The bluebird is a beautiful bird found all over North America, including California. California has two common types: the western bluebird and the mountain bluebird.
The western bluebird is the most common in California and can be seen in woodlands, meadows, and suburbs. They are about 6 inches long with a deep blue color and an orange breast in males (paler in females).
The mountain bluebird is found in higher areas of California. They are slightly bigger and have a brighter blue color. Males have a white breast, while females have pale blue.
Both types of bluebirds make their nests in cavities, often using nest boxes provided by bird lovers. Bluebirds commonly eat insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and wasps, as well as fruits and seeds.
This blog post will provide you with a guide to the species of bluebirds commonly found in California, as well as tips on attracting them to your yard.
Blue Birds in California
Bluebirds are a famous sight in California for good reason. These beautiful birds are not only a joy to see, but they also help to control insect populations. The other types of blue birds in California are –
- Western Bluebird
- Mountain Bluebird
- California Scrub Jay
- Steller’s Jay
- Pinyon Jay
- Lazuli Bunting
- Indigo Bunting
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Barn Swallow
- Tree Swallow
- Belted Kingfisher
- Great Blue Heron
- Little Blue Heron
- Blue Grosbeak
- Purple Martin
- Cliff Swallow
- Island Scrub Jay
Let’s dive into these blue birds’ habitat, colors, diet, behavior, and attracting tips.
1. Western Bluebird
The Western Bluebird lives in open woodlands, grasslands, and meadows with scattered trees. You can often see them sitting on fence posts or low branches.
Their diet includes insects, berries, and fruits, which helps control insect populations.
Male Western Bluebirds have striking blue feathers on their backs, with an orange-brown breast and a touch of blue on the throat. Females have paler blue colors and grayish-buff underparts.
To see them, go to places like the Sierra Nevada foothills, coastal areas, or parks with enough nesting spots and food.
If you want to attract them to your yard, set up nest boxes in open areas.
2. Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebirds prefer open spaces at higher elevations, such as mountain meadows, grasslands, and alpine regions. They eat insects and berries, and they hover in mid-air while hunting for insects.
Male Mountain Bluebirds have vibrant sky-blue feathers on their upper parts, while females have paler blue wings and light grayish-blue breasts. To see them, visit mountainous regions like the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, or the Rocky Mountains.
To attract Mountain Bluebirds to your backyard, provide nesting boxes at higher elevations with clear flight paths.
3. California Scrub Jay
California Scrub-Jays are commonly found in chaparral, oak woodlands, and urban gardens. They eat insects, seeds, nuts, and sometimes small vertebrates like lizards and young birds.
These jays have striking blue plumage with a grayish-brown back, a long tail, and a prominent crest on their head.
Look for them in parks, gardens, and residential areas across California, especially where there are oak trees and shrubby vegetation.
To attract California Scrub Jays to your garden, offer bird feeders with nuts, seeds, and suet.
4. Steller’s Jays
Steller’s Jays Prefer coniferous forests and wooded areas. Often observed in the canopy or near forest edges. Has a diverse diet, including insects, seeds, nuts, berries, and occasionally small vertebrates and eggs.
Colors and Appearances: Steller’s Jays are characterized by their deep blue feathers, striking black heads, crests, and white markings on their face and neck.
Best Places to See: Explore forests in the coastal regions and the Sierra Nevada to spot Steller’s Jays in their natural habitat.
How to Attract Them: Offer peanuts in shells or sunflower seeds in feeders to attract Steller’s Jays to your backyard.
5. Pinyon Jays
Pinyon Jays are commonly found in pinyon-juniper woodlands, pine forests, and areas with abundant pine seeds. They mainly eat pine seeds and other nuts and are known for their food-storing ability.
These jays have a unique appearance with blue-gray plumage, black barring on wings and tail, and a crest on their head. To see them, visit regions with significant pine forests, such as the eastern Sierra Nevada or the California-Nevada border.
To attract Pinyon Jays to your property, create a bird-friendly yard with pine trees and offer pine seeds in feeders.
6. Lazuli Buntings
Lazuli Buntings like open woodlands, bushes, and near streams, and they often sit on branches.
