About The Western Bluebird
The Western Bluebird is a delicately charming long-winged but short-tailed bird commonly seen in open woodlands and pastures in the West where old trees provide nest spots. Normally 6 to 7 long, the male Western Bluebird has a deep cobalt blue hood, upperparts and throat. It has a rusty red breast and a crescent mark across its upper back. Its belly and undertail covert wings are grayish white. The female is less colorful with brownish gray hood and breast and flanks with a chestnut hue. Its wings and tail are a dull blue and it has the prominent white eye ring common to thrush birds of which it is actually a member. The young Western Bluebirds are similar to the female but usually have pale rusty, not grayish, throat. The average Western Bluebird weighs around 24 to 31 grams.
The Western Bluebird Nesting Preference
Western Bluebirds can be found in open coniferous and deciduous woodlands, wooded riparian areas, grasslands, farmlands, and edge and burned areas. Secondary cavity nesters, Western Bluebirds like to build their nests in naturally created cavities on trees and snags as well as cavities previously created by other birds like the woodpecker. Because they are secondary cavity nesters, they are not averse to living in man-made nest boxes.
The female Western Bluebird builds the nest by herself sometime early May or June using dry grass, straw, conifer needles, fur, string, or bark strips. The nest is normally situated 2 to 5 meters above the ground. The female then lays 4 to 6 pale blue eggs which it incubates for 12 to 18 days. While the female is incubating, the male brings her food. Two broods are produced by the female bird each season with the second batch of eggs produced after the first batch has fledged. Once all grown, the young Bluebirds from both the first brood as well as the second brood come together and form a single flock that stays together until the time comes for migration.
Building a Birdhouse For The Western Bluebird
As secondary cavity nesters, the Western Bluebirds find no difficulty living in a man-made wooden birdhouse. In fact, studies have shown that Bluebird houses situated in a good area help to increase the Bluebird population.
One thing to remember when putting up a birdhouse for Western Bluebirds is to have it up by end of February in areas surrounded by wide-open spaces like golf courses, cemeteries, gardens and expansive lawns where an abundance of insects is available for the birds to feed on.
Situate the birdhouses at 4 to 6 feet above the ground and 50 to 100 yards apart. Make the houses face south or southeast, if possible. Choose locations where trees, shrubs, utility wires or fences are within 25 to 100 feet of the houses. These structures will serve as perches for the Western Bluebirds when feeding. These perches can also help young birds during their first flights.
The Western Bluebird Mating Habits
The Western Bluebird is monogamous. The male normally finds its partner while traveling with others in a group during winter. The female Western Bluebird is attracted by the vivid blue color of the male and by the availability of a nest hole that is always scarce. Once the male is able to secure a nesting hole, the female is enticed to join him. They then form a pair and the male protects his partner and nest from rival birds as well as predators. The male Western Bluebird has helpers who assist in protecting the nest while he is away foraging for food. These helpers may be an older offspring or other birds that have lost their partners. They help the male protect the female and the nest from rival birds and predators.
The Western Bluebird Feeding Preferences
The Western Bluebird hunts for food from perches. Feeding mostly on insects and animals like grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, bugs, and spiders, it swoops down to the ground to capture its prey. If the prey is too big, it beats it against the ground or a tree branch before eating it. During the winter, the Western Bluebird feeds on juniper and mistletoe berries. Fruit becomes part of its diet from late summer to early spring.
Interesting Western Bluebird Facts
According to genetic studies, 45% of Western Bluebirds nests carried young that were not offsprings of the male partner. In fact, Western Bluebirds are also helped by other birds belonging to a different specie altogether. Swallows have been seen feeding and defending the nests of Western Bluebirds.