David Emenheiser took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana). This individual appears to be a female or immature bird. Adult males typically have brilliant blue heads, backs and upper wings with rusty-orange chests, and females, while also sporting some beautiful markings, have more subdued coloration.
Western Bluebirds in the Tehachapi Mountains are closely associated with our oak woodlands, where they spend the warmer months foraging mostly for insects, and then they switch more toward fruits and seeds in the colder months when insects get harder to find.
Western Bluebirds historically have also thrived around small farms and homesteads, with their mix of orchard trees, wooden fence posts and fencelines, and pastures. These small thrushes, which are slightly larger than sparrows, are often found around houses in outlying areas where they like to come to bird baths.
Western Bluebirds are sometimes confused with California Jays, which are in fact birds that are blue, but are not Bluebirds. Jays are considerably larger and noisier than the soft-voiced Bluebirds.
Western Bluebirds tend to spend time on low perches, then they sally forth to seize grasshoppers, ants, beetles, craneflies, caterpillars, spiders and other invertebrates that they've spotted walking on the ground.
Western Bluebirds are cavity nesters who occupy hollows and openings in trees, often using old woodpecker nests since they aren't able to excavate wood themselves. They also take readily to birdhouses built to bluebird specifications, and a Western Bluebird trail of nestboxes in Tehachapi has provided a safe place for thousands of bluebird babies that have fledged out of them.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for bluebird is chichimarazi, pronounced chee-chee-mar-OZ-eh.
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.