Nesting in many remote areas, where it is less affected than the other bluebirds by competition for nest sites with Starlings and other invaders, the Mountain Bluebird was also named as the Nevada state bird in 1967.
The powder-blue male Mountain Bluebird is among the most beautiful birds of the West. Living in more open terrain than the other two bluebirds, this species may nest in holes in cliffs or dirt banks when tree hollows are not available. It often seeks its food by hovering low over the grass in open fields. During the winter, Mountain Bluebirds often gather in large flocks, even by the hundreds, sometimes associating with Western Bluebirds.
Male Mountain Bluebirds are sky-blue, a bit darker on wings and tail and a bit paler below, with white under the tail. Females are mostly gray-brown with tinges of pale blue in the wings and tail. They occasionally show a suffusion of orange-brown on the chest. Mountain Bluebirds’ bills are entirely black. Juveniles have fewer spots than the young of other bluebirds and lack spotting on the back.
Unlike other bluebird species, Mountain Bluebirds often hover while foraging; they also pounce on their insect prey from an elevated perch. In winter, the species often occurs in large flocks wandering the landscape feasting on berries, particularly those of junipers.
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Mountain Bluebirds are common in the West’s wide-open spaces, particularly at middle and higher elevations. They breed in native habitats such as prairie, sagebrush steppe, and even alpine tundra; anywhere with open country with at least a few trees that can provide nest cavities. They also readily take to human-altered habitats, often nesting in bluebird boxes and foraging in pastures.
For a while in the 20th century, the population was in decline, but it has managed to bounce back a bit.
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