They eat seeds, insects, and berries, which helps control insect numbers.
Male Lazuli Buntings look amazing with blue feathers on their head, back, and chest, and an orange throat. Females have more dull brownish-blue feathers on top and pale undersides.
In California, you can spot Lazuli Buntings in grasslands, oak savannas, and canyons.
To attract Lazuli Buntings to your yard, put out different seeds and small insects in bird feeders.
7. Indigo Bunting
They live in brushy areas, woodland edges, and overgrown fields. They often sing from high perches. Their food consists of seeds, insects, and fruits.
Their brilliant blue feathers make them easy to spot. Male Indigo Buntings have intense, shimmering blue plumage all over, while females have more subdued brownish-blue feathers with hints of blue on their wings and tail.
Best Places to Look for them in parks, gardens, and areas with dense vegetation and shrubs.
To invite Indigo Buntings to your garden, provide a mix of seeds, fruits, and insects.
8. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are commonly found in woodlands, forest edges, and riparian areas, where they flit and hover while catching insects.
Their diet primarily consists of small insects, caterpillars, and spiders. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers live up to their name with soft blue-gray plumage on their upper parts and a distinctive white eye ring.
Best Places to See: Look for them in coastal areas, canyons, and wooded regions across California.
How to Attract Them: Create a bird-friendly space with diverse plantings to attract Blue-gray Gnatcatchers to your yard.
9. Barn Swallow:
Barn Swallows prefer open areas with access to water, such as fields, wetlands, and coastal marshes.
They are skilled aerial insectivores, feasting on flying insects caught during acrobatic flights.
Barn Swallows have stunning cobalt-blue plumage on their upper parts, rusty red forehead, and a deeply forked tail.
Watch for them swooping over open fields, near bodies of water, and around barns and structures that offer suitable nesting spots.
Create mud puddles or offer mud pellets as nesting material to attract Barn Swallows to your property.
10. Tree Swallow
Tree Swallows prefer open areas near water, including marshes, ponds, and lakeshores, where they nest in tree cavities or artificial nest boxes.
They are also adept insectivores, capturing insects during agile flight maneuvers. Tree Swallows showcase iridescent blue-green plumage on their upperparts and white underparts, with a slightly forked tail.
Best Places to See: Spot them near bodies of water and in open fields with suitable nesting sites.
How to Attract Them: Provide nest boxes near water sources to attract Tree Swallows to your backyard.
11. Belted Kingfisher:
The Belted Kingfisher is often spotted near water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and coastal shorelines, where they perch on branches and dive into the water to catch fish.
Their primary diet consists of fish, supplemented with aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Belted Kingfishers have striking blue plumage on their head and back, with a prominent white collar, and a distinctive white and blue breast band.
Visit riverside parks, lakeshores, and coastal areas with abundant fish populations to catch a glimpse of these skilled anglers.
How to Attract Them: Offering a suitable nesting bank near water sources can attract Belted Kingfishers to your area.
12. Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Herons inhabit a wide range of wetland habitats, including marshes, lakes, and coastal estuaries.
They are excellent fishers and wade in shallow water to catch fish, frogs, and other small aquatic creatures.
Great Blue Herons have striking blue-gray plumage with a distinct black stripe over their eyes, a long neck, and a dagger-like bill.
Look for them in coastal regions, wetlands, and protected nature reserves across California.
How to Attract Them: Creating a healthy and undisturbed wetland habitat can attract Great Blue Herons to frequent your area.
13. Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Herons prefer coastal saltwater and freshwater marshes, where they forage for fish, frogs, and crustaceans.
They feed on fish, small amphibians, and invertebrates found in shallow waters.
Adult Little Blue Herons have slate-blue plumage with a maroon-colored head during the breeding season, transitioning to bluish-green after.
Spot them in coastal estuaries, marshes, and lagoons with plentiful food sources.
How to Attract Them: Preserving and restoring coastal wetlands can attract Little Blue Herons and other waterbirds to your area.
14. Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeaks inhabit open woodlands, grasslands, and scrubby areas, often perching on elevated branches or wires.
