12 Birds That Are BLUE In Illinois! (ID GUIDE)
Did you see a BLUE bird in Illinois?
If so, I’m sure you’re wondering what type of bird it was! Luckily, you can use the guide below to help you figure it out.
And let me clarify, “When I say blue birds, I mean birds that are partly or entirely blue.” Surprisingly, there are 12 blue birds in Illinois that we will be looking at in this guide
I have included information on males and females of each species. But please note that MOST male species are bluer than females. Sometimes the female is more moderately blue or a different color entirely.
To learn more about other birds that live near you, check out these guides!
There are 12 birds in Illinois that are considered “blue.”
#1. Blue Jay
- Cyanocitta cristata
- Backs are covered in beautiful blue feathers with black bars throughout. Underparts are white.
- Their head is surrounded by a black necklace that has a blue crest on top.
- Males and females look the same.
Some people dislike Blue Jays, but I love their bold personalities. Their high intelligence makes these birds interesting to observe, not to mention their plumage is stunning.
Blue Jay Range Map
Typically, they visit feeders noisily, fitting as much food as possible in their throat sacks and then leaving quickly to cache their bounty. My favorite foods to use are whole peanuts, as Blue Jays are one of the only birds that can crack open the shells to access the inside! You can also use sunflower seeds and corn to attract them.
These birds are also excellent mimics and frequently imitate hawks. They are so good it’s hard to tell the difference between which bird is present. It’s thought that jays do this to deceive other birds into believing a hawk is present. Not a bad plan if you want to get a bird feeder all to yourself!
Blue Jays are one of the noisier birds in Illinois you will hear.
The most common vocalization that I hear is their alarm call, which sounds like it’s saying “jeer.
#2. Barn Swallow
- Hirundo rustica
- Small bird with a flat head, thin bill, pointed wings, thick neck, and fork-like tail.
- Both sexes are similar striking metallic blue, rusty brown underparts, rufous colored forehead, and throat. White spots on the tail are typically visible during flight. Females are as bold in colors.
These blue birds are typically found in Illinois in open fields, meadows, pond marshes, or coastal waters.
Barn Swallow Range Map
Barn Swallows prefer to eat larger insects rather than eating groups of smaller ones. Therefore, they primarily feed close to water or the ground catching insects in mid-air.
This blue bird doesn’t typically ever come to bird feeders. But you may get lucky if you leave out eggshells or oyster shells on a platform feeder. These foods aid in their digestion.
One interesting fact about Barn Swallows is sometimes; an unmated male will kill young birds in a nest to break up the parenting Barn Swallow couple. Then the unmated male gets together with the female.
Both males and females sing a long warbler song full of warbling notes and mechanical sounds. Listen below.
#3. Cliff Swallow
- Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Small head, rounded body, and square tail.
- Both sexes look similar with dark blue on backs and crowns, rust-colored faces, dark wings, orangeish rump, and white underparts.
- Whiteish tan mark above bill, which sometimes is brown.
If you see a flock of birds that are blue in Illinois, it may be a bunch of Cliff Swallows!
These social birds are found in large flocks, often around in various habitats. They prefer grasslands, towns, and river edges but are many times seen around bridges. They also like to stay away from forests and deserts.
Cliff Swallow Range Map
This species typically builds mud nests on cliffs. But now, because of so many manmade structures, they also make their nest under bridges and overpasses.
The Cliff Swallow primarily forages for food in the air in flocks up to over 1,000 individuals during the day.
Cliff swallows songs are odd sounding with grinding sounds and squeaks. It kind of sounds like if someone was twisty a balloon and trying to make a balloon animal. Listen below.
#4. Belted Kingfisher
- Megaceryle alcyon
- Both sexes are bluish-gray with white around the neck and underparts—long mohawk feathered crown with a long bill.
- Females are blue-gray and white and have more bright colors than males. Females also have a rust-colored belly.
