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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Western Bluebird

Sialia mexicana ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TURDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

In open parklands of the American West, brilliant blue-and-rust Western Bluebirds sit on low perches and swoop lightly to the ground to catch insects. Deep blue, rusty, and white, males are considerably brighter than the gray-brown, blue-tinged females. This small thrush nests in holes in trees or nest boxes and often gathers in small flocks to feed on insects or berries, giving their quiet, chortling calls. You can help out Western Bluebirds by placing nest boxes in your yard or park.

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Keys to identification Help

Thrushes
Thrushes
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Western Bluebirds are small thrushes that usually perch upright. They are stocky with thin, straight bills and fairly short tails.

  • Color Pattern

    Male Western Bluebirds are shiny blue above with rust-orange extending from a vest on the breast onto the upper back. Females are gray-buff with a pale orange wash on the breast and blue tints to the wings and tail. The throat is blue in males and gray-buff in females, and the lower belly is whitish.

  • Behavior

    These birds are highly social, and usually feed in flocks during the non-breeding season. They hunt for terrestrial insects by dropping to the ground from a low perch. Western Bluebirds also frequently feed on berries in trees. Western Bluebirds rely on trees both for nesting cavities and hunting perches, and also perch on fences and utility lines.

  • Habitat

    Look for Western Bluebirds in open woodland, both coniferous and deciduous. They also live in backyards, burned areas, and farmland, from sea level far up into the mountains.

Range Map Help

Western Bluebird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Western Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Small thrush with round head, fairly small bill
    • Blue throat and brilliant, deep-blue upperparts
    • Many but not all males have rusty-red shoulder/back
    • © Barbara Pursell/PFW, Spokane, Washington, July 2006
  • Adult male

    Western Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Common bluebird of many western states
    • Small thrush with round head, slender bill
    • Blue throat and brilliant, deep-blue upperparts
    • Many but not all males have rusty-red shoulder/back
    • © Jamie Chavez, Santa Maria , California, February 2009
  • Adult female

    Western Bluebird

    Adult female
    • Small thrush with round head, fairly small bill
    • Gray throat and belly
    • Blue tinges in wings and tail
    • Chestnut wash across breast
    • © Tiny Gehrke/PFW, Manteca, California, January 2009

Similar Species

  • Male (left), female (right)

    Mountain Bluebird

    Male (left), female (right)
    • Male is sky blue above and below; no rusty
    • Female has little or no rusty wash on gray breast
    • Bill more slender than Western Bluebird
    • © Ron Kube, Alberta, Canada, May 2009
  • Male (left), female (right)

    Eastern Bluebird

    Male (left), female (right)
    • Mainly occurs farther east than Western Bluebird
    • Male has rusty throat, not blue throat
    • Male lacks rusty color on back
    • Female has whitish instead of gray throat and belly
    • © Ruthie Kansas, Topeka, Kansas, May 2009

Similar Species

Mountain Bluebird males are a lighter sky-blue above and below. Females are grayer overall, and usually show less rust on the breast than Western Bluebird. Eastern Bluebirds have only a small range overlap with Western Bluebird. In the eastern species, the throat is rusty-orange (males) or white (females), the belly is crisp white, and the back in males is entirely blue. Male Lazuli Buntings are considerably smaller than Western Bluebirds, with thick, seed-eating bills and prominent white wingbars. Though blue, Western Scrub-Jays and Steller’s Jay are much larger, noisier birds with longer tails, heavier bills, and without any rusty coloration.

Regional Differences

None

Backyard Tips

Western Bluebirds are mainly insectivorous in the summer and they can be attracted to feeders if you offer mealworms. (More on mealworms at our Attract Birds section). You can also invite bluebirds to a partially wooded yard by putting up nest boxes. Our NestWatch project has lots of free information about how to choose, build, and maintain nest boxes.

Find This Bird

Look for Western Bluebirds on low perches in woodlands and woodland edges. Also scan for them sitting atop nest boxes or fenceposts in summer. Their habit of dropping suddenly to the ground after insects can be recognizable even out of the corner of your eye. Their quiet, inquisitive call notes are easy to overlook, but distinctive once learned.

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The Importance of Family for Western Bluebirds: Story in BirdScope.