Photo: Jari Peltomaki/Vireo

Bluethroat

Cyanecula svecica

A prize find for birders who visit northwestern Alaska is this elusive little chat. Bluethroats usually skulk in low dense shrubbery, but sometimes a male will perch up conspicuously to sing, or even sing in brief flights above the thickets. The song is quite variable, often including imitations of other birds. The colorful throat patch of males is prominently shown off in aggressive encounters between rivals, as well as in courtship.
Conservation status Small population in Alaska probably stable or possibly increasing. Widespread and common in Eurasia.
Family Old World Flycatchers
Habitat Dwarf willows, thick brush. In Alaska, breeds in areas where open tundra is broken by dense low thickets of willow and dwarf birch, especially along drainages or near water. In Eurasia found in various kinds of low brushy habitats, including thickets near water or along forest edge, or scrub in drier hills.
A prize find for birders who visit northwestern Alaska is this elusive little chat. Bluethroats usually skulk in low dense shrubbery, but sometimes a male will perch up conspicuously to sing, or even sing in brief flights above the thickets. The song is quite variable, often including imitations of other birds. The colorful throat patch of males is prominently shown off in aggressive encounters between rivals, as well as in courtship.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground under dense cover, picking up insects from the soil or from low plants. Sometimes flies up short distances to catch insects in the air.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-8. Pale blue-green, finely dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 13-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young can fly at about 14 days, may leave nest 1-2 days earlier.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young can fly at about 14 days, may leave nest 1-2 days earlier.

Diet

Mostly insects. Diet in North America not well known. In Eurasia, feeds on many insects, especially beetles, caterpillars, ants, sawfly larvae, crane flies and other flies, and others. Also eats spiders, plus some snails and earthworms. Eats berries and a few seeds, perhaps mainly in fall.


Nesting

Nesting habits in Alaska not well known, probably similar to those in Eurasia, described here. Male sings to defend territory, from hidden perch or from top of shrub; sometimes performs short flight-song display. In courtship, male faces female, points bill up to show off throat pattern, raises tail, hops around female while singing. Nest site is on ground under dense low shrubs or tucked into side of grass tussock. Nest (built mostly or entirely by female) is an open cup of grass, weeds, twigs, moss, rootlets, lined with plant down and animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Alaska nesting birds winter in southeast Asia. Migrants apparently come across Bering Strait; seldom seen in Aleutians, although regular farther north on St. Lawrence Island.

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Migration

Alaska nesting birds winter in southeast Asia. Migrants apparently come across Bering Strait; seldom seen in Aleutians, although regular farther north on St. Lawrence Island.

Songs and Calls
Song loud, varied, and introduced by repeated dip, dip, dip. Sometimes mimics the song of other birds. Alarm call is huyt-tock.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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