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10 Blue Birds in Michigan

blue birds in michigan
Belted Kingfisher in Jackson, Michigan: Photo by Michael Woodford

Introduction

Michigan, with its diverse ecosystems ranging from woodlands and wetlands to urban parks, provides a rich habitat for a variety of bird species. Among the avian inhabitants of the state are several striking blue-colored birds, each with its own unique features and behaviors. From the majestic great blue heron to the charming blue jay and the elusive cerulean warbler, these birds add vibrancy and beauty to Michigan’s landscapes. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the fascinating blue birds in Michigan home, delving into their characteristics, behaviors, habitats, and conservation status.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

  • Features: Great blue herons have a striking blue-gray plumage on their bodies, with a contrasting white head and neck. They have long legs, a dagger-like bill, and a distinctive black stripe running above their eyes.
  • Behavior: These birds are skilled hunters, patiently waiting for fish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures to come within striking distance before swiftly capturing them with their sharp bills. They are also known to feed on small mammals, reptiles, and even other birds.
  • Habitat: Great blue herons prefer to inhabit a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, lakeshores, and riversides. They can also be found in urban areas near ponds, reservoirs, and even golf courses.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

  • Features: Belted kingfishers have a stocky build, with a large head, shaggy crest, and long, pointed bill. They are predominantly blue-gray in color, with a white collar and underparts, and a broad, blue band across their chest.
  • Behavior: Kingfishers are highly skilled hunters, capable of hovering in place over the water before diving headfirst to catch their prey with their sharp bills. They are known for their distinctive rattling call, which is often heard as they fly along rivers and streams.
  • Habitat: Belted kingfishers prefer to inhabit areas with clear, slow-moving water, where they can easily spot and catch fish. They often excavate nesting burrows in sandy riverbanks or cliffs near their hunting grounds.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

  • Features: Blue jays are medium-sized songbirds with bright blue upperparts, white underparts, and a striking black necklace-like band across their chest. They have a distinctive crest on their heads, which they can raise or lower depending on their mood.
  • Behavior: Blue jays are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of foods, including seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and small vertebrates. They are also known to cache food for later use, storing nuts and seeds in hidden locations throughout their territory.
  • Habitat: Blue jays inhabit a range of forested habitats, including deciduous and mixed woodlands, as well as parks, gardens, and urban areas with mature trees. They are often heard calling from high perches or seen flying between trees in search of food.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

  • Features: Tree swallows have glossy blue-green upperparts and white underparts, with a distinctive iridescent sheen that varies in intensity depending on the lighting conditions. They have long, pointed wings and a slightly forked tail, which helps them maneuver with precision during flight.
  • Behavior: Tree swallows are highly social birds, often forming large flocks during the breeding season and roosting together in communal roosts outside of the breeding season. They are insectivorous, feeding primarily on flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and beetles.
  • Habitat: Tree swallows prefer open habitats with access to water, such as marshes, meadows, and lakeshores, where they can find an abundance of insects to feed on. They nest in tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, or artificial nest boxes, often in close proximity to water.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

  • Features: Purple martins have glossy purple-blue upperparts and dark brown underparts, with a distinctive forked tail and long, pointed wings. Males and females have similar plumage, although females may have slightly duller colors.
  • Behavior: Purple martins are highly social birds, often nesting in large colonies consisting of dozens to hundreds of pairs. They are skilled aerial hunters, catching insects on the wing with their wide gapes and agile flight maneuvers.
  • Habitat: Purple martins prefer open habitats near water, such as marshes, lakeshores, and rivers, where they can find an abundance of flying insects to feed on. They nest in cavities, often using artificial nest boxes provided by humans.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

  • Features: Eastern bluebirds have bright blue upperparts, rusty orange underparts, and a white belly and throat. Males have deeper blue colors and more vibrant plumage than females, although both sexes have similar markings.
  • Behavior: Eastern bluebirds are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates found on the ground or in low vegetation. They are also known to consume berries and fruits, especially during the winter months when insects are scarce.
  • Habitat: Eastern bluebirds prefer open habitats with scattered trees and shrubs, such as pastures, meadows, orchards, and suburban gardens. They rely on natural or artificial cavities for nesting, often using old woodpecker holes or nest boxes provided by humans.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

