Common Name
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD

Scientific Name
SIALIA CURRUCOIDES

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Photo by Scott Root
Photo Copyright Scott Root

The mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides, is a highly migratory bird that breeds in meadows, forest edges, and rangelands at elevations generally higher than 5,000 ft. Its numbers increase when people clear forests, and its affinity for open spaces makes it easy to spot in some human-dominated landscapes. The mountain bluebird breeds in the western United States and western Canada. Individuals in the northern part of the species breeding range migrate south for the winter to the western and southwestern United States, as well as to Mexico. Populations breeding in parts of the Great Basin and the southwestern United States remain year-round, though they normally move to lower elevations. Mountain bluebirds are not currently as common in Utah as they were in previous years, but they do breed in high mountain valleys throughout the state. Flocks are commonly seen during spring and fall migrations at lower elevations. Individuals have been known to winter in southern and central Utah.

The diet of the mountain bluebird consists primarily of insects; it frequently hovers during feeding, whereas other bluebirds glean insects off of foliage. Pairs are monogamous, and the female selects the nest site, normally a tree cavity previously excavated by a woodpecker. When available, however, females will frequently select nesting boxes erected by humans. The female lines her nest cavity with grasses, and then incubates five or six eggs for approximately two weeks. The hatchlings are blind, immobile, and featherless. The mother stays with the young in the nest for six days after the young hatch. The male brings food to the hatchlings, but when the female is present in the nest, he must relinquish the food to her, as she prevents him from feeding the young directly. The hatchlings remain in the nest for about three weeks and are cared for by both parents. They will attain independence about a month after leaving the nest. If the young leave the nest early in the season, the pair may attempt to have a second brood.

Sources:

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Power, H. W., and M. P. Lombardo. 1996. Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currocoides). Birds of North America 222.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

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