• Western bluebirds in the Sierra foothill garden

    by  • October 27, 2011 • Fall, Sierra Foothills, Wildlife • 19 Comments

    The bird bath has attracted a flock of Western bluebirds

    The bird bath has attracted a flock of Western bluebirds

    One of my favorite color combos is cobalt blue and turquoise. That is why I like this picture!  These are Western Bluebirds, Sialia mexicana, and have appeared here in my Sierra foothill garden for the first time this Fall. I’ve never seen them here in the ten years we’ve had the property. 

    The Western Bluebird is a small thrush found throughout the Western US from Mexico to British Columbia.  They like open forests rather than meadows and nest in tree hollows and between bark and trunk. They are usually year-round residents in central California’s oak woodlands, but not here until the steady water source was provided in the way of the bird bath.

    Vivid cobalt blue make these little birds a pleasure to see!

    Vivid cobalt blue make these little birds a pleasure to see!

    The male is bright cobalt blue, head, wings and back, rusty brown chest and has a grey belly.  See the female in the first photo and how it is more muted steel grey.

    These ruffled little guys will now go take a dust bath as well.

    These ruffled little guys will now go take a dust bath as well.

    Duck down and close your eyes

    Duck down and close your eyes

    Splish splash, I was takin' a bath..

    Splish splash, I was takin' a bath..

    I’m delighted by the idea that these birds live in cooperative groups with mating pairs as well as other kin who help at the nest, feeding young and living nearby. Western bluebirds eat insects in summer and fruits and seeds in winter and have a fondness for the sticky berries of the oak mistletoe.

    Hey! You lookin' at us?? Yeah, we're cude.

    Hey! You lookin' at us?? Yeah, we're cuude.

    As soon as the sun appears shortly after 7am over  Peckinpah Ridge, the birds arrive as if on a schedule. They drink and bathe within sight of my windows as I have my coffee in the early morning. Many times it’s one type of bird at a time at the bird bath, either the Jays or the Bluebirds or the goldfinches.

    All clean... which way to fly?? Next task,...food!

    All clean... which way to fly?? Next task,...food!

    “For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to
    be most vividly, most perfectly alive.”
    David Herbert Lawrence


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    19 Responses to Western bluebirds in the Sierra foothill garden

    1. Joe
      October 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      Oh, I do love bluebirds. We have a lot around here too. They are so pretty. 🙂

      • October 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        Thanks, Joe. I’ve been working on a list of native plants existing here on our place for the past year and enjoying it so now I’d like to start on a list of wildlife here, too. It seems the water has brought them here and I’m glad to see them!

    2. October 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Great pictures Sue. The Bluebirds are so pretty.

    3. October 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      Simply great pictures!

    4. October 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm

      Wonderful photos. Wish we had the Western bluebirds here in OK. I love your birdbath ideas!

    5. October 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Julie! I never thought I would ever see a bluebird…I always thought they were in the east or in the higher elevations. I was so happy to see these. Bluebirds of happiness, I guess.

      Thanks, Pat, I hide behind the curtains and look through the camera viewer so the birds don’t get scared. So fun to see them all, especially these and the Lesser Goldfinches.

      Thanks, okcgardener, the birdbath has really made a difference in the number of birds that visit. I fill it with fresh water and I think they must see it from above,…like a reflection.

    6. Donna
      October 27, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Just beautiful!

    7. October 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      What wonderful bluebird photos! The little puff balls in the 3rd photo are having the best time in your bird bath. We’ve always had bluebirds come to the grooming area to grab horse hair for their nests, but we lost our old fella this year. Maybe I can provide fresh water instead.

    8. October 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Cute! I’ve never seen these. I don’t think we have enough trees in the valley to attract them.

    9. October 28, 2011 at 7:49 am

      I think you are so lucky!! I’m just happy when the robins stop here in Texas temporarily on there way north or south. We should be expecting a yard full soon, I hope. I’m going to look for some pretty glass to put in the bird baths too.

    10. October 28, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Oh my goodness! What great photos!! Lucky you to get bluebirds! I’ve never seen one.


    11. October 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

      A little flock of five western bluebirds showed up this morning, flitting about the roof and rain gutters of our garden shed before moving onto the blueberry bushes and beyond. Thanks to your post, I learned that they travel together. And your photos are fabulous!

    12. October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks, Donna!
      Katie, thanks, yes do try providing water, you may see them again. I have to remember to put out our dog’s hair for the bird’s to use. heaven knows she provides enough of it.
      Gayle, I find it interesting that they are here for the first time for us here. What surprises are next??
      Marilyn, see now, robins I rarely see, but planting more natives here and the water have encouraged them,…I’m glad, too.
      Tammie, thanks! I don’t have a long lens so i depend on hiding out to get photos. I had never seen one before either.
      Thanks, Joan, it’s noce to know that they visit you as well. Busy little creatures…

    13. Monica
      October 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Love the photos! I wonder how the birds figure out which places are good… have the water, bugs or seeds, etc?

    14. Bridget Staley
      October 29, 2011 at 6:48 am

      Do you think the Insulators have anything to do with attracting the birds to the water bath? And how easy is it to clean out with all that glass in there?

      • October 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

        Hi Monica, Thanks! I think birds are attracted to plants that would naturally live in their native homes. The problem is when native plants are removed to build in suburbs and cities. The birds need certain native plants and will return if they are planted again. I wrote more about this in an article here: *Inviting wildlife to your Sierra foothill garden *http://exm.nr/t6waHH

        These bluebirds live near oak trees, live in their hollows and eat the bugs and seeds that they are used to in this mostly natural forest area.

        Hi Bridget! Birds are attracted by water reflections they see from above and also by dripping water of any kind. The insulators? I don’t know if they add to the sprakle, but maybe!

        I scrub the bird bath about once a month to keep the algae out. I keep an pld scrub brush on the patio so it’s easy. I don’t worry about a bit of slime on the insulator bottoms, but rinse them a*nd* the birdbath with a bit of bleach a couple times a year. Most important, the bird bath is filled with fresh water most everyday.

    15. October 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

      I have never seen a Western Bluebird in the wild, but now I know why. They’re all in your bird bath! I love it! The ruffled little ones splashing about are simply adorable. It’s official…I’m jealous! 😉

    16. November 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Wow – fantastic. I have not ever seen them here on the central coast and wish I did! Our birdbath is not used so much this year – we cut back some growth around it and they just don’t want to visit so much. 🙁 I like all the birds, even the little brown ones – they are all as DH Lawrence said – so vividly alive. Love that quote. Haven’t read any DH in a long time. Maybe time to pick him up again.

      • November 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

        Thanks, Mouse! I do love the birds… living leaves falling. Just keep filling the bird bath with water and I’m sure they will come…it’s so dry.

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