By Hari Viswanathan
The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) is a small thrush that adds a brilliant sky-blue sparkle to the mostly brown open fields in Los Alamos County. Though far less common than the Western Bluebird, it can be found reliably in numerous locations around the county including the fields in front of the horse stables. Male Mountain Bluebirds are almost fully sky-blue unlike the deep blue of the Western Bluebird with its rust colored breast. Females have tinges of pale blue on the wings and tail but are mostly gray-brown. In the winter, Mountain Bluebirds can be found in large flocks in Los Alamos County. They can also be seen hovering to catch insects, which is a unique behavior among bluebird species. These aerial acrobats are also especially fond of juniper berries. I consider Mountain Bluebirds one of the prettiest species we have in Los Alamos County. Interestingly, a female chooses her mate based on his proximity to a good nesting site and not physical appearance of the male.
The fact that they are here year around and can be found reliably in Los Alamos County makes them a treat we can all enjoy. With natural cavities fewer and farther between, Mountain Bluebirds have been greatly helped by human-made nesting boxes.
Mountain Bluebirds have a pleasant burbling song, as you can hear below (listen well, see if you can also hear a Spotted Towhee in the background):
You can also find more detailed articles about the Mountain Bluebird on the web pages at identify.whatbird.com and allaboutbirds.org. Other great photographs of Mountain Bluebirds can be seen on websites maintained by Alan Murphy and Jacob Spendelow.