Western Bluebird vs Eastern Bluebird: Which Bluebird Am I Seeing?

Updated: Jan. 13, 2022

Pay attention to where you are birding, and learn how to tell the difference between a western bluebird vs an eastern bluebird.

I love seeing bluebirds. Near my home in Indiana, I can only see one species, eastern bluebird, but when I travel, I always enjoy seeing the other two species, western bluebirds and mountain bluebirds. Birders have a long history with bluebirds as they are one of the species that most commonly attempt to attract to nesting boxes. In fact, without these nesting boxes, we wouldn’t have nearly as many bluebirds in the U.S. as we do. For identification, western bluebirds vs eastern bluebirds are quite similar while mountain bluebird is quite different. Learn what to look for to identify all three species below. I’ve focused on the male eastern vs western bluebirds as well as the female mountain bluebird. The females of eastern and western bluebirds are quite similar while the male mountain bluebird is bright blue and unmistakable.

Check out the best bluebird feeders and feeding tips.

Western Bluebird vs Eastern Bluebird

As the name would suggest, the eastern bluebird is the species that you would expect to see in the eastern United States. Its range extends west to the Rocky Mountains.

Which Bluebird am I Seeing?©Brian Zwiebel
Notice on this male Eastern bluebird how bright white the belly is!

For the most part, where the eastern bluebird’s range ends, western’s begins. This species can be found from the Rockies west to the Pacific Coast.

Don’t miss 20 beautiful pictures of bluebirds.

western bluebird vs eastern bluebird©Brian Zwiebel
Compared to the eastern bluebird, the male western bluebird has a blue rather than white belly and the orange extends to the scapulars.

Female Mountain Bluebird

Which Bluebird am I Seeing?©Rob Ripma
Female mountain bluebird

The name of this species give you a pretty good idea of where it is most common, the mountains. You will mainly find this species throughout the Rockies and other mountains of the west. One thing you might notice on the range map is that this species is more likely to show up as a rare bird out of its “normal” range than the other two bluebirds. Ask the experts: Do bluebirds migrate in winter?

The female mountain bluebird is much more likely than the male to be confused with the other two species. Psst—here’s how to tell the difference between a bluebird vs a blue jay. Note how the female is brown rather than orange like the eastern and western bluebirds.

Next, learn how to make a DIY bluebird house.