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Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TURDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Eastern Bluebird Photo

Most of the country drives during an eastern North American summer will turn up a few Eastern Bluebirds sitting on telephone wires or perched atop a nest box, calling out in a short, wavering voice or abruptly dropping to the ground after an insect. Marvelous birds to capture in your binoculars, male Eastern Bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look.

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Keys to identification Help

Thrushlike
Thrushlike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush with a big, rounded head, large eye, plump body, and alert posture. The wings are long, but the tail and legs are fairly short. The bill is short and straight.

  • Color Pattern

    Male Eastern Bluebirds are vivid, deep blue above and rusty or brick-red on the throat and breast. Blue in birds always depends on the light, and males often look plain gray-brown from a distance. Females are grayish above with bluish wings and tail, and a subdued orange-brown breast.

  • Behavior

    Eastern Bluebirds perch erect on wires, posts, and low branches in open country, scanning the ground for prey. They feed by dropping to the ground onto insects or, in fall and winter, by perching on fruiting trees to gulp down berries. Bluebirds commonly use nest boxes as well as old woodpecker holes.

  • Habitat

    Eastern Bluebirds live in meadows and openings surrounded by trees that offer suitable nest holes. With the proliferation of nest boxes and bluebird trails, bluebirds are now a common sight along roads, field edges, golf courses, and other open areas.

Range Map Help

Eastern Bluebird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Reddish orange breast and throat
    • White belly and undertail
    • Body held upright
    • © Debbie McKenzie , Alabama, September 2008
  • Adult male

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Thin bill
    • Slight white eyering, heavy toward the back of the eye
    • Orange extends to side of neck
    • © Ed Schneider , Whites Creek, Tennessee, December 2008
  • Adult female

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Head gray brown
    • Subdued orange-brown breast
    • White belly
    • Slight white eyering, heavy toward the back of the eye
    • © Glenda Simmons , December 2008
  • Adult female

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Blue on tail and lower wings
    • White belly and undertail
    • Orange throat
    • Body held upright
    • © Debbie McKenzie , Alabama, September 2008
  • Adult male

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Nests in tree cavities
    • Blue on tail and wings brighter than on head
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, North Carolina, April 2008
  • Immature

    Eastern Bluebird

    Immature
    • White eyering evident
    • Gray-brown breast and head
    • White spots on breast and back
    • Blue on wings and tail
    • © Birdfreak.com , Thord Ledge, Cherry Valley, Illinois, September 2007
  • Adult female

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Head and back bluish gray or brown
    • White throat and belly
    • Dull rufous sides of neck, breast, and sides
    • Blue wings and tail
    • © Corey Husic, Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, January 2009

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Black-throated Blue Warbler

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Eastern Bluebird
    • Black face and sides
    • No reddish on front
    • White patch on wing
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, Cape May, New Jersey, October 2005
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Similar to adult male Eastern Bluebird
    • Pale gray underparts
    • Pale face with black patterning and collar
    • Blue crest, long tail
    • Wings and tail blue with white and black markings
    • © Gary Mueller, December 2008
  • Adult male

    Western Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Eastern Bluebird
    • Blue throat and neck
    • Orangish chestnut breast extends to back
    • Bluish belly and undertail
    • © Jamie Chavez, Santa Maria, California, February 2009
  • Adult female

    Western Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Similar to adult female Eastern Bluebird
    • Gray throat and neck (not reddish)
    • Gray belly and flanks
    • © Sam Wilson, Flagstaff, Arizona, June 2008
  • Adult male

    Indigo Bunting

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Eastern Bluebird
    • Bright blue overall
    • Thick, grayish bill
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, June 2006
  • Adult male

    Lazuli Bunting

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Eastern Bluebird
    • White wingbars
    • Thicker bill
    • Smaller, slimmer, more elongated body
    • © Stephen Ehninger
  • Adult male

    Mountain Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Overall bright, sky-blue
    • Breast pale blue (no reddish)
    • © Desert Vu , Nevada, June 2008
  • Adult female

    Mountain Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Similar to adult female Eastern Bluebird
    • Breast usually grayish (may sometimes have rufous coloration)
    • Gray flanks
    • Longer wings and tail, thin black bill
    • © Robinsegg , Utah, October 2008
  • Adult male

    Mountain Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Overall bright, sky-blue
    • Breast pale blue (no reddish)
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, Manitoba, Canada, June 2007
  • Adult female

    Mountain Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Similar to adult female Eastern Bluebird
    • Breast usually grayish (may sometimes have rufous coloration)
    • Gray flanks
    • Longer wings and tail, thin black bill
    • © Gerry Dewaghe, December 2008

Similar Species

Male Western Bluebirds have a fully blue throat and chestnut shoulders. Male Mountain Bluebirds are a lighter sky blue all over, without the reddish underparts. Female bluebirds are harder, but Western and Mountain bluebirds have dark or dusky (not white) chins; and a grayish rather than clear white belly. Western and Mountain bluebirds also lack the reddish sides of the neck of female Eastern Bluebirds. The ranges of Western and Mountain bluebirds overlap only a little with Eastern Bluebirds, mainly in central and west Texas. Male Indigo Buntings are entirely blue and smaller, with the thick beak of a finch.

Backyard Tips

Eastern Bluebirds don’t often visit feeders, but they are a great prospect for nest boxes if you have the space to put one up in your yard, and if your yard isn’t too hemmed in by trees or houses. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Find This Bird

You can find Eastern Bluebirds in open country with patchy vegetation and large trees or nest boxes. Meadows, old fields, and golf courses are good places. Bluebirds typically sit in the open on power lines or along fences, with an alert, vertical posture. When they drop to the ground after an insect, they make a show of it, with fluttering wings and a fairly slow approach, followed by a quick return to the perch.

Get Involved

Set up a nest box for bluebirds and report nesting activity to NestWatch

View and sort images of nesting bluebirds online with CamClickr to help scientists archive data from our NestCams

Report your Eastern Bluebird sightings to eBird

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Bluebirds Put Their Eggs into More than One Basket Renesting attempts reveal latitudinal trends in multiple broods (BirdScope, Spring 2004)

eBird Occurrence Maps, Eastern Bluebird

All About Birds Blog, First-Ever Bluebird Twins Found Via Project NestWatch—Plus More Opportunities to Discover, March 2014.

All About Birds blog, Here’s What to Feed Your Summer Bird Feeder Visitors, July 11, 2014.