Many birds are blue in color, but only three species of true bluebirds live in the United States – Eastern, Western, and Mountain Bluebird. There cheerful little birds are many people’s favorite for their lovely coloring and sweet songs. In this article we will talk a little about the three bluebird species, and then take a look at 10 birds similar to bluebirds.
Birds Similar To Bluebirds
First let’s talk a bit about bluebirds.
The Eastern Bluebird is found in the eastern half of the United States, and the Western Bluebird inhabits the west coast and southwestern region of the U.S. They have slight color variation differences but are very similar in appearance. They’re both blue with an orange rust-colored breast. The Mountain Bluebird differs from the other two in that it doesn’t have the light orange color and instead is a paler blue color on its breast. They live in the Rocky Mountains.
As with many songbird species, males display more vibrant colored plumage than females, so our descriptions will focus on the bright colors of male birds. Females have similar coloration but their colors are quite pale in comparison. Bluebirds have small, thin black beaks and distinct black eyes.
Bluebirds are mainly insect eaters, so seed feeders don’t tend to interest them much. Providing mealworms is a good way to try and attract them to your yard, and they will sometimes eat suet. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and will readily use a birdhouse, so putting up a nestbox can also be a good way to attract them. In more northern states, they may only visit during the breeding season, but are year-round residents in many parts of the country.
Now let’s see some birds with similar colors or characteristics to the bluebird.
1. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
The Blue Jay is found in many of the same habitats in the United States as bluebirds. They primarily live in the eastern half of the country. They have a blue back and white belly like bluebirds, but that is where their similarities end.
The most noticeable difference is their size. Blue jays are larger than bluebirds, and have a long and slender shape where bluebirds are more compact and round. Blue Jays also have black markings and crests on their head, and bluebirds don’t. As members of the corvid family, Blue Jays are much more aggressive than bluebirds and very territorial.
2. Indigo Bunting
Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
The Indigo Bunting is a small bird that might easily be mistaken for a Bluebird because of its vibrant indigo color. Indigo Buntings share the same summer habitat as the Eastern Bluebird. The main difference between the two birds, other than their beautiful shades of blue, is their breast color. The Indigo Bunting has a blue breast, and the eastern Bluebird’s is orange.
They bear the most resemblance to the Mountain bluebird. And while the two do share some of their range, they aren’t often seen in the same locations. The Indigo bunting has black on its wing, a larger beak, and blue all the way down their belly where the mountain bluebird would have some white.
The Indigo Bunting has the nickname of “blue canary” because of its tiny size that is comparable to a canary. The Bluebird is slightly larger. Like bluebirds, the females are much duller.
3. Blue Grosbeak
Scientific name: Passerina caerulea
Male Blue Grosbeaks are brightly colored, like the Bluebird, and their habitat covers many of the same eastern areas of the country as Eastern Bluebirds, except Blue Grosbeaks extends to the Southwest. From far away, you might not be able to tell the difference, but upon closer inspection of the beak, you will notice blue grosbeaks have a chunky beak. The Bluebird’s beak is much smaller and more delicate.
The Blue Grosbeak has a solidly blue body that is evenly colored. The Eastern and Western bluebirds have orange on their chest and some white underparts. Even the all blue Mountain bluebird is usually a lighter shade of blue, and has a paler blue chest compared to the rest of its body. Another feature unique to the Blue Grosbeak is the rusty brown bands on their wings.
4. Tree Swallow
Scientific name: Tachycineta bicolor
From a distance you may see the blue back, white front, small beak and squat head of a tree swallow and see a resemblance to bluebirds. However the coloring on tree swallows is very iridescent and can look green, purple, or blue depending on the lighting. Their breast is fully white with no orange. They have dark rather than blue wings, and you’ll notice they are long and trail behind the swallow even when it is sitting perched.
The habitat of Tree Swallows extends across the North American continent except for the northernmost frozen tundra. Despite the name, Tree Swallows also live in areas that don’t have trees. They are very adaptable birds and have a wide range of habitat preferences. They are aerial acrobats and can be seen swooping and circling over meadows and fields, catching insects as they fly.
Like bluebirds, they are cavity nesters and will often use the same types of nestboxes that bluebirds will.
5. Lazuli Bunting
Scientific name: Passerina amoena
Lazuli Bunting most closely resembles the western Bluebird in their color and appearance. This Bunting is found in the same habitat areas as the western and mountain Bluebird. The light orange breast of the Lazuli Bunting makes it hard to distinguish it from the western Bluebird.
The primary color difference is the darker-colored wingtips of the Lazuli Bunting. Western and Mountain Bluebird do not have prominent dark, almost black tips on their wings. Bluebirds also do not have wingbars, where this bunting has two white wingbars. The Lazuli Bunting is also smaller in size with a thicker bill.
6. Steller’s Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri
The stately Steller’s Jay shares the Mountain bluebird’s Rocky Mountain habitat because they breed in higher elevations. They migrate to lower elevations during the winter. While they share a blue black and tail in common, the Steller’s Jay are much darker than the bluebird.
This Jay has a charcoal-colored head and neck that fades into a bright blue on their body. Steller’s Jay also has the head crest like their blue jay cousins. However, they’re also much larger than the Bluebird.
7. California Scrub-Jay
Scientific name: Aphelocoma californica
The California Scrub-Jay is the Pacific Coast version of the Blue Jay. They prefer a habitat of dry shrublands and oak woodland areas. California Scrub-Jays are a bright blue with white bellies, similar to the Bluebird.
However, Scrub-Jays have a distinct bright white under their chin and on their breast, and a gray back. Western Bluebirds have a rusty orange chest that sometimes extends onto their back. The body shape of the jay is also notably different, with a much larger beak and long body and tail.
8. Belted Kingfisher
Scientific name: Megaceryle alcyon
The Belted Kingfisher is found throughout North America along rivers, lakes, and shorelines. They share feathers colors of blue, white and orange with bluebirds, but pretty much everything else about them is different!
You can easily identify a Belted Kingfisher by the ragged crest on its head, its straight, thick beak, and the white bands on its neck and breast. Females have some orange on their chests. Their shape is quite different too. Belted Kingfishers are thick and stocky, with large heads and short tails. Their huge beak alone is a good giveaway that they are a different species.
Kingfishers perch above water, watching intently for fish. When they see one get close, they dive head first into the water and catch the fish with their long, spear-like bill.
9. Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Scientific name: Polioptila caerulea
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a tiny little bird with a long tail and a stout body. They are a blueish-gray color with a light underbelly. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers might have more blue than gray, making them look similar to Bluebird. However, the main difference in color is the Gnatcatcher’s light-colored underside with no orange or blue, and their black tail with white edges.
While they share a lot of the southern habitat of the Bluebird, Gnatcatchers have a broad range but low population numbers. They are always on the go, flitting through foliage looking for bugs.
10. Black-throated Blue Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga saerulescens
The male Black-throated Blue Warbler has a distinct midnight blue color down its back and a black face and throat. They also have white on their belly. They lack the orange breast of the bluebird, and their black face sets them apart. These warblers are also much smaller than bluebirds. They have a stocky plump body and a short straight beak.
Black-throated Blue Warblers migrate to the Caribbean and Central America for the winter and spend the rest of the year breeding in the eastern United States.