How to Identify a Western Bluebird
Learn distinctive markings to identify a western bluebird, discover which habitats they call home and where they nest, and more.
What Do Male and Female Western Bluebirds Look Like?
While western bluebirds look similar to eastern bluebirds, there are differences. The male usually has a patch of rusty brown across the middle of its blue back, and its throat is blue. The lower belly is gray, not white. Female western bluebirds are similar to males, but with the blue mostly replaced by gray.
Here’s how to tell the difference between a bluebird and a blue jay.
Courtesy Thomas Tully
“I spotted this western bluebird (above) in flight near Ellensburg, Washington. I’ve been photographing birds for awhile now, and pictures like this are why I enjoy it!” – Birds & Blooms reader Thomas Tully
What Does a Western Bluebird Eat?
Courtesy Bob Kothenbeutel
In summer western bluebirds eat mostly insects, while in winter they snack on juniper berries and the fruits of mistletoe growing from mesquite trees. In warmer months, you can invite them to visit your bluebird feeders by offering a longtime bluebird favorite: mealworms.
A western bluebird barely tips the scale at just one ounce. To keep their slim figures, they eat about 15 calories a day, or 23 if they are caring for a brood.
Nest and Eggs
Like mountain bluebirds, western bluebirds are cavity nesters. They search for a pre-existing tree cavity and once a suitable place is found, the female gathers grasses, plant fibers and other soft materials to build the nest. A typical clutch contains 2 to 8 eggs, and western bluebirds raise 1 to 3 broods per season. Western bluebirds may also choose bluebird nest boxes if available: Here’s how to build a DIY bluebird house.
Bluebirds are related to robins, so it’s no big surprise that juveniles appear different from the adults. Juvenile western bluebirds have spotted backs to match their marked bellies. The blue tint of their wings and tails also helps ID them.
If you see a bluebird, here’s what it means.
Most birds mate for a breeding season or nesting period, but that kind of monogamy is less appealing to western bluebirds. Researchers discovered that 45 percent of nests held young that were not fathered by the male who defended the nest, and 19 percent of all chicks were not the defending male’s.
“I was so excited to see so many juvenile western bluebirds (above). One year, I had a bluebird couple and it was the first time I’d seen them. They came back the next year, and this was their third, and largest, bunch.” – Birds & Blooms reader Cyndi Seybold
Western Bluebird Habitat and Range Map
Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.
This species breeds in the west. It replaces the eastern bluebird in areas west of the Great Plains. In the Southwest, it’s mostly a bird of foothills and mountains. Along the Paciﬁc Coast, it lives in parks and yards. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, western bluebirds are less commonly spotted in meadows than the other two bluebird species.
Western bluebirds spend winter in various kinds of open woods. They may gather in large ﬂocks, especially in foothills with juniper berries; they also move out into desert areas.
Next, find out where is the best place for a bluebird house?