Erika Hoenisch Elliott took these photos of Western Bluebirds at her house. She and her family put up a bluebird box that a pair of adult bluebirds used to raise a brood of babies.

Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) are year-round residents of the Tehachapi Mountains, and are especially fond of oak woodlands and at the edges of woodlands and farmlands.

Male Western Bluebirds, especially in their resplendent cobalt blue spring plummage, flit from fenceposts to trees and back in flashes of deep blue color. The females are also beautiful, but their markings are much paler and more subdued.

During the warmer months, Western Bluebirds feed almost entirely on insects, which has always made them popular with farmers and homesteaders. In winter when insects are scarce, the bluebirds switch to eating mostly berries, from plants including mistletoe, poison oak, juniper, and others.

Western Bluebirds are entirely cavity nesting birds. With fewer wooden fenceposts, old orchards and woodlots around these days, there is greater competition among cavity nesting birds for the use of natural cavities in dead tree limbs, hollow trunks, etc.

Western Bluebirds take readily to nest boxes made by humans, providing they are the right dimensions. The North American Bluebird Society website has plans and specifications for making the ideal bird houses for them.

Members of the old Tehachapi Mountains Birding Club made more than 70 Western Bluebird houses and created a couple of bluebird box trails that are monitored and maintained to this day by Karen Pestana and friends.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern 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: editorial@tehachapinews.com.