- Males are blue-gray with a white band on their neck and a blue-gray band on their breast.
This species gets the award for being one of the coolest-looking birds that are blue in Illinois. Its distinct high crown feathers and large long bill on its tiny body should help you quickly identify them.
Belted Kingfishers are found in water habitats almost everywhere.
Fortunately, you can attract them to your backyard if you have a pond or goldfish pool.
Belted King Fisher Range Map
You will find the Belted Kingfisher near the edges of water like lakes, rivers, or ponds. From here, they hunt their prey by diving from their perch to get fish from the water.
These birds don’t have a song but give mechanical rattles as calls, often even for the slightest thing. If frightened, they have been known to let out a scream. Listen below to their call.
#5. Indigo Bunting
- Passerina cyanea
- Males are entirely blue with striped wings and silver bills.
- Females are brownish with a streaked white breast. Only a little bit of blue on wings, tail, or rump.
Indigo Buntings are stunningly beautiful blue birds in Illinois. No wonder they are known as the Blue Canary.
Indigo Bunting Range Map
In summer, look for this species in open woodlands like edges of woods or forests. They may also be along roads or water sources. In winter, they are more likely in grasslands, lawns, shrubs, and trees.
Luckily, you can attract these blue beauties to your backyard with nyjer thistle seed. They like insects, so you could also try live mealworms.
Surprisingly, this bird migrates at night by following the stars. They can do this because they possess an internal clock that helps them adjust their angle to the star’s orientation in the sky.
Male Indigo Buntings sing over 200 songs in an hour at dawn. Listen below to their high-pitched notes that are sharp but clear.
#6. Purple Martin
- Progne subis
- Larger swallow, with a slightly hooked bill, long tapered wings, and short forked tails.
- Males are a deep blueish purple with brownish-black wings and tails.
- Females are duller in color, white belly, and gray on the head and chest.
You are probably thinking, “Why is a Purple Martin in an article about blue birds?”
It is because they are primarily more blue than purple!
This bird’s habitat is broad, and they prefer an open area as long as it is by a lake or pond.
Purple Martin Range Map
Purple Martins prefer to eat insects year-round and are swift flyers. They glide and make big circles in the air as they catch prey. They can fly as high as 500 feet in the air.
To attract these species try putting out a Purple Martin birdhouse during the breeding season. You should make sure it has a guard to protect the eggs from predators. This species enjoys eating broken eggshells, which helps their digestion.
Both sexes sing songs. The male songs are a deep gurgling warbler “tee, tee, tee.” Female songs are more joyful.
#7. Tree Swallow
- Tachycineta bicolor
- Small bird with a tiny bill.
- Males are greenish-blue on upperparts, long and pointy black wings, and white on the belly.
- Females are not as bright in color and brown upper parts.
You will typically find Tree Swallows by bodies of water in shorelines, marshes, or fields, where they breed and can find tons of insects to feed on. This species will even bathe by flying over the water, skimming their bodies on the surface, and shaking off the droplets.
Tree Swallow Range Map
This blue bird prefers to eat insects, but they visit backyards with fruit shrubs, such as Mayberry.
After breeding season, Tree Swallows gather in large groups up to hundreds of thousands to migrate and molt.
Both males and females sing a cheerful but shrill song. Listen below.
#8. Little Blue Heron
- Egretta caerulea
- Adults have a slate-gray body and a purple-maroon head and neck.
- Juveniles during their first year, these herons are entirely white!
- Look for a two-toned bill, regardless of the bird’s age, which is gray with a black tip.
Little Blue Herons are blue wading birds in Illinois found in shallow wetlands.
They are patient hunters and will stay motionless for long periods, waiting for prey to pass by them. While waiting, they keep their daggerlike bill pointed downwards to be prepared for the moment a fish, amphibian, insect, or crustacean appears.
