Mountain Bluebird

Sialia currucoides

Order:
Passeriformes
Family:
Turdidae
Sections
  • Version: 2.0 — Published May 3, 2019
  • L. Scott Johnson and Russell D. Dawson
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Mountain Bluebird, Abundance map
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Data provided by eBird

Mountain Bluebird

Sialia currucoides

Abundance

This map depicts the seasonally-averaged estimated relative abundance, defined as the expected count on a one-hour, one kilometer eBird Traveling Count conducted at the ideal time of day for detection of that species in a region.  Learn more

Relative abundance
birds per km/hr
Year-round
0.21
1.52
123.87
Breeding season
Apr 26 - Sep 14
0.21
1.52
123.87
Non-breeding season
Dec 7 - Feb 15
0.21
1.52
123.87
Pre-breeding migratory season
Feb 22 - Apr 19
0.21
1.52
123.87
Post-breeding migratory season
Sep 21 - Nov 30
0.21
1.52
123.87
Note: Seasonal ranges overlap and are stacked in the order above; view full range in season maps.
Seasons timeline
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Definitive Basic male Mountain Bluebird (13 June).

A large bluebird with no distinct patches of orange or red on either sex. Adults are sexually dimorphic in plumage color but not visibly different in size. The upperparts of adult males are a rich cerulean-blue, although the wing tips are dusky. The throat and upper chest are a distinct cerulean-blue fading to a pale blue moving down the breast to the white lower belly.

© Michael Andersen , Wyoming , United States , 13 June 2011
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Definitive Basic female Mountain Bluebird (22 February).

Adult females are grayish brown on the head and upper back, sometimes tinged a light cerulean-blue. The rump stands out as a patch of light blue. The color of the throat, chest and upper belly are pale grayish brown, with the chin area lighter than the throat and chest. The lower belly and undertail coverts are white. The scapulars, primary, and tail feathers are a light cerulean-blue.

© Brian Sullivan , California , United States , 22 February 2017

These exquisites, in their quadruple-extract-of-azure garb, are justly ranked the topmost twig of the American ornithological tree.” —William L. Dawson (1: 181)

The Mountain Bluebird is the bluest of the bluebirds, unadulterated by distinct patches of some shade of orange or red. Males of the species are a striking cerulean blue and are especially stunning in the long rays of sunlight early and late in the day.

The attractiveness of this species perhaps belies its considerable hardiness. The Mountain Bluebird breeds at high elevations and latitudes in western North America with a range that extends above timberline in the Rocky Mountains and north into the Yukon and Alaska. Although that distribution alone ensures that many individuals routinely face challenging environmental conditions, the species is also among the earliest-arriving migrants, appearing in late winter when cold, snowy weather persists. Indeed, for early immigrants to the West, and indigenous peoples before them, the return of the Mountain Bluebird was one of the first signs that spring was not far off. Many people in the West still welcome their return each year with delight.

The Mountain Bluebird nests primarily in pre-existing tree cavities, especially old woodpecker holes that, in many places, are probably in limited supply. Intraspecific and interspecific competition for these sites almost certainly has driven the evolution of many aspects of this species’ natural history, including early arrival to the breeding grounds. Across much of its range, the Mountain Bluebird historically has nested largely in patches of burned-over coniferous forest, after woodpeckers have added cavities to the snags and trees left standing. Such habitat is continually created throughout western North America, but in unpredictable locations. The challenges of finding a place to live and nest may have given the species its “wandering genes.” As described in this account, the Mountain Bluebird is a regular vagrant across North America, much to the delight of birdwatchers.

The Mountain Bluebird readily uses human-made nest boxes. This has allowed many members of the general public to enjoy the species, and it has facilitated study by professional ornithologists. This species account contains a wealth of new, unpublished data on many aspects of Mountain Bluebird biology.

Although much is known about this species' biology, there is still a great deal to be learned. A wealth of interesting research awaits.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, L. S. and R. D. Dawson (2019). Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.moublu.02