Female bluebirds with their more modest plumage of blue-gray, dull copper, and white, may not be as eye-catching as the males with their striking blue plumage and coppery chest, but they play a crucial role in the survival of the species.
Bluebirds have caught the eyes of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts for a long time with their sweet songs, but while the male may be more vibrant, the female is no less important.
In this article, we explore the behavior of female bluebirds, how to identify them, and what role they play in the survival of the species.
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How to identify Female Bluebirds
There are three species of Bluebirds in North America: Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, and Eastern Bluebird.
Distinguishing between male and female Mountain Bluebirds is quite easy but you have to be a bit more observant when it comes to Eastern and Western Bluebirds.
Eastern and Western Bluebirds themselves are quite similar, with bright blue plumage on the upper part of their body, coppery chest and sides, and white abdomen.
Their female counterpart is quite similar but much duller in color. The blue on their head and back is replaced by light bluish-gray tones and the only real blue, albeit a bit duller, is on their wings and tail.
Male Mountain Bluebirds are azure-blue all over with lighter tones on their abdomen. The female Mountain Bluebirds have dull gray-brown plumage with blue on their wings and tail.
They can also have a pale rust-colored throat and chest although that’s not always the case.
The song and call of male and female Bluebirds are similar but used for different purposes.
The male Bluebird is known for its warm, quite low-pitched warbling, which he uses to communicate with his mate or young. On the other hand, the female Bluebird rarely sings and usually opts for shorter, less melodic calls, so if you hear one of them singing, it is most likely a male.
Eastern Bluebird’s song is a fairly low-pitched warbling with a few whistles which altogether lasts for about 2 seconds. Males sing that song from higher ground, either in flight or from a high perch, when they try to attract a mate.
Males also sing when comforting their mate when she’s laying eggs and for communicating with other males. Females sing when they notice a predator or when their mate is absent. Their call is a soft tu-a-wee that lasts less than a second, which they use to keep in contact with each other and coordinate.
Western Bluebirds tend to string together various call notes and whistles, so it doesn’t sound particularly melodic, but rather a soft and stuttering song that lasts about 1-2 seconds. Their call is a soft kew when in flight or on a perch or chattering when disturbed or moving around.
Mountain Bluebirds have two types of songs. At dawn, they sing a loud chirruping song, and throughout the day, their song is a soft warble that lasts for minutes. Their call is a soft, non-musical tew or high-pitched tink when alarmed. Research suggests that it is mostly males who sing.
All in all, females rarely sing and rather use calls, but are known to do so when there are predators nearby.
Bluebirds are generally quite tolerant of human presence and can often be seen visiting birdhouses or nesting boxes. They also adapt well to suburban environments, as long as there are nearby natural areas for foraging.
When it comes to their social interactions, Bluebirds will mostly form a monogamous relationship with their mate during the breeding season.
However, female Bluebirds can choose to mate with another male, and the same goes the other way around. In rare cases, the pair can accept an additional female to their nest that helps take care of their young.
On the other hand, they’re highly territorial and when it comes to defending their nest and territory, both sexes may fight until death, but females are especially fierce.
Female Bluebirds do most of the work. The male will bring the first nest-building materials, but from there on, the female will have to do material-gathering and nest-building herself. Females will also do most of the work when it comes to caring for the young, from hatching the eggs to feeding the nestlings.
Learn more: Bluebird Nest Boxes
Bluebirds are also known to form mixed-species flocks with other types of birds, and in the winter, they may form flocks with other Bluebirds. These flocks provide protection and increase the chances of finding food.
Lifecycle of a Female Bluebird
Bluebirds can live from 6 to 10 years old, although on average they last a few years due to different factors such as predators, etc.
The lifecycle of a female bluebird can be broken down into several stages: breeding, nesting, raising the young, and the time between.
- Breeding: At the beginning of the breeding season, female bluebirds begin to look for a suitable mate. The males will put on a display and the females choose the one they like best. Once a male and female have paired up, they will work together to choose, establish, and defend a territory.
- Nesting: Once a territory is established, the female Bluebird will start to build a nest in a natural cavity or a nest box. This involves gathering fine plant material and shaping it into an open cup, which can take from days to a week.
- Raising the young: Once the nest is complete, the female will lay a clutch of 3-7 pale blue, rarely white eggs that are a little under an inch wide and long, which she will incubate alone for approximately 13-16 days. She may lay her eggs in other nests as well if she doesn’t have a nest of her own. The female is the primary caretaker; she keeps the offspring warm and feeds them.
- The young will leave the nest after about 3 weeks.
- The time between: After the young have left the nest, the pair will often stay together for the winter and defend their feeding territory. Female Bluebirds typically lay eggs only once a year but may have a second brood as well.
How can you tell a male bluebird from a female?
Male and female Bluebirds have similar color patterns, but the females are duller and have more gray. Males have bright blue plumage, whereas the females are grayish brown, and have a pale rust-colored chest and blue on their wings and tail.
What color is a female bluebird?
Female Bluebirds have grayish plumage on the upper part of their body, dull copper-brown chest, white abdomen, and bluish wings and tail.
Do bluebirds mate for life?
Most Bluebirds mate for life, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll only copulate with their mated partner.