Blue Bird Identification
Bluebirds and birds that are blue are some of natures most brilliantly colored animals. The flash of a bluebird through the yard, a hopping blue jay and a the streak of an indigo bunting are unmistakeable in North Carolina backyards. Blue colored birds are also among my most favorite. I see three blue birds in my yard on a regular basis. Once you learn a little about each one it is very easy to tell them apart. Size and shape are one clue, pattern is another. If you don't get a good look at one you can also tell by their call.
The color blue is so vivid when found in nature. The blue birds we have here in North Carolina live up to that statement. There are a half dozen or more blue colored birds in North America, many of which can be found in North Carolina. This is a look at three of the most common and where you can find them. At the bottom you will tips and tricks for attracting bluebirds to your yard and instructions on building your own bluebird box.
Pictures Of Bluebirds
Mountain Bluebird Picture
Eastern Bluebird Call Video
The Eastern Bluebird has become a common sight across the South Eastern U.S., not just in North Carolina. The popularity of the birds and its proclivity to nest boxes has made them a favorite for bird watchers, nature lovers and parks departments. Bluebirds can be commonly found year round in the southern U.S. as well as central Mexico. In summers some parts of the population will move north into New England but there are no recognized migration patterns.
Eastern bluebirds are easily recognizable by their vibrant blue heads and wings contrasted by striking rufous colored chests. The blue extends down the back to the wing and tail tips. The blue color can change, depending on light and angle, from an electric blue all the way through a dull grey color. The rufous brown chest coloration extends to the shoulders and down its sides, leaving the belly a much lighter ivory shade. Females are lighter in hue but no less brilliant. The muted color of the females is offset by some bold blue streaks in the wings and tail.
Eastern bluebirds are a small member of the thrush family. They have small, round bodies, short tails and sharp pointy beaks. Eastern bluebirds prefer a mix of scrubland and open areas where they can build their nests or perch high on a branch. They feed by swooping down on insects from above and will hunt prey on the ground, in the air or on the sides of trees. In winter bluebirds will feast on berries or other fruit when they can find it and will also come to feeder boxes. During the warm months you will not likely find a bluebird at a feeder but in winter they can be attracted with suet filled with dried fruit and fat.
Another great way to attract eastern bluebirds is with nest boxes. These birds will readily nest in a box, especially one built with them in mind. If boxes are not available bluebirds will nest in old woodpecker holes or other cavities in trees or fence posts. The birds will return and reuse the same hole or box year after year provided they are cleaned out.
There are two other species of bluebirds in North America. Their territories have some overlap but the birds themselves are easily distinguishable. The Mountain bluebird's territory is in the western and north western parts of North America while the Western or Mexican Bluebird is limited to the southwest and Mexico.
Indigo Bunting Picture
Indigo Bunting Singing
Indigo Bunting Jewel Of NC Mountain Backyards
Indigo Buntings are more widespread though lesser known than Eastern Bluebirds. These all blue (males) birds can be found year round from Florida to New Hampshire and west to the rocky mountains. In winter some parts of the population can be found in central America, the Yucatan and across the Caribbean islands. These birds are not found west of the rockies. Indigo buntings are small, sparrow sized birds with short tails. The small, rounded head has a short, conical beak. The beak is not too short and is good for cracking seeds or picking insects out of the brush.
The males are a very vivid blue. The head, shoulders, back and belly are very bright while the wings tend to look darker depending on the light and angle. Females are mostly brown with some lighter areas on the chest and belly and a dusting of blue on the wings and tail. Males love to find the highest perch and sing all day. Because of this, and their cheery song, indigo buntings are also sometimes called "blue canaries". Their song can be heard all spring and summer coming from the tops of trees, phone lines or any other tall perch.
The indigo bunting likes weedy fields filled with scrub brush, especially when they are next to a woodland. For this reason some, but not all, suburban neighborhoods are likely spots to find them. Look for them hopping along the ground hunting for seeds, insects and berries among the low vegetation. These birds can be lured to a back yard feeder if you provide the right combination of habitat and food. Thistle seeds and live meal worms are favorite feasts for indigo buntings.
