Living Bird Magazine
Western BluebirdSialia mexicana
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Turdidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Azulejo Garganta Azul (Spanish)
- Merlebleu de l'Ouest (French)
Western Bluebirds are mainly insectivorous in the summer and they can be attracted to feeders if you offer mealworms. Find out more about feeding mealworms to backyard birds on All About Birds.
You can also invite bluebirds to a partially wooded yard by putting up nest boxes. Make sure you put up a nest box well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on All About Birdhouses, where you'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for Western Bluebirds.
- Cool Facts
- Occasionally Western Bluebirds have helpers at the nest. Most of the extra birds attending nests are helping their presumed parents, some after their own nests have failed. Interestingly, studies show that many nests include young that were not fathered by the resident male.
- Genetic studies showed that 45% of nests had young that were not fathered by the defending male, and that 19% of all the young were fathered outside the pair bond.
- Western Bluebirds have a gentle look, but territory battles can get heated. Rival males may grab each other’s legs, tumble to the ground, and then pin their opponent on the ground, stand over him, and jab at him with his bill.
- A Western Bluebird weighs about an ounce. It needs about 15 calories (technically, kilocalories) per day, or 23 calories if raising young.
- Western Bluebirds are among the birds that nest in cavities—holes in trees or nest boxes. But look at their bills—they’re not equipped to dig out their own holes. They rely on woodpeckers or other processes to make their nest sites for them. This is one reason why dead trees are a valuable commodity in many habitats.
- The oldest known Western Bluebird was a male, and at least 8 years, 8 months old when he was found in California in 2008. He had been banded in the same state in 2001.