Bluebirds Make Me Happy

If someone asked me to name my favorite bird, I wouldn’t be able to. How could I? There are around 10,500 known avian species worldwide and I have encountered only about 500 of them in my life thus far. When fellow birders say that their favorite bird is the one in front of them at any given time, it’s a sentiment I can relate to. But I would be lying if I denied that some birds’ appearance or actions are more or less appealing. While I might admire the imposing looks and graceful flight of a hawk, I don’t enjoy watching one capture and devour another bird.

For reasons not entirely clear, some birds make my heartstrings vibrate more than others, and Mountain Bluebirds are among those avian creatures who have always tugged strongly on said strings. Maybe it’s their ethereal color (variously described as cerulean, ultramarine, or azure), their sweet facial expressions, or their soft vocalizations (follow this link if you would like to hear them). But whatever the whys and wherefores, I simply have to smile when I find myself in their company, as was the case when I happened upon a group of eight in early March at Quail Lake Park, which I can reach on foot from home in fifteen minutes.

Male Mountain Bluebird

Male Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebirds occur only in western North America. They are short- to medium-distance migrants who might breed as far north as Alaska, and overwinter as far south as central Mexico, though some remain in certain states year-round, as they do in some parts of Colorado. That the Mountain Bluebird was chosen as the state bird of Idaho and Nevada is a testament to its enchanting powers.

As we know, not all members of the same family resemble one another and bluebirds are no exception. Unlike other typical members of the thrush family (Turdidae), such as Hermit or Swainson’s Thrushes, who often live in forested areas, are relatively shy, and spend much time on the ground, bluebirds prefer more open spaces and can often be found at the interface of forests and meadows. They hunt for insects, their preferred food, from perches, but will eat fruit and seeds during the winter. As cavity nesters, they traditionally laid their eggs in tree cavities, but have adapted well to nest boxes provided by humans, which they will defend aggressively from other cavity nesters (so much for the sweet facial expression). According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the oldest recorded Mountain Bluebird” was a female, and at least 9 years old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Alberta in 2005. She had been banded in the same province in 1997.”

Female Mountain Bluebird

Scientific names aren’t always informative or helpful, and I think the Mountain Bluebird is a case in point. Whoever named this species Sialia currucoides, based the genus name on the Greek sialis, a word used by Aristotle to refer to an unidentified bird, and curroides, thereby likening the bird to a European warbler, the Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca). In this manner, he called it “the bird that reminds me of a Lesser Whitethroat.” Blah!

But sometimes translations engender a more fortunate outcome, and my favorite is French, where the bird is known as “Merlebleue azuré,” the blue azure thrush, thus drawing attention to the bird’s wonderful coloring.

Male Mountain Bluebird

83 thoughts on “Bluebirds Make Me Happy

  1. I logged back into twitter for the sole purpose of sharing a link to your post! These are wonderful photos of a stunning bird. Totally gorgeous, Tanja! They sure made me smile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Botany also plays the lookalike game, with species names ending in -oides and common names that include false, as in the “false” dandelion that’s actually native in Texas—as opposed to the Eurasian dandelion that’s somehow taken to be the “real” one.

    As for bluebirds, if I haven’t already pointed you to a certain song in years gone by, here’s a pointer now.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IERLMXtMZag.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No wonder you love those blue beauties! Also, your pictures really illustrated the difference between mountain bluebirds and eastern bluebirds. In Maine, we have the latter but not the former. Both beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post impresses me with the wealth of information you provided with stunning images and in-depth writing on the bluebird. I will be looking out for this cute little bird in our area, Tanja.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bluebirds können auch glücklich machen. Ich habe gehört, sie gelten als Glücksymbol schlechthin, wenn sie wieder da sind, ist der Winter zu Ende. Deine Bilder sind so wunderbar, vielen Dank dafür. Ich habe einmal im Yellowstone mir selber die Aufgabe gestellt, unbedingt Bluebirds zu finden und es ist mir gelungen. Ich bin heute noch happy deswegen und hüte die Bilder wie einen Schatz.
    Liebe Grüße
    Maren

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had not seen pictures of Mountain Bluebirds before, Tanja. They are just gorgeous! They look almost furry to me, like something you might see on the top of a Easter Basket. Just today, I was out photographing Eastern Bluebirds (post of them coming soon) . I love comparing the similarities and differences between the two types bluebird.
    Best,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bluebirds are probably my favourite “small” North American bird. I love the startling flashes of blue as they flit between bushes. With reference to the naming of birds, the scientific name of this one may be unhelpful, but the common, everyday name works perfectly: it’s blue, it lives in the mountains and it’s a bird. Top marks, I think 🙂.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You post triggered a ‘curiosity’ – as to what makes some creatures more adorable to our eyes and soul than others…. I first looked at the images through my own eyes (and agree) .. then attempted to consider yours… then returned to study the essence of that species through your photos.

    It’s roundish, and fluffy, and yes, that softness of the blue is calming to the eyes….
    But –
    We have the Blue-gray Tanager, so why doesn’t that species become the darling of many? (Perhaps it is?)

    I concluded that it’s not so ball shaped. Your photos – especially that last one, shows a large puff of a ball with a tiny head/bill attached, and yes it makes me smile! And your Bluebird has a petite and finely-shaped bill.
    The tanager’s bill is much larger – in fact it is very difficult to paint (for me) – and it does not often have a fluffy shape unless a brisk wind affects the feathers.

    Oh, but the tanager’s song seems happy, even if it’s squeaky.
    Now you have me wondering what bird in my neighborhood has the same charismatic appeal.

