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2011-12-08
Idaho State Bird – Mountain Bluebird.


The Mountain Bluebird - Sialia currucoides – is migratory, from Mexico in the winter to as far north as Alaska. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range. Southern birds are often permanent residents. Some birds may move to lower elevations in winter. They inhabit open rangelands, meadows, generally at elevations above 5,000 feet. It is the state bird of Idaho.

Description

They have light underbellies and black eyes. Adult males have thin bills are bright turquoise-blue and somewhat lighter beneath. Adult females have duller blue wings and tail, grey breast, grey crown, throat and back. In fresh fall plumage, the female's throat and breast are tinged with red-orange; brownish near the flank contrasting with white tail underparts.

Call

The call is a thin few and a warbled high chur chur. The male can be seen singing from bare branches. The singing takes place right at dawn, just when the sun rises.

Food

They mainly eat insects and berries. These birds hover over the ground and fly down to catch insects, also flying from a perch to catch them. They may forage in flocks in winter, when they mainly eat grasshoppers. Mountain bluebirds will come to a platform feeder with live meal worms, berries, or peanuts.

Breeding

Mountain bluebirds are a monogamous breed. Females usually build the nests themselves. The female lays 4 to 5  pale blue, sometimes white eggs. Incubation normally last 14 days and the young will take about 21 days before they leave the nest. Both males and females fiercely protect the nest.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Mountain bluebirds are not a species of concern in the United States. The turn around in Mountain bluebird numbers is due to the overwhelming efforts of landowners in the West to provide nest boxes for these birds. At one time, Mountain bluebird numbers were threatened because of increased competition for decreasing natural cavity nesting spots by other species such as Tree Swallows and the House Sparrow.

Birdwatching

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.


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