Western Bluebird - Sialia mexicana
FWP Conservation Tier
Small thrush, 16.5 to 19 cm in length, 24 to 31 g mass. Plumage sexually dimorphic. Adult male has bright, deep, cobalt-blue head (including chin and throat) and upperparts (including wings and tail), with chestnut breast (chestnut coloration may be bisected, laterally, by blue), and frequently chestnut back patches. Remaining underparts grayish, becoming blue-gray on belly and undertail-coverts. Adult female considerably duller and not extensively bluish. Head and throat gray, back gray-brown, abdomen and undertail-coverts grayish, blue in wings and tail. Adult plumages are similar throughout the year (Guinan et al. 2000).
See Kaufman (1992) for detailed information on identification of bluebirds.
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)
Western Bluebirds can usually be found in open coniferous and deciduous woodlands, parklike forests, edge habitats, burned areas and where moderate amounts of logging have occurred, provided a sufficient number of larger trees and snags remain to provide nest sites and perches (Guinan et al. 2000).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at email@example.com
or (406) 444-3655.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. Special Publication No. 12. Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists. 278 p.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Open Water / Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Insects during the warmer months, but forages primarily on berries and fruits through the winter. Wintering individuals are especially abundant in years and in areas when mistletoe and juniper berry crops are plentiful (Guinan et al. 2000).
Nests usually found in rotted or previously excavated cavities in trees and snags, or between trunk and bark. Eggs are subelliptical to short subelliptical. Pale blue in color, occasionally white, unmarked. Clutch size typically 5 eggs (range 2 to 6). Near Fortine, egg dates are from May 8 to June 26. The young leave the nest as early as June 9. The latest date for young in the nest is July 7.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View WorldCat Record View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. 829 pp.
- Bailey, A.M. and R.J. Niedrach. 1965. Birds of Colorado. Denver Museum of Natural History. 895 pp.
- Diem, K. L. and S. I. Zeveloff. 1980. Ponderosa pine bird communities. In: R. M. DeGraff and N. G. Tilghman, eds. Workshop Proceedings: Management of western forests and grasslands for nongame birds. USDA. Forest Service General Technical Report INT-86. p. 170-197.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont.
- Dobkin, D.S. 1994. Conservation and management of neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. Univ. Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho. 220 pp.
- Econ, Inc., Helena, MT., 1988, Wildlife monitoring report, 1987 field season, Big Sky Mine. March 1988. In Peabody Mining and Reclamation Plan Big Sky Mine Area B. Vol. 8, cont., Tab 10 - Wildlife Resources. Appendix 10-1, 1987 Annual Wildlife Report.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Farrand, J. 1983. Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding, No. 2 Gulls to Dippers. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York. New York, pp 176-178.
- Flath, Dennis L., 1982, Statewide small mammal distribution and habitat association. Mammalian Nongame Ecology Studies, NG-1.0, 1. Avian Nongame Ecology Studies, NG-2.0, 1,2,3,4. Statewide Wildlife Research. Nongame Wildlife Research & Inventory. W-120-R-13 (5853) IV.
- Guinan, Judith A., Patricia A. Gowaty, and Elsie K. Eltzroth. 2000. Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana). Species Account Number 510. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Hejl, S.J., R.L. Hutto, C.R. Preston, and D.M. Finch. 1995. Effects of silvicultural treatments in the Rocky Mountains. In: T. E. Martin and D. M. Finch, eds. Ecology and Management of Neotropical Migratory Birds. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. pp.220-244.
- Hutto, R. L. 1995. Composition of bird communities following stand-replacement fires in Northern Rocky Mountain (U.S.A.) conifer forests. Conservation Biology 9: 1041-1058.
- Johnsgard, P. A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2001: Beaverhead Gateway, Dillon, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.011. July 2002. In 2001 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, 6th Edition. Montana Audubon: Helena, MT, 144 pp.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Scott, V.E. and J.L. Oldemeyer. 1983. Cavity-nesting bird requirements and responses to snag cutting in ponderosa pine. Pages 19-23 in J. W. Davis, G. A. Goodwin, and R. A. Ockenfels (tech. coords.). USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-99.
- Scott, V.E., J.E. Whelan, and P.L. Svoboda. 1980. Cavity nesting birds and forest management. Pages 311-324 in Management of Western Forests and Grasslands for Nongame birds. U.S. For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-86.
- Thompson, Richard W., Western Resource Dev. Corp., Boulder, CO., 1996, Wildlife baseline report for the Montana [Montanore] Project, Lincoln and Sanders counties, Montana. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operation, Montanore Project, Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana. Vol. 5. Stroiazzo, John. Noranda Minerals Corp., Libby, MT. Revised September 1996.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"