    For starters, my first guess is the Vermillion Flycatcher, one that grabs anyone’s attention unless they are color deficient! Or maybe the ‘White-browed Gnatcatcher,’ —
    I wonder how many people will be contemplating which bird is top of the list for bringing joy to the eyes, heart and soul?!
    Thanks for some great food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your deep thoughts, Lisa. I think they prove that your creative mind is never at rest. I remember learning in school that baby animals appeal to humans so much because of the rounded and short features: a round body, a round head, a short nose and ears, which we consider endearing. Even though the bluebirds are adults, they still have some of those features.

      Like

  9. Excellent post with gorgeous photographs for a Spring day!

    As we speak, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds are feeding in the back yard. Hope they nest nearby!

    Thank you for sharing your mountain “blue” beauties!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A case could be made for Mountain Bluebird! If push came to shove, and I absolutely had to pick one it would be Black-capped Chickadee, that tiny, cheerful little character that braves all that winter throws at it, greets me with regularity and feeds from my hand. Now, that’s hard to beat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, David. How wonderful for you to have such trusting avian friends. Chickadees are wonderful avian ambassadors because they always seem to cheerful and confiding. I think they are responsible for getting many people interested in bird-watching.

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  11. I had also intended to mention the French name for the bland-sounding Northern Flicker. It is Pic flamboyant – Flamboyant Woodpecker. How much better is that? There are several other French names that are more evocative too – another favourite is Moucherolle tchébec for Least Flycatcher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flamboyant is indeed a perfect descriptor for flickers. The more I observe them, the more fascinated I am with them. If it weren’t so fraught and complicated, maybe we could rename some oddly named species.

      Like

  12. Daß Du den Mountain Bluebirds als Favoriten hast, kann ich sehr gut verstehen. Wunderschöner Vögel. Tolle Fotos und viel interessante Informationen. Und die Laute, die er von sich gibt, hören sich sehr charmant an 🐦

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Although I’ve rarely seen a bluebird of any sort, your Mountain Bluebird appealed to me immediately. I think people tend to notice the brightly colored birds, for obvious reasons, but this delicate blue is splendid. I smiled at your description of your response to the Mountain Bluebird. It would do for my reaction to the American Robin. It’s a bird of my childhood in the midwest, and the sight of it or hearing a snatch of its song always makes me indescribably happy. I’ve been known to click on a favorite video from time to time: an hour-long recording of Robins singing and chirping on YouTube.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think only a hardened soul would not be awed by these bluebirds’ exquisiteness, Linda.

      And I can completely relate to your happiness in connection with American Robins. I didn’t grow up with them (European Robins are noticeably different), but they sang their way into my heart very quickly. They are among the earliest and latest songsters and have been embellishing more than one gray March morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Your bird photos are simply adorable. As someone who doesn’t know the names of birds I too wouldn’t be able to name my favorite. I consider myself so lucky, though, that I see many varieties and hear their various calls throughout my day. Hoping this finds you well.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wirklich entzückende Vögel und ich freue mich gerade sehr, dass sie frei leben und ungefährdet sind.
    Der Ukraine Krieg setzt mir sehr zu, liebe Tanja.
    Unbeschwert kommentieren kann ich gerade gar nicht,
    aber ich wollte mich doch mal kurz melden.
    Heute müssen im Ecopark Feldmann in Charkiw Ukraine
    Großkatzen eingeschläfert werden.
    Es gibt keinen Ausweg mehr, der Zoo ist zerstört.
    Viele Tiere wurden schon evakuiert, aber eben nicht alle.
    Es ist ein Verbrechen an Mensch und Tier, was gerade in der Ukraine geschieht. 😥
    Ich schicke dir liebe Grüße über den großen Teich.
    Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

    • Schön von Dir zu hören, liebe Brigitte.
      Ich kann gut nachvollziehen, wie sehr Dich dieser furchtbare Krieg mitnimmt und ich hoffe von ganzem Herzen, daß er bald aufhört und wieder eine Art “Normalität” sowohl für Mensch als auch für Tier einkehren wird.
      Ich muß aber auch gestehen, daß ich das Geschehen nicht eng verfolgen kann. Vielleicht ist diese Vermeidungsreaktion egoistisch, aber ich muß mein Leben irgendwie weiterführen, und so suche ich nach wie vor Zuflucht in der Natur. Ich hoffe um deinetwillen, daß Du Deiner Seele diese Zuflucht nicht versagst, und daß Dir der Frühling viele freudige Momente beschert.
      Paß auf Dich auf und sei herzlich gegrüßt,
      Tanja

      Like

      • Ich bin ständig draußen unterwegs und habe gerade meinen Vogel 109 geschnappt, der gleichzeitig auch meine 252ste Vogelart ist die ich fotografieren konnte ☺
        Trotzdem beschäftige ich mich mit diesem unfassbar grausamen Krieg und versuche zu helfen wie ich kann.
        Finanziell und durch Bitten an meine Freunde ebenfalls zu spenden.
        Hauptsächlich für die Tiere in der Ukraine, aber nicht nur.
        Ich kann dich aber gut verstehen.
        Jeder muss das so machen wie es für ihn am besten ist.
        Viele liebe Grüße
        Brigitte

        Liked by 1 person

      • Es freut mich für Dich, daß Du viel in der Natur unterwegs bist, Brigitte, und weiterhin Vögel suchst, findest und fotografierst. Und daß Du Dich so für die Ukraine einsetzt, bewundere ich.
        Alles Liebe,
        Tanja

        Like

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