Mountain Bluebirds, especially males, are on most folks’ short lists of favorite birds. That electric blue color, their early arrival in spring migration and the lovely song, explain why it is both Idaho’s and Nevada’s state bird. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Mountain Bluebirds were in slow decline across much of their range. They are cavity nesters, and generally depend upon woodpeckers to create those nesting cavities. As the invasion of Eurasian Starlings and House Sparrows – both introduced from Europe – has continued, Mountain Bluebirds were out-competed for those precious nesting cavities. Ornithologists think that Mountai Bluebirds early arrival is itself a strategy for getting those natural nesting cavities before other birds do.
That led to the effort to create lots and lots of bluebird boxes across the Inter-Mountain West. Now there are “Bluebird Trails” across much of their range. The great Al Larson – the Bluebird Man – alone placed some 350 nest boxes across Idaho, and at age 96 still helps in maintaining and monitoring those boxes. To a lamentable extent, many of those boxes were appropriated by House Wren and Tree Swallow, also cavity nesters, but the effort seems to have helped and, depending upon the location, populations are stable or even increasing.
While the bluebird boxes may have helped save the species across much of its range, the pleasure of finding a nesting pair in a natural cavity is real. WC and Mrs. WC found such a pair in a roadside aspen, with a Northern Flicker-sized hole. We parked and watched for a while. These photos are the result.
The pair was a bit reluctant to go to the nest cavity with us watching, but eventually decided we weren’t a serious threat.
The pair continued about their business and, sadly, so did we, off to do a Short-eared Owl survey. WC will end the blog post with this last photo.
3 thoughts on “Notes on Mountain Bluebirds”
Oh, I love that you were able to find a Mountain Bluebird natural nesting cavity! The images are wonderful WC and it is a real treat to view them.
Amazing photos; thank you for sharing! Enjoyed watching a female mountain bluebird pluck a worm from my field in Meadows Valley this morning. Stunningly beautiful birds, always a treat when they return in spring.
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