Male. Note: blue overall and thin dark bill.
  • Male. Note: blue overall and thin dark bill.
  • Female. Note: gray overall with blue tail.
  • Juvenile (left, with male on right). Note: white speckled breast/flanks.

Hover over to view. Click to enlarge.

Mountain Bluebird

Sialia currucoides
Passeriformes
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
Turdidae
The thrushes are a large family of songbirds found worldwide. The eight species found regularly in Washington have a diet that varies seasonally between insects and other invertebrates in the summer, and berries in the winter. Most are short-distance migrants, but some migrate to the tropics. Many of the thrushes forage primarily on the ground. The thrushes are known for their beautiful, flute-like songs, and are considered some of the best songsters in Washington.
Fairly common summer resident, mostly east.
  • Sound To Sage

General Description

Mountain Bluebirds are characterized by an overall blue wash. They lack the bold rufous coloring of Western Bluebirds. Males are a striking sky-blue color. Females are predominantly gray with a bluish tint, especially on the wings and tail. Females have a white eye-ring, which males lack, and some females may have some light rufous on their throats and breasts.

Habitat

Mountain Bluebirds occur in varied, open terrain, more open than the habitat of Western Bluebirds. They are found in alpine parklands, and also at lower elevations in steppe areas, open woodlands with Ponderosa pine, forests openings, clearings, and logged areas where a few snags have been left.

Behavior

Mountain Bluebirds hover low over the grass in open fields, and drop to the ground to pounce on prey. They also catch food in mid-air, by darting out from a perch.

Diet

The Mountain Bluebird's diet consists of a combination of insects and berries Insects make up a larger percentage of their diet than is the case with other thrushes.

Nesting

Cavity-nesters, they rely on natural holes in trees, old woodpecker holes, and man-made cavities for nesting spots. If a traditional cavity can't be located, they will nest in cliff holes, dirt banks, or old swallow nests. The female selects the cavity, and both build a loose cup-nest with stems, grass, and twigs, lined with softer materials. The female lays and incubates 5 to 6 eggs. Both parents feed the young, which fledge within 2 to 3 weeks of hatching. The parents continue to tend the young for another 3 to 4 weeks, after which they lay a second brood.

Migration Status

The most migratory of the bluebirds, most Mountain Bluebirds leave the nesting grounds in September or October for their wintering grounds in the southwestern United States and Mexico, returning to the nesting grounds in March. They migrate short distances, sometimes forming large flocks in the winter at low elevations in Ponderosa pine and juniper forest. The few birds that stay in Washington are found east of the Cascades, where they sometimes join groups of robins and solitaires.

Conservation Status

Since much of their nesting habitat is remote, Mountain Bluebirds have been less affected than other species by nest site competition with starlings and other invasive species. Artificial nest boxes have helped keep overall population numbers healthy. In Washington, nest boxes have allowed for range expansion into new habitats where they previously had no place to nest. In the past century, they did experience a decline in western Washington, and they are no longer breeding in the Olympic Peninsula.

When and Where to Find in Washington

Mountain Bluebirds can be found in alpine parklands in the Cascades, the Blue Mountains, and the northeast corner of Washington. They are absent as breeders from the Olympic Mountains. In western Washington, they can be found locally near Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. In eastern Washington they can be found along Umtanum Ridge (Yakima County), Elk Heights (Kittitas County), in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and at mid-elevations on the east slope of the Cascades in meadows and logged areas. There is a significant population in Klickitat County around Bickleton where an intensive nest box program has provided many nesting opportunities. The Mountain Bluebird is the only bluebird that nests in alpine parkland and high elevation open areas. In the winter they can be found in flocks in similar habitat and more open, treeless terrain, but they are very uncommon.

Click here to visit this species' account and breeding-season distribution map in Sound to Sage, Seattle Audubon's on-line breeding bird atlas of Island, King, Kitsap, and Kittitas Counties.

Abundance Code DefinitionsAbundance

C=Common; F=Fairly Common; U=Uncommon; R=Rare; I=Irregular
EcoregionJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Oceanic
Pacific Northwest Coast
Puget Trough
North Cascades RUUUUU
West Cascades UFFFFFFUR
East CascadesRRUFFFFFURRR
Okanogan CCCCCCCC
Canadian Rockies UFFFFFFFU
Blue Mountains UFCCCCUR
Columbia PlateauRRFFFFFFFURR

Washington Range Map

North American Range Map

North America map legend

Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern