Living Bird Magazine
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Male Mountain Bluebirds lend a bit of cerulean sparkle to open habitats across much of western North America. You may spot these cavity-nesters flitting between perches in mountain meadows, in burned or cut-over areas, or where prairie meets forest—especially in places where people have provided nest boxes. Unlike many thrushes, Mountain Bluebirds hunt insects from perches or while on the wing, at times resembling a tiny American Kestrel with their long wings, hovering flight, and quick dives.More ID Info
In the right places it can be a snap to find Mountain Bluebirds, as they are not shy of humans and live in fairly open country. They sit in the open on perches such as treetops, fence posts, and power lines. In summer in rural areas and ranches, particularly at higher elevations, you can often find them simply by driving rural roads and eyeballing such potential perches. In forested areas, look for them in large openings, particularly if there are aspen in the vicinity (aspen is a key cavity-providing tree in western montane forests). In winter, search for areas with berry-laden junipers and watch for flocks of birds feeding on those berries. Mountain Bluebirds often mix with Western Bluebirds, American Robins, and Cedar Waxwings when taking advantage of such fruity abundance.
Mountain Bluebirds take readily to nest boxes. If you live in suitably open habitat within their range, consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Nest boxes should be located away from buildings, areas of heavy pesticide use, and dense woods, ideally in open rural country with scattered clumps of trees or low shrubs. Mount boxes in pairs at least 100 yards apart, with 10 to 20 feet between boxes in a pair. Aggressive competitors can nest in the first box, leaving the second for bluebirds. The entrance hole should be about 1.75 inches in diameter, located about 6 inches above the floor of the box. It should face away from prevailing winds, and in an easterly direction to avoid overheating by afternoon sun. Ideally, there should be a place to perch within about 100 feet of the box, for when fledglings leave the nest. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on All About Birdhouses. Some retail outlets carry ready-made boxes, or build your own: you'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for Mountain Bluebirds on our NestWatch site.