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How to identify bluebirds

How to Identify Eastern Bluebird. Photo by Brian E. Small
Eastern Bluebird, adult male. February in Montgomery County, Texas. Photo by Brian E. Small

If we tried to design a bird to be popular with humans, it would be hard to invent anything more appealing than the Eastern Bluebird. It has beautiful colors, a soft, musical voice, and seemingly gentle behavior. It readily takes to birdhouses provided for it along the edges of yards and farms. What’s not to like? Its only serious competition might come from its two closest relatives. The three species of bluebirds that make up the genus Sialia form a very distinctive group, unique to North America.

The Eastern Bluebird is the most widespread of the three, with an odd and partly disjunct distribution. It’s a widespread breeder east of the Rockies in the U.S. and southern Canada, becoming scarce in southern Florida and southernmost Texas. But then it’s also resident in southeastern Arizona — the northern tip of a population that extends southward, mostly in the highlands, through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and northern Nicaragua. A permanent resident in many areas, it withdraws in winter from the northernmost stretches of its range. 

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media