  • Features: The blue-gray gnatcatcher is distinguished by its predominantly blue-gray upperparts and wings, contrasting with its white underparts. Its long tail is often held upright, and its slender build and short bill aid in its agile foraging behavior. During the breeding season, males may display a black cap, which is less prominent in females.
  • Behavior: The blue-gray gnatcatcher is known for its restless and acrobatic foraging style, incessantly fluttering from branch to branch, gleaning insects from foliage and twigs. It often accompanies mixed-species foraging flocks, benefiting from safety in numbers and the collective vigilance of other birds. During courtship, males perform elaborate flight displays and vocalizations to attract females, showcasing their agility and vigor.
  • Habitat: Blue-gray gnatcatchers inhabit a variety of wooded habitats, including deciduous and mixed forests, woodland edges, and riparian corridors. They are particularly fond of dense thickets, brushy areas, and shrublands with plenty of vegetation for nesting and foraging. During migration, they may also frequent gardens, parks, and suburban areas with suitable vegetation.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)

  • Features: Cerulean warblers have bright blue upperparts, white underparts, and a black-streaked back. Males have a bold black necklace across their chest, while females have a more subdued necklace. Both sexes have thin, pointed bills for capturing insects.
  • Behavior: Cerulean warblers forage actively in the forest canopy, searching for insects and spiders among the leaves and branches. They are also known to feed on berries and other fruits, especially during the non-breeding season when insect prey is scarce.
  • Habitat: Cerulean warblers breed in mature deciduous forests with tall trees, dense foliage, and a diverse understory. They prefer habitats with a mix of oak, hickory, maple, and beech trees, where they can find suitable nesting sites and abundant insect prey.
  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)

  • Features: Black-throated blue warblers have deep blue upperparts, a black throat and face, and white underparts with bold black streaks on the sides. Males have more vibrant plumage than females, with richer blue colors and darker markings.
  • Behavior: Black-throated blue warblers forage actively in the forest understory, hopping from branch to branch in search of insects and other small invertebrates. They are also known to glean insects from leaves and bark and occasionally hover to catch flying prey.
  • Habitat: Black-throated blue warblers prefer mature deciduous and mixed forests with a dense shrub layer and a diverse understory. They are often found in habitats with an abundance of oak, maple, birch, and hemlock trees, where they can find suitable nesting sites and ample insect prey.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)

  • Features: Blue grosbeaks have deep blue upperparts, cinnamon-brown underparts, and a thick, silver-gray bill. Males have richer blue colors and more distinct plumage patterns than females, although both sexes have similar overall appearances.
  • Behavior: Blue grosbeaks are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of seeds, grains, fruits, and insects. They forage on the ground or in low vegetation, using their powerful bills to crack open seeds and husks and extract the nutritious contents inside.
  • Habitat: Blue grosbeaks inhabit open woodlands, scrublands, grasslands, and agricultural areas with scattered shrubs and trees. They are often found in habitats with a mix of open areas for foraging and dense vegetation for nesting and shelter.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

  • Features: Indigo buntings have vibrant blue upperparts, lighter blue underparts, and a thick, conical bill adapted for cracking open seeds. Males have brighter blue colors and more distinct plumage patterns than females, although both sexes have similar overall appearances.
  • Behavior: Indigo buntings are primarily seed-eaters, feeding on a variety of seeds, grains, and small fruits. They forage on the ground or in low vegetation, using their sturdy bills to crack open seeds and husks and extract the nutritious contents inside.
  • Habitat: Indigo buntings inhabit a wide range of habitats, including open woodlands, brushy fields, grasslands, and roadside edges. They are often found in areas with dense vegetation and abundant food sources, such as weedy fields, gardens, and agricultural areas.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Michigan Birding Resources

Birding Organizations:

Field Guides:

Other Resources:

Conclusion

Blue birds enrich Michigan’s landscapes with their vibrant colors, melodious songs, and ecological significance. From the majestic Great Blue Heron to the diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, each species contributes to the diversity and beauty of Michigan’s avian community. As stewards of the environment, we have a responsibility to conserve and protect these remarkable birds and their habitats for future generations to enjoy. By supporting conservation efforts, engaging in citizen science, and advocating for habitat preservation, we can ensure a bright future for Michigan’s blue birds and the ecosystems they depend on.