Western Bluebird

Sialia mexicana

The Western Bluebird is a common sight in parklands of the West. Unlike the other species of bluebirds, it does not like large meadows, preferring open forests instead.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • Occasionally Western Bluebirds have helpers at the nest. Most of the extra birds attending nests are helping their presumed parents, some after their own nests have failed.
  • Genetic studies showed that 45% of nests had young that were not fathered by the defending male, and that 19% of all the young were fathered outside the pair bond.
  • Western Bluebirds can be helped by birds far beyond family members. Violet-green Swallows have been observed feeding and defending nests of Western Bluebirds.

Description

  • Size: 16-19 cm (6-7 in)
  • Weight: 24-31 g (0.85-1.09 ounces)
  • Medium-sized songbird; small thrush.
  • Head large and round.
  • Wings and tail blue.
  • Chest red.
  • Some reddish on back.
  • Body stocky.
  • Tail medium-short.
  • Blue in wings and tail.
  • Reddish on back variable, from smudges on the shoulders to an entirely chestnut back.
  • Eyes dark brown.
  • Bill black.
  • Legs and feet black.
 
Sex Differences
Male dark blue with bright red chest. Female drab gray blue with duller reddish chest.
 
Male
Head, throat and upperparts bright, deep cobalt blue. Breast chestnut. Blue on belly and undertail coverts. Varying amounts of chestnut on back. Eyes dark. Legs dark.
 
Female
Duller and not extensively blue. Head and throat gray. Back gray-brown. Abdomen and undertail coverts grayish. Blue wings and tail. Chest duller chestnut.
 
Immature
Juvenile with spotted chest and back, blue in wings and tail. Immature similar to adults, but duller.
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Turdidae
Genus: Sialia
Species: Sialia mexicana
     Subspecies:
  • Sialia mexicana anabelae
  • Sialia mexicana bairdi
  • Sialia mexicana mexicana
  • Sialia mexicana occidentalis
Sound
Call a soft "kew," often repeated several times. Also a chatter. Songs can be repeated calls.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 18-20 cm (7-7.75 in)
  • Weight: 28 g (1 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Blue, Rufous or Rust
  • Underparts: Red-brown with white belly.
  • Upperparts: Blue
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Males dark brown; females medium brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Blue
  • Forehead Color: Blue
  • Nape Color: Blue
  • Throat Color: Blue
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Slow flight with shallow wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 29-33 cm (11.5-13 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Blue
  • Under Tail: Blue
  • Leg Color: Black
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Grassland with scattered trees, Desert, Desert, semi
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Declining
  • Egg Color: Pale blue
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 8
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Grass, weeds, stems, pine needles, and twigs.
  • Migration: Northern birds migrate
  • Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless with some patches of down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Merleblue de l'Ouest (French)
  • Azulejo garganta azul (Spanish)
  • Eastern Bluebird male has light or orange throat and no red extending onto back.
  • Female bluebirds are all similar in appearance to one another. Eastern Bluebird has white chin, white belly contrasting with reddish on chest, and throat color extending onto side of neck.
  • Mountain Bluebird has gray chest with little if any orange, longer bill, longer legs, and longer wings that nearly reach the end of the tail when folded.

Conservation Status

Declining in California and Arizona, as well as in other parts of range.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

Open coniferous and deciduous woodlands, wooded riparian areas, grasslands, farmlands, and edge and burned areas.
  • Guinan, J. A., P. A. Gowaty, and E. K. Eltzroth. 2000. Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana). In The Birds of North America, No. 510 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Food
Insects in summer, fruits and seeds in winter.
Behavior
Hunts from perches and drops onto ground to catch prey. Some flycatching and gleaning. May beat large prey against ground or branch before eating.

Adult Male & Female

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Male & Female

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Juvenile & Hatchlings
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Videos
   
 
 

All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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