Natural Sightings #566 - Western Bluebird and Pyracantha Berries.jpeg

A male Western Bluebird makes a meal of pyracantha berries.

Randy Weinstein took this photo in Stallion Springs of a male Western Bluebird feeding on pyracantha berries.

Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) are beautiful year-round residents of the Tehachapi Mountains. They are primarily insectivores during the warmer months, catching a variety of arthropods like caterpillars, grasshoppers, craneflies, beetles, spiders, ants, wasps, etc.

When the weather turns cold and invertebrates are harder to find, Western Bluebirds turn mostly to berries, including those produced by native plants like elderberry, mistletoe, juniper, etc.

They will also avail themselves of the berries on cultivars like grapes, pyracantha and mountain ash (which are actually rowan trees, rather than true ash trees). Ed Sampson of the late, lamented Mourning Cloak Ranch Botanical Garden on Old Town Road planted mountain ash, which produce large clusters of orange or red berries that cling to the tree well into winter, specifically to provide wintertime forage for birds, especially Western Bluebirds.

These are birds of our oak woodlands and mixed habitats, and Western Bluebirds are comfortable with foraging around homes in the wildland urban interface, especially when there are berries like these pyracantha, or nest boxes built to Western Bluebird specifications. They are fastidious birds, and will also readily visit bird baths.

Males are more colorful, especially in the breeding season, with splendid royal blue back, wings and head, and a rusty-orange vest on their chest. Females and immature birds are more drab colored.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Western Bluebird is chichimarazi, pronounce chee-chee-mar-OZ-ee.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.