Bird BiosOther Blue Birds

Other Blue Birds

Blue Jay. Wikimedia Commons phtos
A Blue Jay. Wikimedia Commons photo.

The Bluebird (one word) isn’t the only blue bird. It isn’t even the bluest. Female Eastern Bluebirds often don’t look blue at all unless in flight. Only 2% of North American Species have blue feathers. The birds most commonly confused with bluebirds by novices are the Jays and the Indigo Bunting. (Tekiela) Small cavity nesters that are blue or blue-ish include Tree Swallows, Violet-Green Swallows and Purple Martins. Indigo Buntings are very blue, and are often confused with bluebirds. Other small to medium-sized native birds with blue bodies include:

  • Buntings: Blue Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, Painted Bunting, Varied Bunting
  • Jays: Blue Jay, Florida Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Pinyon Jay, Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub-Jay
  • Swallows: Bahama Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow
  • Warblers: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cerulean Warbler
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Blue Grosbeak

Here’s an alphabetical list of North American species with blue or blue-ish bodies, sorted by common name. (Notice several have “cyan” in their scientific names.) Click on any photo (from Wikimedia Commons) for a larger view. For more ID tips, distribution maps and to listen to songs, see Cornell, Patuxent, or What Bird online guides, or get a good birding ID book. ( I am not a birder by any means! All I can recognize are small cavity nesters, so don’t bother contacting me for help.)

Name (Common) Name (Scientific) Photo Distinguish from Bluebird Location in U.S.
Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis Green back, blue upper wings, green cap extending below eye, white belly and chin FL, Bahamas
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow More slender, glittering blue-black upperparts, red-brown forehead chin and throat. Belly is white to orange. Deeply forked, long tail. Everywhere
Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon belted kingfisher More gray, large head, larger overall, bushy crest, white throat and underparts, large dagger-like bill, male has blue-gray breast band. Female has a rusty belly band. One of the few species where female is snazzier than the male. Everywhere
Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroica caerulescens black-throated blue warbler Smaller, male has dark blue upperparts, slate blue/black throat and mask. White underparts with black sides and white wing patch/spot on folded wing at base of primaries. NE US, SE Canada
Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea blue grosbeak Larger, bright purple-blue body, black face, two wide rufous/brown wing bars, thick silvery bill; female mostly brown. South, SW
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata blue jay Larger, pale gray underparts, head crest, neck surrounded with black necklace, wings and tail have prominent black bars and white patches. E, Midwest
Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea Cerulean Warbler Smaller, faintly streaked underparts, black band separates white throat and belly. Wings have two bold, broad white bars. E
Florida Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma coerulescens Florida Scrub-Jay Larger, pale eyebrows, gray throat, blue-gray streaks on breast (no crest) Central Florida
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting Short, thick bill. Brilliant, irridescent blue all over; female dull brown. Crown is darker blue with purple tint. Wings and tail have black edges. E from middle of US, parts of SW
Island Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma insularis Larger, upper breast, throat and chin are white with streaks. Head is blue with a gray mask and narrow white eyebrow. No crest, long tail. Santa Cruz Island, CA
Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena Lazuli bunting Cinnamon-brown breast and sides, white belly (breast very like an Eastern Bluebird). Wings have a white wing bar. Short, thick bill, longer tail. Breeding male has bright blue head and back with red chest and white belly like Eastern and Western Bluebirds. West
Mexican Jay Aphelocoma ultramarina Mexican Jay Large, pale gray underparts (no crest), long tail SW and Mexico
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris Painted Bunting Small, finch beak, with patchwork of red chest, blue head and green back. Red eye-ring. Wings have green shoulder patches. Females are bright greenish yellow. Southern Midwest and TX
Pinyon Jay Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus Pinyon Jay Larger, stockier, head is dark blue (no crest), large pointed bill, very short tail. W
Purple Martin Progne subis Purple Martin Larger, glossy dark purple-blue body (male entirely bluish-black), forked tail. Many areas except NW and parts of SW and intermountain W
Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri Steller's Jay Larger, stockier, crest. Head is darker blue. In some areas they have white streaks on faces. West
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor Tree Swallow More slender, shorter bill, longer wings, iridescent, shiny blue-green upperparts, snowy white underparts. Tail is the same color as back and slightly forked. All over
Varied Bunting Passerina versicolor Varied Bunting Small thick bill. Looks dark, but in perfect light may look blue. Purple-blue with red wash on throat, breast and back. Nape and eye-rings are red. Wings and tail are purple blue. Female dull tan. AZ, NM, TX
Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica Western Scrub-Jay Larger, pale gray underparts. Dark-streaked white throat bordered by dark blu e necklace. Interior race has a much paler necklace that is hardly noticeable, throat is more pale and barely shows streaks. Long tail. West

References and More Information:

Be like the bluebird who never is blue,
For he knows from his upbringing what singing can do
– Cole Porter, Be Like the Bluebird, 1934


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