Photo: Jim Chagares/Audubon Photography Awards

Mountain Bluebird

Sialia currucoides

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.
Conservation status Nests in many remote areas, where it is less affected than the other bluebirds by competition for nest sites with Starlings and other invaders. Numbers are apparently stable.
Family Thrushes
Habitat Open country with some trees; in winter, also treeless terrain. Often in more open areas than other bluebirds. Breeding habitats not always in mountains; found in lowland prairies and sagebrush flats as well as alpine zones above treeline. In winter, most common in pinyon-juniper woods but also in open grassland, desert, farmland, even barren plowed fields.
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.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile male
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Often forages by hovering over open field, then dropping to the ground when prey is spotted. Hovers more than other bluebirds. Also perches on rock or low branch and darts out to catch flying insects.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-8. Pale blue, unmarked (occasionally white). Incubation is by female, about 13-17 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 17-23 days after hatching, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks. 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 17-23 days after hatching, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds heavily on insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, ants, bees, and others. Also eats some berries, including those of mistletoe, juniper, hackberry, and other plants. Berries are particularly important in the diet in winter.


Nesting

Sometimes interbreeds with Eastern Bluebird where their ranges overlap. Nest: Apparently the female selects the site for the nest. Site is in a cavity, usually a natural hollow or old woodpecker hole in tree, or in a birdhouse. Sometimes nests in holes in dirt banks, crevices in cliffs or among rocks, holes in sides of buildings, old nests of other birds (such as Cliff Swallow or Dipper). Nest in cavity (probably built by both sexes) is loose cup of weed stems, grass, twigs, rootlets, pine needles, sometimes lined with animal hair or feathers.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Winter range varies from year to year, depending on food supplies. Flocks sometimes wander east on Great Plains, and lone strays occasionally go as far as the Atlantic Coast.

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Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Winter range varies from year to year, depending on food supplies. Flocks sometimes wander east on Great Plains, and lone strays occasionally go as far as the Atlantic Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft warbling notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.