Wild Profile: Meet the mountain bluebird

mountain bluebird By Ariel Celeste Photography/Shutterstock

Mountain bluebirds may be one of the flashiest species in the West—well, the males, anyway. You can’t miss them: they’re the colour of a cloudless sky on a crisp winter day, with bright, azure-coloured backs, wings, and tails. Though many migrate out of their breeding ranges (in flocks of 20 to 200) once the cold weather hits, some keep to the coast and southern interior of B.C. to enjoy the relatively mild winter.

Size-wise, the mountain bluebird falls somewhere between a house sparrow and a robin, but behaves a little like a hawk. They forage and hunt by hovering mid-air—about one metre off the ground—then pouncing on their prey. If it’s an insect—ant, caterpillar, grasshopper, bee—a mountain bluebird will go after it. They’re also fond of spiders, and devour berries in the winter. Daily, bluebirds eat about 12 per cent of their body weight. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s roughly equivalent to an adult human scarfing a 25-lb turkey every day (except without the food coma or meat sweats, we assume).

Like bald eagles and Canadian trumpeter swans, mountain bluebirds are a back-from-the-brink success story. By 1920, some naturalists thought they were headed for extinction because of a lack of nesting sites; mountain bluebirds are picky tree cavity nesters, and since the early 1900s, had lost a lot of options because of the North American forestry practices of removing dead trees. Happily, bird lovers took up the bluebird-saving mantle and started building nesting boxes for them. Today, mountain bluebirds still benefit from these boxes.

Wanna help bluebirds and other nesting birds by providing new digs? Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch All About Birdhouses website.

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