Western Bluebird

A Western Bluebird weathers a snow flurry in Bear Valley Springs.

Contributed by D. L. Caldwell

D. L. Caldwell took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) as it weathered a snow flurry. Western Bluebirds are year-round residents of the oak woodlands and savannahs of the Tehachapi Mountains, and they are also found in the mixed trees and grassland habitats of farms and rural homes.

Western Bluebirds have begun nesting this month, and they will be seeking cavities in which to nest. These are typically either built and then abandoned by woodpeckers, or they may be naturally-occurring hollows in dead limbs or even fence posts. Bluebirds readily take to nest boxes, and the nesting success of all three species of North American bluebirds — Western, Mountain and Eastern — have been improved through the placement of tens of thousands of bluebird nest boxes.

Like many songbirds, Western Bluebirds feed their babies primarily insects. A particularly good source for nesting songbirds are craneflies, the gangly, long-legged flying creatures that resembled greatly oversized mosquitoes. These appear in abundance in spring and are easy to catch, even for songbirds that are normally seed eaters.

Bluebirds are primarily insect eaters, so they are able to catch a wide variety of arthropod prey to feed their hungry nestlings. Baby birds need a lot of protein to achieve the rapid growth needed to fledge, so insects and other invertebrates are a good choice for songbird parents.

The Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Piute) word for Western Bluebird is chichimarazi, pronounced chee-chee-mar-RA-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: editorial@tehachapinews.com.