his lower abdomen.

Females are a little more difficult to distinguish because of their muted grayish blue color. You can still judge by her size, her nesting, and her wide wingspan that allows her to glide quickly through the air in search of food. Both genders have a melodic call that will brighten your day whenever you hear them through the meadows.

How To Attract Bluebirds to Your Yard

Do you want to discover how easy it’s to attract the beautiful blues to your backyard? They are usually social birds and won’t mind sharing the feeders with other feathered friends. Try these tips and get your camera ready.

Plant native shrubs and plants

Bluebirds enjoy flying and feeding in open areas where the grasses are low. Research shrubs and plants that are native to your location, especially those with berries. Your blue songsters will thank you for the abundance of berries in the winter months.

Add a Moving Water Feature

If you have a birdbath or two in your yard, you may see some Bluebirds come for a quick swim or sip. Since they prefer moving water, you might consider adding a fountain or water dripping feature to your baths. You may be surprised when you see more cerulean visitors coming by to splash on a warm summer day.

Leave a Few Natural Nests

When you live in a wooded area with plenty of space, you likely have a few hollowed trees or limbs. These are ideal nesting spots for Bluebirds and other birds. Allow a few dead trees or limbs to stay to entice some blue thrushes, as long as it’s not too unsightly or a safety hazard.

Provide a Birdhouse for Bluebirds

Since Bluebirds are cavity-nesting birds, you can entice them to set up housekeeping by offering simple wooden houses. You can purchase them inexpensively, or you can build them yourself. Place them on large trees that are high enough for the birds to be safe.

bluebird birdhouse

Provide a Tempting Menu Suited For Bluebirds

To attract Bluebirds to your yard, they need to see some of their favorite snacks. They will gather around quickly for a quick taste of suet, fruit, or sunflower seeds. If you want to make them happy, offer a few live or dried mealworms.

Keep Kitty Indoors

Just the sight of a fleeting feather tempts even the most docile housecat. Cats are natural predators and will kill adult and baby birds. It’s possible to love your feline and love your feathered friends, too. Just be sure to keep your cat indoors, and your blue thrushes and other songbirds will flourish.

Be Kind to the Environment

When you use organic fertilizers, weed killers, and insecticides, your kindness extends to the wildlife on your land. Blue thrushes are a gardener’s best friend because they eat many harmful insects from the ground. Return their favor and don’t use chemicals that could poison and kill them and other animals.

FAQs About Bluebirds

What do Bluebirds Eat?

Mostly, bluebirds love to eat caterpillars. They also love to eat spiders, crickets, and grasshoppers. Check out this interesting video that expands on this topic.

When’s the best time to watch for bluebirds?

You can watch these feathered friends from early spring to late fall. Since many Bluebirds only migrate partially, you may see a few of them in the winter. You’ll often see them flying about in the early morning and late afternoon.

How can I identify a bluebird nest?

Bluebirds build their nests in tree cavities with small bark strips, pine needles, and dry grass. It’s a neat, compact nest with no lining. Their eggs are usually a baby blue or a creamy white.

Besides cats, what other predators are a threat to bluebirds?

Raccoons are notorious for searching for a snack among Bluebird eggs and fledglings, as are snakes. You may see the occasional hawk swoop down and capture a blue thrush or its baby.

Do Bluebirds avoid people?

Many songbirds, like Bluebirds, get used to visiting Bluebird feeders while humans watch them. They are as curious about you as you are about them. Some of these birds will get tame enough to snap tasty mealworms from your hand.

Can I replace a fledgling Bluebird that fell from the nest?

Yes, if you do so carefully. Contrary to conventional wisdom, some birds (including blue thrushes) have a poor sense of smell, so mother birds can’t “smell” human scent and reject her babies. Pick the baby up as gently as possible, return it to the nest, and then keep an eye on it for a few days.

Where Do Bluebirds Nest?

Blue thrushes construct their nests in the holes of trees and other safe cavities. They prefer wide-open areas instead of densely forested ones. They will also take up residence in your homemade birdhouses for Bluebirds if they are high enough from the ground, offer enough space, and are close to food and water sources.

Bluebird Behavior And Migration Patterns

If you are a birding enthusiast, your heart probably does a flip when spring arrives. Most of your favorite songbirds, like the blue thrush, fly back from their winter vacation to revisit your yard. You’ll often see a small flock of Bluebirds around your feeders and birdbaths all spring and summer.

These little blue wonders mate in the spring, and the female can have several broods from more than one male each year. Blue thrushes are territorial, and the males will often battle with each other over females and territories. They’ve also been known to fight other birds, like starlings and house wrens.

Migration

When fall weather turns to the chills of winter, all three types of blue thrushes usually head south to warmer weather. The ones that inhabit lower portions of Canada and the upper parts of the United States will usually migrate toward southern states like Florida and Texas.

However, many blue thrushes only partially migrate or don’t leave their nesting ground at all. It depends on the food supply and how harsh the winter weather is that year. Keep your winter bird feeders filled with things blue thrushes love because there’s a good chance you will see some all winter.

