Bird of the Month by Russ Chappell
Western bluebirds sit on low perches to pounce on prey below. They are primarily insectivorous during the summer, but during the winter can be attracted to backyard feeders with mealworms.
Deep blue, rusty and white, males are more colorful than the gray-brown, blue-shaded females. They are small and stocky, with straight bills and fairly short tails, measuring six to seven inches in length, with average twelve-inch wingspans and weighing about an ounce.
A social species, they form flocks of up to a hundred, sometimes joining with mountain bluebirds, American robins and yellow-rumped warblers as they forage for insects or berries, and vocalize their quiet, chortling calls. They can also be attracted to a partially wooded yard by putting up nest boxes equipped with predator shielding.
Western bluebirds may have a gentle look, but when territory battles occur, one male may attack the other’s legs, dragging him to the ground and aggressively pecking at him. Residing in open woodlands and at the edges of woods, this small thrush is a cavity dweller, nesting in tree cavities or nest boxes and often socializing in small flocks.
The female does most of the nest construction over a two-week period, gathering grasses, straw, pine needles, moss, other plant fibers and fur to build and line the nest in an irregular shape.
There are up to three broods per season, consisting of two to eight pale blue or white eggs measuring less than an inch in length and width. Incubation times range from twelve to 17 days, with a nesting period of 18 to 25 days. The young hatch naked with pink skin, light gray down and eyes closed.
Rated nine out of twenty on the Continental Concern Score, the Western bluebird is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List.
If you are feeling blue, a trip to one of our local wooded areas may be just what the doctor ordered, because this beautiful little bird will certainly cheer you up!
The Prescott Audubon Society is an official chapter of the National Audubon Society. Check it out online at PrescottAudubon.org