The Mountain Bluebirds are located on the Western side of North America all the way up in Alaska down through Canada all the way down through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado and as far west through Utah and Nevada to the California area.
Compared to the other types of bluebirds they are a little more lighter sky blue than the darker blue of the Western and Eastern species they are also a little longer and have longer wings. They are a little more pale below their head and their tail and wings are a bit darker. Sometimes you will see the breast feathers are a brown orange color. The Female are generally all brown/grey with some pretty blue in their wing feathers. And their beaks are all black.
What types of areas do they live?
The Mtn Bluebird live in the wide open spaces at higher elevations. They live in areas that are open but have a some trees that provide some cover and tree cavities for their nesting. They will also nest in man made nest boxes. You may see them up on a perch in a mountain meadow or other open areas where open land meets up with Forrest. If there was a recent fire area you may also see them in this open area.
What food do they eat?
They eat mostly insects and they eat the most during breeding season. Their favorites are caterpillars, grass hoppers, and Beetles. During non breeding seasons (Winter) they will eat seeds and small fruits (berries, seeds, grapes) along with insects. They will hover above their pray and because they do this they require a lot more energy/food.
What types of Nests do they make and what do they use to nest in?
The Female will do all the work to make the nest. The male will “pretend” like he is working on the nest by flying out and coming back with nothing at all or will pick items up but drop it on the way back. The female will do most nest work in the morning. She will start with the base of the nest using thicker rough dried out grass building a cup type area for the eggs. She will build on top of the base with less rough items like grass and feathers or wool. This will last a little over a week. These birds will re-use the cavities and the nesting material from season to season.
The nest can grow quite large and fill up the nest all the way to the entrance. In the past they would build their nests in tree cavities and old woodpecker holes and they will still do this when necessary but the majority now will nest in the man made box which are usually placed in more open areas with smaller openings which will protect them from other critters.
When nesting, the male will go find a nest depending on their preference – usually in a drier open area. The male will then sing and fly about near their nest . The female will then select her mate based on the location she prefers. She cares more about location than anything else such as looks or the way the male can sing – and she will select her mate based on the nesting cavity she likes most.
How do they Behave?
During winter months you can see these birds in larger groups over the landscape looking for food – juniper berries is one of their favorites. And unlike the other bluebirds they will hover while getting their food and will swoop down to grab the unsuspecting insect.
The Mountain Bluebird is a pretty common bird. They are not on the watch list as of now. In the Continental Concern Score they rate an 8 out of 20. These birds benefited from the logging industry – when trees were cleared out they had more open areas to live and breed. The building of nest boxes and placing them in good open areas has helped a lot with the population growth. Anyone can help keep the population trending up by putting up a man made nesting box in a well placed area. Not only will you be helping but you will be able to enjoy the view and their activities.