Pennsylvania, also known as the Keystone State, has a diverse geography that includes rolling hills, valleys, plateaus, and the Appalachian Mountains. The state is also bisected by the Susquehanna River, which is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States. In addition to scenic landscapes, Pennsylvania is home to a variety of wildlife, including several species of blue birds. This article discusses the vibrant blue birds you can find in the state.
13 Blue Birds in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to several blue bird species, including the Eastern Bluebird, the Indigo Bunting, the Blue Grosbeak, the Cerulean Warbler, the Blue Jay, the Black-Throated Blue Warbler, the Tree Swallow, the Barn Swallow, the Purple Martin, the Belted Kingfisher, the Great Blue Heron, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and the Tufted Titmouse.
1. Eastern Bluebird
Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
Eastern Bluebirds are small songbirds, measuring 6.3-7.9 inches long. Males have bright blue plumage on their heads, wings, backs, and tails. Their chests are rusty brown, and they have a white underbelly.
Females have a similar appearance but slightly duller colors, with more grayish-blue tones. While some Eastern Bluebirds are permanent residents in Pennsylvania, others migrate southward to warmer regions during winter.
They are common in backyards, though not so much at feeders. Put up a birdhouse and try your luck in attracting a mating pair. These bluebirds are mainly insect and berry eaters, preferring wooded but open habitat without heavy ground cover.
2. Indigo Bunting
Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
Indigo Buntings are named for the bright blue plumage of adult males. They are basically blue all over, with a slightly darker shade on their head and some black on the wings. Females and immature birds have more subdued brown plumage.
These striking birds are fairly common in Pennsylvania and can be found statewide, but only during the spring and summer. After the breeding season, the males molt their bright blue feathers and replace them with brown ones, though blue streaks remain.
These insect eaters like brushy habitat such as woodland and field edges, alongside streams and rivers and overgrown fields.
3. Blue Grosbeak
Scientific Name: Passerina caerulea
The blue grosbeak typically breeds in the southern U.S., but some individuals have been reported during the nesting season in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. Male blue grosbeaks have deep blue feathers on their head, back, and breast, with rusty brown wing bars.
Their thick, conical beak, which gives them their name, “grosbeak,” helps them feast on grasshoppers and crickets as well as grains. Females are a warm brown all over with hints of blue on their rump and wings.
4. Purple Martin
Scientific Name: Progne subis
Despite the name, purple martins are actually look dark blue to most people. The male’s blue feathers can be so dark that they almost look black. Females have varying amount of gray feathers mixed in with their dark coloring.
Purple martins are large members of the swallow family, measuring around 7.5 inches in length. Their wing span can reach up to 16 inches. Though this species spends winters in South America, they migrate to North America in the breeding season. You can see these beauties start to arrive in Pennsylvania in late March or early April. The best way to try and attract them is to put up a martin house.
5. Blue Jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
Blue Jays are large birds, measuring between 11 and 12 inches in length. These birds have beautiful blue plumage on their backs and wings, with a distinctive dark blue crest on the tops of their heads. Their wings feature an almost checker-board-like pattern of blue, white, and black, and their tails feature black, horizontal stripes.
Unlike many other birds on this list, the males and females look very similar and are difficult to tell apart. Some Blue Jays live in Pennsylvania year-round, while others may migrate further south during the winter.
6. Cerulean Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga cerulea
The Cerulean Warbler is a small, migratory songbird that breeds in eastern North America, including parts of Pennsylvania. Cerulean is a shade of blue, which is where this bird gets its name. The males are cerulean blue on their heads, backs, wings, and tails.
Streaks of black and white mix with the blue on the wings and tails. Their throats and bellies are white. The females are muted blueish-green or olive in color to help them blend in with their surroundings when nesting.
Cerulean Warblers are long-distance migrants who spend the winter in northern South America and migrate north to breed during the summer. They usually arrive in Pennsylvania in late April or early May and stay until September. These warblers like to forage at the very top of tall trees, so you’ll have to point your binoculars high up to catch their flash of blue.
7. Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga caerulescens
The male Black-throated Blue Warbler is slate blue on its back, head, and wings, with a distinctive jet-black throat. Its chest and belly are white, providing a stark contrast to the rest of its plumage.
The females look completely different, with olive-brown feathers along the upper parts of their bodies and a buff color on their chests and bellies. These migratory birds spend winter in the Caribbean but arrive in Pennsylvania in late April or early May to breed. Rather than spending their time in the treetops, they prefer to search for insects in the understory and lower canopy.
8. Tree Swallow
Scientific Name: Tachycineta bicolor
Tree swallows are long-distance migrants, spending the winter in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America before migrating north to breed. They usually arrive in Pennsylvania in early to mid-spring. Adult male and female tree swallows are iridescent dark blue feathers on the upper parts of their bodies.
They can look electric blue or emerald green, depending on how the light hits them. Their chests and bellies are white, and their wings and tails are dark brown. Look for them swooping and circling over fields as they catch flying insects in the air. They often nest in the same type of birdhouses as bluebirds.
9. Barn Swallow
Scientific Name: Hirundo rustica
Barn swallows have a distinctive appearance with long, pointed wings, a deeply forked tail, and a slender body. They have metallic blue upper parts, including the head and back, and pale orange underparts.
Barn swallows can be seen throughout Pennsylvania during the breeding season, which is typically between early spring and fall. These birds are highly social, and multiple mating pairs can be seen nesting near the same area. Both parents help build the nests, incubate the eggs, and care for the young. Look for their mud nests placed up under eves of barns, bridges and gazebos.
10. Belted Kingfisher
Scientific Name: Megaceryle alcyon
The belted kingfisher has a particular silhouette that is easy to pick out. They have a bulky body with barley visible legs, a thick sword-like beak, short tail and big shaggy mohawk. The belted kingfisher has a blue-gray head, wings, tail and upper chest. They have a white belly and white stripe around the throat. Females also have an orange band across the belly, giving them their “belted” name.
Its sharp, long beak is perfectly made to snatch crayfish, fish, amphibians, and other aquatic creatures out of shallow water. The best place to look for belted kingfishers is around lakes, streams, swamps, and large ponds. They remain in the state year-round.
11. Great Blue Heron
Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
The great blue heron uses its long legs to hunt for food by walking through shallow water. This common heron species can be found throughout Pennsylvania year-round. They’re the largest herons in North America, standing about 4.5 feet tall.
They have grayish-blue feathers, a white face and large yellow beak. Great blue herons inhabit many types of freshwater and saltwater habitats, stalking their prey by walking slowly or standing still until the time is right to strike with their sharp beak.
12. Tufted Titmouse
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
These little birds are very common at feeders and in backyards within their range, which is the eastern United States. While not a very bright blue, these titmice have a definite blue hue to their silver-gray back. Their bellies are light gray with a hidden patch of orange along their side.
Tufted Titmice are primarily insectivores and have a diet that includes insects and spiders, but they also eat seeds, berries and nuts. They can be acrobatic when probing for insects or grabbing berries, hanging upside down and flitting around the ends of tree branches. A common bird throughout Pennsylvania year-round.
13. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Scientific Name: Polioptila caerulea
The small, active blue-gray gnatcatcher has a bluish-gray upper parts, pale underparts, a white eye ring, black tail with white outer feathers, and a black “eyebrow” that gives them a bit of a grumpy look. Their tail is typically pointing upwards when this bird is perched on a branch or other object, like a wren.
This tiny bird is constantly moving, flitting around branches, leaves and buds to find insects. Look for them moving energetically through the trees in the spring and summer months when they come to Pennsylvania to breed.
Mary is an outdoor enthusiast, nature lover, and amateur birdwatcher that enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.