Depending on the time of the year, the mountain bird can live as far north as Alaska.
Mountain Bluebird Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Sialia currucoides
Mountain Bluebird Conservation Status
Mountain Bluebird Facts
- Seeds, fruits, insects, and spiders
- Fun Fact
- Depending on the time of the year, the mountain bird can live as far north as Alaska.
- Estimated Population Size
- 6 million mature individuals
- Biggest Threat
- Lack of tree hollows
- Most Distinctive Feature
- Bright blue plumage
- Other Name(s)
- Arctic bluebirds
- Incubation Period
- 12-16 days
- Plains and mountains
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The mountain bluebird makes its home in the pristine landscapes of the western Americas.
Sporting an elegant bright blue plumage, this species can be seen perching on fence posts, wires, and trees, where it makes a loud warbling sound. These are one of the most quintessential and widespread songbirds in the entire Americas.
4 Amazing Mountain Bluebird Facts
- The mountain bluebird is the official state bird of Idaho and Nevada. Some Native Americans consider the feathers to be sacred symbols.
- This species is sometimes called “the bluest of the bluebird” for its particularly bright blue plumage. Other common names include the Arctic bluebird and the ultramarine bluebird.
- The mountain bluebird is able to produce hybrid offspring with the closely related eastern and western bluebirds.
- The mountain bluebird belongs to the family of Turdidae, which contains all known thrushes.
Where to Find the Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird Nests
Mountain bluebirds prefer the hollow cavities of conifers and aspens for their nesting sites. If these are not available, then they may choose cliffs or banks instead. These birds cannot create hollows and holes themselves so instead rely on those created by both natural and artificial means.
Mountain Bluebird Scientific Name
The scientific name of the mountain bluebird is Sialia currucoides in the family of Turdidae. Sialia is a Latin word that simply means bird or a kind of bird. Currucoides is another Latin term that roughly translates into an animal that resembles a warbler or more specifically the lesser whitethroat.
Mountain Bluebird Appearance
The mountain bluebird is a small songbird with a thin beak, sinewy dark legs, and a rounded head and stomach. It is easy to tell the sexes apart by their appearance. The males exhibit bright blue upper feathers, fading to a pale white color toward the lower stomach. The females are grey, brown, and even pale orange. Most birds measures somewhere between 6 and 7 inches, or about the same size as some drink glasses.
Mountain Bluebird Behavior
The mountain bluebird migrates farther and longer than any other species of bluebirds (and even more than many songbirds in general). Their breeding range extends as far north as Alaska and their wintering range extends as far south as Mexico. They also appear all year round in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Despite not being a social species, they appear to migrate in large flocks of up to 50 individuals, but many other facts about their migratory behavior are not well understood yet.
These bluebirds have a set of (poorly studied) calls and songs to communicate important information such as their sense of alarm, their all-clear signals, and their territorial boundaries. Like many other songbirds, it is believed that only the males are capable of communicating through true song, which probably has something to do with mating and breeding behavior. Song production may vary by region since some populations appear to sing more frequently than others.
Mountain bluebirds are also quite aggressive about maintaining and defending a set territory in the breeding season. They appear to dive-bomb and snap their bills at humans or any other threats that get too close to their nests. Besides their mate, they do not even tolerate other members of the same species in the breeding season.
Mountain Bluebird Diet
The mountain bluebird has an omnivorous diet that depends on what’s available at the time of year. When hunting for meat, they will sit on elevated perches to spot and then dive upon prey, or they’ll hover slightly off the ground and pounce.
What does the Mountain Bluebird eat?
The mountain bluebird will tend to feed upon seeds and fruits during the winter months, but the bulk of its diet actually consists of small invertebrates such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, spiders, cicadas, and much more. They play a vital environmental role by keeping a check on insect populations.
Mountain Bluebird Predators and Threats
Apart from predators, these birds do not currently face any significant threats in the wild. Most of its range is sparsely inhabited and even protected by people. However, they do sometimes face fierce competition for nesting sites from other birds. This is exacerbated by the fact that nesting hollows may not always be available. They also can accidentally become trapped inside PVC pipes and other manmade structures.
What eats the mountain bluebird?
An adult mountain bluebird is preyed upon by Cooper’s hawks, peregrine falcons, great-horned owls, domesticated cats, and other species of hawks and falcons. Nests are also raided by raccoons, tree snakes, weasels, and rodents.
Mountain Bluebird Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
As the breeding season approaches between the months of April and August, these birds establish short-term monogamous relationships lasting one or more breeding episodes. If the female produces a clutch early in the breeding season, then she’s more likely to mate again with her partner for a second brood. This species is somewhat promiscuous, however, and has no particular compunction against mating with other birds besides its partner.
After the couple mates, the female will produce one egg per day until the nest contains four to eight of them. Once the final egg is laid, the mother will incubate them until they hatch about 12 and 16 days later, while the father provides her with food and care.
The offspring will usually hatch in the order in which they were originally laid. Since they are born completely helpless and defenseless, both parents play an important role in raising the young. After about three weeks, the chicks will gain their full flight feathers and a large degree of independence. But the first brood will sometimes stick around the nest to help their parents raise the next brood. Mortality rates are quite high among the young, but if they survive the juvenile phase, then the mountain bluebird will have a lifespan of six to 10 years.
Mountain Bluebird Population
The IUCN Red List, which is a world-leading conservation tracker, currently classifies these birds as a species of least concern, so it requires no special conservation efforts. It is estimated that there are approximately six million mature individuals remaining in the wild. After a period of relative decline, the numbers appear to be increasing again.View all 163 animals that start with M
Mountain Bluebird FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Does the mountain bluebird migrate?
Although few substantial facts are known about their migratory behavior, the mountain bluebird does migrate north to south for the winter. Mexico and the southwest United States (Nevada, Utah, Arizona, etc) are its most common breeding grounds.
How many eggs does the mountain bluebird lay?
The mountain bird can lay between four and eight eggs at a time.
How fast does mountain bluebird fly?
The mountain bluebird can fly about 15 to 20 miles per hour.
What is the mountain bluebird’s wingspan?
The mountain bluebird has a wingspan of 11 to 14 inches.
When do mountain bluebirds leave the nest?
The fledglings can leave the nest after about three weeks, but some of them stick around to feed the chicks from the next brood.
Where do mountain bluebirds live?
Mountain bluebirds live in the western parts of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
How do you attract mountain bluebirds?
The mountain bluebird is attracted to a simple hollow nest box or feeder with mealworms.
What is the habitat of the mountain bluebird?
The mountain bluebird prefers either open plains or mountains with scarce trees.
What is the difference between the mountain bluebird and the eastern bluebird?
The mountain bluebird is closely related to both the eastern bluebird and western bluebird. The most obvious difference is their appearance. Eastern bluebirds tend to have brownish-red or orange breast feathers. Moreover, their habitat doesn’t overlap very much. Eastern bluebirds can be found east of the Rockies, while mountain bluebirds tend to live west of the Rockies.
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- Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sialia_currucoides/
- Audubon, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mountain-bluebird
- American Bird Conservancy, Available here: https://abcbirds.org/bird/mountain-bluebird/