Little Blue Heron Range Map
As you can see above, juvenile Little Blue Herons look entirely different than adults! It’s thought that these birds adapted this white plumage to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets, who catch more fish. Hanging out with large flocks of white herons also probably helps with avoiding predators. 🙂
Little Blue Herons are mostly silent, but it is possible to hear them squeaking when alarmed. They also emit various screams and croaks while nesting at a colony.
#9. Blue Grosbeak
- Passerina caerulea
- Stocky grosbeak with a vast, triangular bill.
- Males are deep, rich blue birds with a small black mask in front of the eyes, chestnut wing bars, and a black and silver beak.
- Females are primarily cinnamon-brown. The color is richer on the head, paler on the underparts; their tails are bluish.
These blue birds will visit bird feeders in Illinois that offer sunflower seeds. To help them feel more protected, place your feeding station near shrubs and other brushes. You’ll typically hear them singing before you see them.
Blue Grosbeaks Range Map
Blue Grosbeaks are very shy, especially around humans, which makes them challenging to observe. Interestingly, both males and females have a weird habit of twitching their tails sideways, although the reason for this behavior is unknown.
Blue Grosbeaks have also been known to “sidle,” where they walk sideways along branches, as seen in parrots.
Listen below as the male Blue Grosbeak sings a musical warble that lasts for 2 or 3 seconds.
#10. Black-throated Blue Warbler
- Setophaga caerulescens
- Males are larger warblers with a small bill—deep blue on upperparts and white underneath, with a black face and throat.
- Females are greenish-gray all over; some have tints of blue on their wings or tail feathers.
- Both sexes have a white square patch on their wings, which will help to identify them.
This blue bird (males only) is found in Illinois, and in the winters, they migrate south to the Caribbean. And who wouldn’t want to do that!
You will typically find Black-throated Blue Warblers in the forests foraging on low twigs looking for spiders or caterpillars.
Males sing to defend their territory and chase off other males. The songs are thick rising notes. Listen below.
#11. Eastern Bluebird
- Sialia sialis
- Males are vibrant blue with a rusty chest and throat, which makes them relatively easy to identify.
- Females look similar, but the colors are more subdued.
Few birds are as pretty as an Eastern Bluebird. Thanks to their cheerful disposition and amazing beauty, these birds are always a pleasure to see, both for birders and non-birders alike!
These bluebirds are common in Illinois and are found in open areas. Look for them in meadows, fields, cemeteries, golf courses, parks, backyards, and even Christmas tree farms!
Eastern Bluebird Range Map
The primary diet of the Eastern Bluebird changes with the seasons. During warmer months, insects caught on the ground are their primary source of nutrition, such as beetles, crickets, and spiders. However, when bugs go away in winter, their diet switches to fruit and berries found on trees.
These birds have a beautiful call. Listen for a liquid-sounding warbling song that consists of 1—3 notes, which is typically given several times in a row. You can also listen to Eastern Bluebirds by pressing play below!
#12. Cerulean Warbler
- Setophaga cerulea
- Small warbler, with a small bill, and sits in a horizontal position.
- Males are sky blue with a white belly and black streaks all over. The wing has 2 white lines.
- Females are blueish-green and mostly yellow all over—faint white over the eye and two white stripes on the wings.
The female Cerulean Warbler is known to have an odd way of leaving the nest. Some call it bungee jumping. First, the female falls out the side of the nest with wings down at her side. Then once below a bit from the nest, she will begin to fly.
These blue birds breed in Illinois, then migrate a long distance to South America.
Cerulean Warbler Range Map
Cerulean Warblers are hard to see! This is because they prefer the tops of the canopy WAY up in forests, where they forage for insects on the branches.
You have a better chance of hearing one before seeing. Listen for the males’ buzzy song while searching for food in the trees.
Do you need additional help identifying a blue bird you have seen?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these blue birds have you seen before in Illinois?
Leave a comment below!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of the World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site often to learn new information about birds.