Their diet mainly consists of seeds, insects, and berries, making them valuable for natural pest control.
Male Blue Grosbeaks showcase a brilliant blue plumage on their head, back, and breast, while females have a more subdued brown color.
Best Places to See: Look for them in grasslands, agricultural fields, and scrubby areas with abundant food sources.
How to Attract Them: Providing bird feeders with a mix of seeds and insects can attract Blue Grosbeaks to your yard.
15. Purple Martin
Purple Martins are aerial acrobats and prefer open areas near water, including lakeshores and riversides, where they catch flying insects on the wing.
They feed exclusively on flying insects, making them valuable for pest control. Male Purple Martins have iridescent blue-purple plumage, while females have duller gray-blue feathers.
Best Places to See: Look for them near bodies of water and in open fields with suitable nesting sites, such as man-made martin houses.
How to Attract Them: Providing martin houses or gourds mounted on poles can attract Purple Martins to nest in your area.
16. Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallows are known for building their gourd-shaped mud nests under cliffs, bridges, and eaves of buildings, often near water.
They are insectivores, catching flying insects during their aerial foraging flights.
Cliff Swallows have steel-blue plumage on their upper parts and a buff-colored forehead and throat.
Best Places to See: Spot them near water sources, cliffs, and structures that provide suitable nesting sites.
How to Attract Them: Offering mud sources and building materials, such as puddles or damp soil, can attract Cliff Swallows to build nests near your property.
17. Island Scrub Jay
Island Scrub Jays are found on California’s Channel Islands and prefer chaparral, oak woodlands, and coastal scrub habitats.
Their diet consists of insects, fruits, seeds, and acorns. Colors and Appearances: Island Scrub Jays have a bright blue plumage with a lighter blue crown, a white forehead, and a black bib.
Best Places to See: Visit California’s Channel Islands to observe these unique and endemic jays in their natural habitat.
How to Attract Them: Due to their limited range, attracting Island Scrub Jays requires preserving and protecting their natural island habitats.
How to Attract Blue Birds in California?
To attract bluebirds to your backyard in California:
- Provide food: Offer a bird feeder with a mix of sunflower seeds, millet, and mealworms to attract bluebirds with their preferred food.
- Offer water: Set up a shallow birdbath or fountain for the bluebirds to drink and bathe.
- Install a nest box: Place a nest box with a small entrance hole (about 1.5 inches in diameter) in an open area, protected from predators.
- Create a suitable habitat: Plant native shrubs and trees, and leave some areas unmowed to provide open spaces with low vegetation and perches for the bluebirds to hunt insects.
- Avoid pesticides: Refrain from using pesticides, as they can harm the insects that bluebirds rely on for food.
By following these simple steps, you can attract beautiful bluebirds to your yard and enjoy their presence year-round.
Best Places to See Bluebirds in California
Here are some of the best places to see bluebirds in California:
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Home to Western bluebirds, Mountain bluebirds, and Blue-gray gnatcatchers. You can also spot other desert birds like roadrunners, quails, and hawks.
- Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge: A great spot to see Western bluebirds and various waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and swans.
- Elkhorn Slough: Look for Western bluebirds, Mountain bluebirds, and Blue-gray gnatcatchers, along with other shorebirds like egrets, herons, and pelicans.
- Point Reyes National Seashore: Find Western bluebirds, Mountain bluebirds, and Blue-gray gnatcatchers here, and enjoy other marine birds like pelicans, cormorants, and gulls.
- Santa Cruz Mountains: Home to Western bluebirds, Mountain bluebirds, and Blue-gray gnatcatchers. You may also spot forest birds like warblers, thrushes, and woodpeckers.
These places offer great opportunities to see these beautiful bluebirds in their natural habitats. Do some research to find a spot near you to enjoy these delightful birds.
Bluebirds are a welcome addition to any backyard. They are beautiful, helpful, and relatively easy to attract. If you are interested in attracting bluebirds to your yard, there are a few things you can do. First, provide them with a nesting box. Second, plant native plants that attract insects, which are a major part of the bluebird diet. Finally, be patient. It may take some time for bluebirds to find your yard, but once they do, you will be glad you did.