Bring some happiness to your backyard this year with blue thrushes. They will repay you with a splendid display of avian beauty and a lively song to boost your mood each day. Blue thrushes are just one of the countless birds you and your family can enjoy feeding and watching.

Fun Facts About Bluebirds

Bluebirds Use Tree Cavities & Nest Boxes

Bluebirds are a favorite for backyard birders. There are thousands of bluebird nest boxes that homeowners have installed across the United States. Eastern Bluebirds are found in open fields and woodland areas. You can also find them in meadows, parks, and hedges. They nest in tree cavities and also use artificial nest boxes.

Bluebirds Are Omnivores & Mealworms Are An All-Time Favorite

You can draw bluebirds to your yard by offering them mealworms that you can place in a small dish. They prefer live mealworms over dried mealworms. These incredible birds can spot caterpillars and insects from 50 yards away!

The Male Bluebird Makes An Incredible Display Of His Nesting Material To Attract A Mate

To attract a female, the male bluebird will make a display of his nest cavity. He will bring all of the materials (weeds, dry grass, and twigs) needed to make a nest, going in and out of the hole. He perches above it and sings while fluttering his wings. The female will do most of the construction of the nest which takes about 10 days.

Bluebirds Are Gregarious

It is not uncommon to see a flock of 100 or more bluebirds gathered at one time, outside of the breeding season. During the breeding season, however, they are very territorial as they will defend their nest.

Eastern Blackbirds Will Visit Backyard Feeders As Long As You Provide The Proper Food

Eastern Blackbirds will not visit backyard feeders if you offer food that they don’t find appetizing. However, they will visit feeders that offer mealworms. These birds are largely insectivorous, especially during the warmer months. Their diet largely consists of beetles, caterpillars, grubs, and other insects. In the winter, they will eat fruit and berries. Rarely, they will even eat small-sized amphibians such as lizards and frogs.

Male Bluebirds Will Sing With Their Beaks Closed

Many birds will sing with their beaks wide open. However, male bluebirds do not open their beaks. During incubation periods, the male will stop singing. Also, male bluebirds will use different songs during mating and establishing their territory. Interestingly enough, a male will sing as many as 1,000 songs over the course of an hour when they are attempting to attract a mate.

The Eastern Bluebird’s Song Is Certainly One Of Their Most Notable Characteristics

The Eastern Bluebird’s song consists of several phases, where each phase will contain in between 1-3 short notes. Their song sounds like a “chir-wi” or a “chir-li”. When dangerous predators approach, the male bluebird will use a song-like warning. Females, also, will start to sing to bring the male back to their territory.

The North American Bluebird Society Formed For The Purpose Of Encouraging Nest Boxes

This society was formed in 1978 by Dr. Lawrence Zeleny as a means to preserve the species. One method or approach to preserve the species was to promote nest boxes. At this time, the Eastern Bluebird was declared a rare species due to a severe decline in the winters. However, it was taken off the list in 1996.

Two States Claim The Bluebird As Its State Bird

Both New York and Missouri claim the bluebird as their state bird.

The Oldest Bluebird

Most Eastern Bluebirds will live approximately 6-10 years. In the wild, they live to be 6 years and 10 years in captivity. Scientists estimate that, within the first year, 70% of the Eastern Bluebird dies. The oldest wild Bluebird was banded in 1989 (May) and was found dead in November of 1999.

The Eastern Bluebird Lay 2 Clutches In The Breeding Season

The female will lay 2-8 eggs that are white or light blue in color. They hatch after 12-16 days. Interestingly enough, the eggs that a female bluebird lay have the same color. So, if there are eggs of a different color in the same nest, then those are eggs from a different female. After the eggs hatch, both parents will feed the baby bluebirds. The babies eat a diet that consists of insects while they are still in the nest. The baby chicks will stay in the nest until they are 15-20 days old.

The Eastern Bluebird Will Defend Their Territory

During the mating season, the Eastern Bluebird will take up and occupy approximately 1 hectare of area. However, during the winter, they will defend 120 hectares of land. When food is scarce during the cold season, the northern Eastern Bluebird will migrate south. These birds prefer open areas that have trees scattered throughout.

Bluebirds Will Generally Form A Monogomous Pair

Bluebird pairs will form during the breeding season and may even breed for a subsequent breeding season. However, some pairs will switch mates to raise a second brood. Studies indicate that bluebird mates will, more than likely, stay together if their nesting was successful.

Bluebirds Are Symbolic Of Spring, Hope, & Love

Culturally, bluebirds symbolize the beginning of spring since they produce broods during the warmer months. They are featured in many popular songs that give them this cultural symbolism.

Bluebirds Consist Of 3 Species & 8 Subspecies

There are 3 main species of bluebirds. These are:

  • Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  • Mountain Bluebird (Siala currucoides)
  • Western Bluebird (Siala mexicana)