Blue Jay Pictures
Blue Jay Calls And Noises
Blue Jay Birds, One Of Natures Diva's
Blue Jays are perhaps the most recognizable blue bird in North America. Even if you don't know what a blue jay is you will recognize the picture of the squawking bully bird. These are among the largest of the back yard birds commonly found across the eastern part of North America. Blue Jays are well known for their loud cries and tendency to crowd out or even chase away other birds from back yard feeders. Even though these birds can be a nuisance they are still one of the most brilliantly colored of all the North Carolina back yard birds.
Blue jays are highly intelligent and travel in large family groups with intricate social hierarchy. Blue jays are medium/crow sized birds with bright blue and white markings accented with black. They have a crested head and pointy beak that reminds me of cardinals. Blue jays prefer large seeds and nuts, especially acorns. This love helps them to spread forests across the continent. In fact, blue jays are credited with the spread of oak forests after the last ice age.
Blue jays prefer lightly forested areas and forest edges where they can perch in trees and still have access to open areas. The can be found in back yards, parks, campuses and neighborhoods all across their range. They like to eat from bird feeders and prefer large flat feeders they can perch on. They also enjoy a good bath and will regularly use a bird bath.
How To Make A Bluebird Box
How To Attract Bluebirds
Here are some of the common ways of attracting bluebirds to your yard.
- Bluebirds like a mix of wooded areas and open fields. Neighborhoods and parks are great places to find them.
- Bluebirds like to nest in the hollows of old trees or fence posts. The also can be found sitting on the top wire of a wire fence or phone line. Providing this habitat is helpful.
- Bluebirds will nest in boxes. Use bluebird specific designs hung on trees or fence posts to attract bluebirds.
Bluebird Boxes Are Easy To Make
Bluebird boxes are a must have for any bird enthusiast. The almost iconic boxes can be seen hanging in most yards in my area and mine is no exception. I have two in my yard and boxes I have made are currently hanging, and occupied, in my sister's, parent's, brother's, niece's yards. I usually make mine from old shipping pallets but you can just as easily find them at a nature store or online for fairly cheap. If you are handy or crafty in any way you should be able to make a bird box with no trouble in an hour or less. If you don't want to use old pallets just go to the lumber store and buy the appropriate sized material. I like to use old pallets because it is my way to recycle and the old wood makes cool looking blue bird boxes as well as other pallet projects.
When using old pallets be sure to choose only pallets marked with an HT. This means the pallets are heat treated, not chemically. These pallets are safe to use and are most often made of hard woods such as oak, maple, cherry, walnut and any other kind of tree too small to be cut into higher grade lumber. I even find mahogany pallets from time to time. Look for pallets that are clean and unbroken. Look carefully, just because the pallet is whole does not mean that boards holding it together are. Be careful of loose nails and staples. The slats of the pallet should be at least 5 inches wide for this project. Once you have a good pallet take it home and cut the slats away from the rails to get your project wood. You can try to remove the boards by taking out the nails if you want but I usually end up with broken nails and broken boards.
The box should be between 5 and 5 1/2 inches square on the inside. The hole should also be about 5 to 5 1/2 inches off the floor. Drill the hole 1 1/2 inches in diameter, this makes the box more attractive to bluebirds because larger birds can not get in. I make these houses from two smaller boxes connected by a hinge in the middle. This makes it easy to get inside and clean it out each year. The entire house is then screwed to a larger board that eventually gets mounted on a tree or fence post. By using rope to tie the boxes I do not damage trees or posts.
- Click here for more complete instructions for building a bluebird house.
Jatinder Joshi from Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada on September 20, 2013:
Enjoyed reading this hub. Thank you for sharing.
Yes, Bluebirds and especially the Blue Jay are fascinating to watch. One learns so much from these birds - their family orientation and values are something that we humans need to emulate.
TMHughes (author) from Asheville, NC on April 25, 2013:
Thanks. My side yard is perfect for bluebirds, I have several there living iny bluebird boxes.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 25, 2013:
Blue birds are so beautiful and you have so much to share here about this lovely bird and its life. Thanks for writing about such a unique bird
Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on April 24, 2013:
I love bluebirds---I have a pair of the most beautiful bluebirds. One looks skyblue and the other one is turquoise.
I enjoyed your hub.