Mountain Bluebird

xmountainbluebird

Mountain Bluebird photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

While traveling across southern Utah last week my wife and I kept seeing momentary flickers of blue from some unknown bird. On our final day at Arches National Park we finally got a clear view of one of them. An argument between two males high in a juniper tree caught our attention, and I was able to get a few distant shots of this Mountain Bluebird (Passeriformes: Turdidae: Sialia currucoides).

xmountainbluebird2

Mountain Bluebird photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Females are relatively drab-colored, sporting pale blue plumage only on their wing margins and tails. Males, in contrast, feature deeper blue coloration on their wings and tails, with light blue on their heads and chests. Since these birds inhabit sparsely-forested open areas of the west, however, females typically choose males based on the quality of their nests rather than their physical attributes. Males normally arrive at potential nesting sites early in the spring in order to secure nests from rival species like European Starlings and Tree Swallows. The males we witnessed in conflict may have been fighting for control of a desirable tree cavity that could be used to attract mates.

xmountainbluebird3

Mountain Bluebird photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

In warmer months Mountain Bluebirds use their relatively long, narrow beaks to pick off insects, spiders, and other arthropods. In colder months they often settle for the fruit of trees and other plants.

xmountainbluebird4

Mountain Bluebird photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Although human activities have historically caused a slight decline in Mountain Bluebird populations, in more recent years humans have worked to help this species. Man-made nest boxes have provided supplemental nesting cavities these birds require for breeding, and bluebird populations are now relatively stable.

Advertisements

About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s