I’ve primarily watched the Mountain Bluebird in the past, but recently I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Western Bluebird. One I began looking at low perches on bare tree branches, I spotted them frequently. While we are building the van in Northern California, I have enjoyed watching these beauties.
The Western Bluebird often came out during the foggy winter mornings. I would often see two pairs together with two males and two females. It gave me motivation to get up in the mornings and get in a little bird watching before van projects.
Sometimes, I see the males by themselves, but most times I see a pair. While the male Western Bluebird has brilliant purple-blue tones mixed with a rust belly, the females only have blue accents. Both the Mountain and Western Bluebirds exhibit this sexual dimorphism.
In the evenings, as we clean up our van project for the day, I see them on telephone wires. They sometimes frequent the diagonal wires that stretch from the post to the ground. I don’t always see them there, but when they do rest on the wires, a flock of Brown Headed Cowbirds often sit on nearby wires.
As part of the Thrush Family, they are also related to the American Robin. I love finding these taxonomic connections!
Western Bluebird General Characteristics
- Male head, throat, back, and wings deep blue, sometimes purply with breast and sides shades of orange.
- Female has a brown-gray head, throat, and back with some lighter shades of orange on breast and sides and not as vibrant blue wings.
- Shorter bill and more purple tones in the blue tones than the mountain bluebirds
- Males find nesting area and attract females with a colorful display
- 4-6 light blue eggs
- Makes a nest in trees or bird boxes, will use deserted woodpecker holes
- Likes wooded areas and farmland
- Will sometimes go to the desert in the winter
- West Coast of the United States north into southern BC and south into Baja and Central Mexico
- East to the Rocky Mountains and western Texas
Western Bluebird and the Nature Journal
The Western Bluebird is a great place to begin your backyard nature journal. It’s also a great beginner bird to learn if you’d like to get into birding. Because of the rich purple-blues in its features, you can see it without binoculars or a camera. They showed up in both my January and February 2021 Species Lists.
Here, as with most of my spreads, I begin with a photo. For me, photography is the most enjoyable element of nature journaling. I usually sketch from my photos. Because birds often move on quickly, I find that I can study the bird anatomy much better from detailed photos. While I photograph a bird, I pay attention to its behavior. When it decides to leave, I make quick notes for later journaling.
Since the sketches take up a large amount of space, I sketch them from a photo then add writing around them. Everyone has a different process and this is mine. I came to this process from trial and error. While I like the idealism of sketching birds outside, I find it impractical for my level of sketching.
I had already read quite a bit about bluebirds as I learned about the Mountain Bluebird. But when I first spotted the Western Bluebirds out here in Northern California, I pulled out a field guide. When it comes to bird identification, I prefer the National Geographic Birds of Western North America. It focuses more on the differences between male and female birds and it shows the immature plumages as well.
I didn’t end up with too much room for field notes unfortunately. I often like to leave more room for them. This sketch just came out a little big!