Daniel Curnow took this photo in Golden Hills of a male Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) perched on a oak branch. These charming songbirds are year-round residents of the Tehachapi Mountains, and they are especially characteristic of our oak woodlands and areas with mixed tree cover and shrubs.
Western Bluebirds eat primarily insects and other invertebrates in the warmer months, especially those at or near the ground like grasshoppers, craneflies, caterpillars, snails, beetles, spiders, ants, etc. Sometimes you can see a bluebird sally forth from a fencepost or similar perch to catch an insect on the wing, but more often than not they dart down to the ground to catch some prey they've seen crawling around.
In the colder months when insects are in short supply, Western Bluebirds must show dietary flexibility and switch to eating berries and seeds. When nesting season arrives, like most songbirds they feed primarily insects and other arthropods to their babies. This protein-rich diet helps their chicks grow rapidly.
Western Bluebird songs tend to be a series of upward chirps followed by a whistled notes. Bluebirds are active, industrious birds and their songs and calls reflect this cheerful briskness.
A couple of bluebird trails were created by students and Tehachapi High and members of the former Tehachapi Mountains Birding Club in 1999, and Karen Pestana and several volunteers continue maintaining the trail and monitoring nesting success to this day. More than 2,000 Western Bluebird chicks have successfully fledged from those boxes in the ensuing 20 years.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for bluebird is chichimarazi, pronounced chee-chee-mah-RAH-zi.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.