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11 Blue Birds in Ohio

blue birds in ohio
Black-throated Blue Warbler in Licking, Ohio: Photo by Brad Imhoff

Introduction

From soaring great blue herons to tiny cerulean warblers, a variety of vivid blue-hued birds make their homes in the Buckeye State. Their cool azure tones stand out beautifully against backdrops of Ohio’s forests, fields and waterways. Let’s explore some of the top blue birds gracing the diverse landscapes of Ohio.

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

  • Features: This small heron has slate-blue plumage contrasting with maroon-reddish head and neck in adults. The juvenile is all white. Long toes and needle-like bill suit foraging in shallow wetlands. 
  • Locations: Found along Ohio’s wetlands, lakes, rivers and ponds, more solitary than great blue heron. Winters along Gulf coast.
  • Fun Fact: Forages patiently by standing motionless waiting for prey like small fish and frogs to come near. A highly adaptable feeder.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

  • Features: This large wading bird has blue-gray body plumage, a white facial stripe, and plume projecting from the head during breeding. Slow, stalking movements when hunting.
  • Locations: Found year-round along Ohio’s lakes, rivers, marshes and ponds. Nests colonially in trees on islands. 
  • Fun Fact: Young herons make a loud, rasping call from the nest when parents return with food. 

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

  • Features: A common backyard bird with bright blue wings and tail contrasting black necklace across white throat. Crest is also blue. Omnivorous and sometimes aggressive. 
  • Locations: Found year-round across Ohio in forests, parks and residential areas. 
  • Fun Fact: This jay is a noisy mimic, able to copy the calls of hawks and make human speech sounds. 

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

  • Features: In flight, this iridescent dark blue-green swallow shows off pointed wings and a notched tail. These aerial adaptations allow superb maneuvering to catch insects. 
  • Locations: Found widely nesting in tree cavities near water across Ohio. Winters along the southern U.S. coasts.
  • Fun Fact: Readily accepts nest boxes, allowing easy observation. Performs dramatic synchronized mating flights.

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

  • Features: The largest North American swallow has glossy dark blue-black plumage, white rump patch, and forked tail. Graceful speedy flight and aerial acrobatics when hunting insects.
  • Locations: Summer breeding resident in Ohio, nesting colonially in apartment-style boxes. Requires open areas near water courses. 
  • Fun Fact: Males scout for ideal nesting locations first, staking claim to the most desirable cavities to attract females. 

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

  • Features: In flight shows steel blue upperparts, pale underside, and deeply forked tail. The tail shape evolved for aerial maneuverability when catching insects. 
  • Locations: Nests inside barns and under bridges statewide in summer. Migrates to Central and South America for winter.
  • Fun Fact: Constructs cup nests of mud pellets, lining them with feathers. Often reuses nest Locations year to year.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea

  • Features: A tiny gray-blue songbird with white eye ring. Constantly fans its very long white-edged tail as it nimbly forages throughout trees for insects. Thin pointed bill.
  • Locations: Breeds in Ohio’s deciduous forests and scrublands. Winters along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. 
  • Fun Fact: The male performs dramatic courtship flights, pursuing the female while calling.

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)

  • Features: Male has bright blue wings and back, black necklace and white underparts. Female has blue tinge only on wings. Sings a rapid buzzy trill. 
  • Locations: Breeds high in mature deciduous forests, mainly in southeastern Ohio. Winters in northwestern South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Population declining due to habitat loss. Nest is an open cup woven onto a horizontal tree branch.

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)

  • Features: Male has black face and throat contrasting bright blue wings and back. Female is olive-brown with white underside. Sings a buzzy “zoo zee zoo.”  
  • Locations: Breeds in Ohio’s mature deciduous and mixed forests. Winters in Caribbean islands.
  • Fun Fact: Hops actively along branches searching for insects, with frequent hovering and tail-fanning. 

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea

  • Features: Large songbird with a thick seed-cracking bill. Male is deep blue with rusty wing bars, female is mostly brown. Sings a rich, warbling song.
  • Locations: Breeds in overgrown fields and scrubby open areas statewide. Winters along the southern U.S coast and southward. 
  • Fun Fact: The male performs a courtship flight, singing while circling high overhead, then parachuting down with tail spread.

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea

  • Features: Small seed-eating finch. Breeding male is brilliant blue while female is mostly brown. Beak shape optimized for consuming seeds. Sings a two-part song.  
  • Locations: Breeds in successional habitat statewide. Winters in Central America.  
  • Fun Fact: Forms loose nomadic flocks outside breeding season while foraging for grass and weed seeds. Blue hue is structural, not pigment-based.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss is a major threat, as development degrades Ohio’s wetlands, forests and successional habitats needed by these species. Pesticides reduce insect prey populations. Buildings and vehicles collide with migrants. Climate change may alter suitable ranges. Protecting habitats through land conservation and wildlife-friendly architecture can help populations persist. 

Citizen Science Opportunities

Ohio birders contribute to knowledge and conservation:

  • Uploading checklists to eBird and other databases to inform management. 
  • Participating in breeding bird atlases and population surveys.
  • Building nest boxes and monitoring reproduction. 
  • Banding birds to understand migratory routes and demography.
  • Conducting Christmas and other seasonal bird counts.
  • Educating others to inspire care for Ohio birds.

Conclusion

From towering herons to tiny jewel-colored warblers, Ohio’s diverse blue birds fill important niches in natural ecosystems. Conserving high quality habitats and monitoring populations will help ensure their continued presence across the Buckeye State for generations to come.