Mountain Bluebird

Photo Credit – Nigel

I love spring for a lot of reasons; one of them is the return of many bird species, including mountain bluebirds. The flash of blue on the open grasslands is welcome sight. And while humans, myself included, love the blue color, apparently the female bluebirds aren’t so interested.

For many species, bright colors attract mates and signify strength and health. Yet female mountain bluebirds are more interested in how the males can provide, specifically, can he provide a good home. Male mountain bluebirds must find the ideal nesting site and the females choose their mates based on this. Talk about location, location, location! His looks, and his ability to sing and fly, are unimportant to her.

These birds are nest opportunists. Instead of building their own nest cavities, they take advantage of both abandoned woodpecker cavities or nesting boxes. The savvy male arrives to the breeding grounds to find the best nesting spot before other bird species return and will fight fiercely over these sites. The best sites are those in open grasslands, three feet off the ground. They also look for the entrance to face away from direction from which storms approach.

The actual nest inside the cavity is built by the female. Humorously, the male may pretend to help by mimicking the act of bringing nesting material to the female, yet actually not carrying anything or dropping items along the way. Once the female is incubating eggs and raising the brood, though, the male often feeds her. They eat mostly insects, especially during breeding season, and tend to be partial to caterpillars. In the winter when insects are not readily available, they turn to seeds and small fruits.

If you’re looking for a mountain bluebird, which occurs across the west and up to Alaska, they are found in open habitats such as mountain meadows and locations where the prairie meets the forest. The males of this species are blue almost all over, not to be confused with the eastern or western bluebirds that are partially orange on their chest and under their wings. Happy spring!