The 2 Bluebird Species Found in California! (ID Guide)

What types of bluebirds can you find in California?

common bluebirds in california

Bluebirds are one of the most popular birds in California and have captivated people’s interest and attention for a long time. These small birds, distinguished by their beautiful blue plumage, are actually part of the thrush family (Turdidae).

And while everyone WANTS to attract bluebirds to their backyard, it’s surprisingly challenging to get them to visit bird feeders. But don’t worry, if you keep reading, you will learn some proven tips you can implement today!

Below are the 2 types of bluebirds that live in California!

  • *The range maps below 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!*

#1. Western Bluebird

western bluebird - types of bluebirds in california


Look for these birds in California at the edge of forests or in open woodlands. Western Bluebirds are not often found in meadows and fields, similar to other bluebird species (Eastern and Mountain). Instead, these birds opt for the woods. Their favorite habitat seems to be areas that have been logged or burned, as these places are open but still contain many trees.


These bluebirds tend to stay close to the ground so they can fly down quickly to catch insects, which are their favorite food. They can usually be found perched on low limbs, signs, and fence posts. Western Bluebirds even stay low to the ground while flying!


Western Bluebird Range Map

western bluebird range map


You can find Western Bluebirds in California throughout the state.


Like all bluebird species, they only nest in enclosed cavities.


Competition is high for these limited spots, and they regularly compete with nuthatches, House Wrens, European Starlings, House Sparrows, swallows, and even other Western Bluebirds.


Can you attract Western Bluebirds to bird feeders?


The short answer is YES. You can attract these bluebirds to your backyard feeding station, as long as you make special provisions for them.


Here are two quick tips you can implement today!


#1. Provide foods that bluebirds will actually eat.

western bluebirds on feeder - species of bluebirds in california



#2. Choose bird feeders that bluebirds will actually use.


You should try listening for Western Bluebirds next time you are out.

YouTube video

Press PLAY above to hear a Western Bluebird!


These birds make a soft call, which phonetically often sounds like “kew” that is repeated several times.


#2. Mountain Bluebird

mountain bluebird


There are not many things more beautiful than seeing a Mountain Bluebird while hiking in the mountains. 🙂


It’s hard to mistake a Mountain Bluebird if you see one, especially the males, as they are covered with beautiful sky-blue feathers on their head, back, and wings. Females are a bit trickier since they are mostly gray-brown, with tinges of blue on their tail and wings.


Mountain Bluebird Range Map

mountain bluebird range map


In California, look for these bluebirds in open areas.


As their name suggests, Mountain Bluebirds are observed at elevations up to 12,500 feet during the breeding season. Once winter arrives, they typically fly down to lower elevations.


These birds are found in open areas, such as meadows, prairies, or pastures. They also enjoy habitat with a mix of grasses, shrubs, and trees, such as open woodlands, burned areas, or places that have had the forests thinned by logging.


mountain bluebird flying after insects

Mountain Bluebirds feast on insects during warm months and switch their diet to mostly berries in winter. But unlike other bluebird species, they are excellent aerial hunters and routinely grab insects out of midair!


Press PLAY below to hear a Mountain Bluebird!

Next time you are in a mountain valley or meadow, keep your ears open and listen for a Mountain Bluebird!


Try attracting Mountain Bluebirds with nest boxes!

species of bluebirds in california


These birds take readily to human-made nest boxes. Providing bluebirds with a suitable house is extremely helpful to them but also enjoyable for humans to watch!


Competition for nesting cavities is fierce for Mountain Bluebirds. Not only do they have to compete with each other, but also with Western Bluebirds, European Starlings, House Sparrows, House Wrens, and Tree Swallows.


In fact, finding a suitable nesting location is so important for female Mountain Bluebirds, they rarely care about anything else. She chooses her mate almost solely based on the quality of his nesting cavity, ignoring things like looks, singing skills, and flying ability!


mountain bluebird nest boxes


Luckily, Mountain Bluebirds have many friends in California that build nest boxes for them!


The North American Bluebird Society has tirelessly promoted bluebird conservation to help bring public awareness to the nesting cavity issue, along with an incredible increase in knowledge about year-round requirements and behavior of all three bluebird species.


Where have you seen bluebirds in California?


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  1. I have a pair that returned again to their box this year. So far 2 broods this summer. I feed them meal worms morning and evening. Plus they love the fountain. They show up same time everyday and wait for me. I don’t hand feed, but they would if I let them. Kat from San Diego

  2. I am visiting from Washington State. We hiked up to the water tower in Jerry Rossum Park in Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Preserve northwest of San Rafael, California on April 28th 2022. I clearly saw a mountain bluebird (not a western bluebird) with my binoculars in a tree near the water tower.

  3. I’m in the Central Valley. I saw a bird in my yard yesterday that I had never seen before. It was a little larger than a sparrow and it had grayish blue feathers. It looked a lot like a female mountain bluebird to me, but I don’t think they come down to this elevation.