Eastern BluebirdSialia sialis

adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult female
Brian Henry/VIREO
juvenile
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
juvenile
James M. Wedge/VIREO

Family

Description

This is the most widespread of the three bluebirds. Although it is mostly "eastern" in our area, its total range extends south to Nicaragua. A high percentage of Eastern Bluebirds in North America today nest in birdhouses put up especially for them along "bluebird trails." When they are not nesting, these birds roam the countryside in small flocks.

Habitat

Open country with scattered trees; farms, roadsides. Breeds in many kinds of semi-open habitats, including cut-over or burned areas, forest clearings, farm country, open pine woods; locally in suburbs where there are extensive lawns and good nest sites. Wanders to other habitats in winter.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and many others; also spiders, earthworms, snails, rarely small lizards or tree frogs. Also eats many berries, especially in winter.

Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging by perching low and fluttering down to ground to catch insects, often hovering to pick up items rather than landing. Also catches some insects in mid-air, and may take some while hovering among foliage. Feeds on berries by perching or making short hovering flights in trees.

Nesting

As a courtship display, male may sing and flutter in front of the female with his wings and tail partly spread. While perched close together, pairs may preen each other's feathers; male may feed female. Nest: Placed in cavity, typically in natural hollow in tree, in old woodpecker hole, or in birdhouse. Usually nests fairly low (2-20' above the ground), occasionally up to 50'. Nest in cavity (built mostly by female) is a loosely constructed cup of weeds, twigs, and dry grass, lined with finer grass, sometimes with animal hair or feathers. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-7. Pale blue, unmarked; sometimes white. Incubation is mostly by female, about 13-16 days. Young: Both parents bring food to the nestlings, and young from a previous brood also help to feed them in some cases. Young leave the nest at about 18-19 days on average. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-7. Pale blue, unmarked; sometimes white. Incubation is mostly by female, about 13-16 days. Young: Both parents bring food to the nestlings, and young from a previous brood also help to feed them in some cases. Young leave the nest at about 18-19 days on average. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Young

Both parents bring food to the nestlings, and young from a previous brood also help to feed them in some cases. Young leave the nest at about 18-19 days on average. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Conservation

In the past, declined seriously in many areas with loss of habitat and loss of nesting sites. During recent decades has been increasing again, undoubtedly helped by birdhouses in many areas.

Range

Permanent resident in many southern areas. In the north, arrives quite early in spring, and lingers late in fall.

Listen

turalee #2
chits (alarm calls at nest)
dawn song with chit calls #1
song
dawn song with chit calls #2
turalee #1

Similar Species

adult

Townsend's Solitaire

Solitaires are slim, long-tailed thrushes that perch upright in trees. As the name suggests, they are usually seen alone. Feeding mostly on berries in winter, each bird maintains its solitary status by defending a winter territory, staking out a supply of berries in a juniper grove or similar spot. These wintering birds often give a soft bell-like callnote; in summer (and sometimes in winter as well) they give voice to a complex song of clear musical warblings.

adult male, breeding

Northern Wheatear

On fall weekends in the northeast, birders sometimes hope (but never expect) to find a Wheatear. This small chat enters the North American arctic from both directions, via both Greenland and Alaska, but almost all go back to the Old World in winter; only the occasional straggler appears south of Canada. Northern Wheatears can be found in summer on rocky tundra, where they are inconspicuous until they fly, flashing their tail pattern. In the Old World there are almost 20 species of wheatears, most of them in desert regions.

adult male

Mountain Bluebird

The powder-blue male Mountain Bluebird is among the most beautiful birds of the West. Living in more open terrain than the other two bluebirds, this species may nest in holes in cliffs or dirt banks when tree hollows are not available. It often seeks its food by hovering low over the grass in open fields. During the winter, Mountain Bluebirds often gather in large flocks, even by the hundreds, sometimes associating with Western Bluebirds.

adult male

Western Bluebird

In partly open terrain of the west, from valley farms and orchards to clearings in mountain pine forest, this bluebird is often common. In summer it is often seen perching alone on fence wires by open meadows, fluttering down to pluck insects from the grass. In winter, small flocks of Western Bluebirds are often heard flying overhead or seen feeding on berries in trees. Sometimes, as when juniper woods have heavy berry crops, the bluebirds may gather by the hundreds.

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