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Bluebirds, family Turdidae,  belong to the genus Sialia, from the Greek meaning “a kind of bird.” Not a very helpful description. The three Sialia species, all North American, are the Eastern Bluebird, Western Bluebird, and Mountain Bluebird, semi-descriptive but not very imaginative names. At 7 inches long with a 13 -inch wingspread, they are small birds with a small, thin bill. Eastern Bluebirds are blue-bodied with a buffy orange chest and chin. Western Bluebirds look similar but their blue is slightly brighter and a blue throat resides above their buffy orange chest. The Mountain Bluebird lacks any orange and is a dusty blue gray all over. Insect eaters, all three species prefer open woodlands or grasslands where they can pursue prey. Avian Report has a nice article on the differences between the species.

File:Western Bluebird (m) (37938912111).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Eastern Bluebird

Bluebirds nest in cavities. In parts of the country bluebirds are declining, partly because of habitat destruction and partly because of the dearth of nesting sites. Many cavities have been usurped by Eurasian Starlings and House Sparrows, dead trees have been felled to decrease fire danger, and wooden fence posts have been replaced by plastic or metal ones, impossible for woodpeckers to create cavities in. There have been increases in some parts of the country where people have been motivated to erect bluebird houses. In 1978 Dr. Lawrence Zeleny founded the North America Bluebird Society in order to promote the preservation of bluebirds by putting up nest boxes. Zeleny dedicated much of his life to providing nest boxes and managing bluebird trails. There is also the NWTF Eastern Bluebird Conservation organization. You can buy bluebird houses and bird feeders at

Western Bluebird – Oregon Conservation Strategy
Western Bluebird

Sometimes Tree Swallows, smaller than bluebirds, will compete with them for a nest box. Bluebirds may demonstrate aggressive behaviors to protect their boxes. Tree Swallows rely on screaming, persistent intrusions, dive-bombing, and pecking on the fly to intimidate bluebirds. In contrast, a bluebird’s usual tactic is to guard the box, make hostile displays, and only as a last resort flies out to intercept the swallow, sometimes grappling with it and even tumbling with it to the ground. I have observed this, but I have also observed a pair of Tree Swallows who waited a week or more, peacefully coexisting with an incubating nest of Western Bluebirds. The Tree Swallows just bided their time sitting on the box when they were not out feeding. When the young bluebirds fledged, the Tree Swallows moved into the box. Everyone was happy. There is even an example of an Eastern Bluebird brooding young Tree Swallows.

File:Mountain Bluebird 6900vv.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Mountain Bluebird

Bluebirds will nest 2-4 times a year, depending on conditions. Not being the most loyal of spouses, it is not uncommon for a brood of 4-5 eggs to have as many fathers.

The spiritual meaning of bluebird is joy and happiness. This ancient belief spans nearly every culture, from ancient China to Native American and European folklore. Funny thing, there are no bluebirds in China or Europe. I have no idea what the bird in China might be, but in Europe, House Martins are sometimes mistakenly called bluebirds and there is even a song, There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover, written in 1941 in the midst of WWII.

May the bluebird of happiness fly up your nose. Whatever that means.

14 thoughts on “Bluebirds”

  1. Let’s not forget the destruction of the 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest in the southeast. When the Red-cockaded Woodpecker loses 97% of its habitat and is extirpated from large regions, the bluebirds lose valuable cavities where European Starlings aren’t as competitive. Our short term over-exploitation of natural resources is a consequence of capitalism out-of-control.

  2. What a great overview of a beloved group of birds. I have to say that mountain bluebirds are the most magical of the three for me. I used to live and work on the Zuni Reservation in New Mexico, and some of the soils and cliffs there are a burnt orange-red. Seeing a large flocks of powder blue mountain bluebirds on some of the sacred cliffs, was well, divine.

  3. Thanks for presenting Bluebirds. This is Nevada’s State Bird, Mountain Bluebird (sialia currucoides). They can be found living in a few areas of Calico Basin and Sheep Range and other places. Nevada has more than 150 mountain ranges. For example Egan Range which is 108 miles long and has a high ridge at Ward Mountain at 11000, feet.

    1. I commented earlier but want to add that I am the State Assistant Program Director with the California Bluebird Recovery Program and we’ve collected data from nest boxes monitors since 1996. Our average annual fledge of secondary-cavity nesters is 16,000 statewide. If you run into any research about any of the secondary-cavity nesters that you don’t mind sharing, please, do. Our email is on the website. Thank you again for the article on bluebirds. While the Western and Mountain bluebirds are our signature birds, we promote the conservation of all the secondary-cavity nesters in our nest box program.

  4. Ref Georgette Howington: I would look at our website at It list State & Local Organizations and National Organizations for conservation and ornithology. Thanks for your link…

    1. Thank you, Raul. I will do that! CBRP is an affiliate of The North American Bluebird Society and we have partnered with Audubon California on a project in 2021.

      I pray all is well for you and your family. Thank you for helping the birds and environment.

  5. Pingback: 5 Types of Blue Birds in North America - Chipper Birds

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