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12 Blue Birds in Virginia

blue birds in virginia
Tree Swallow in Highland, Virginia: Photo by Martina Nordstrand


Virginia is home to a dazzling array of blue-feathered birds, adding vibrant splashes of color to its diverse landscapes. From the majestic great blue heron to the diminutive blue-gray gnatcatcher, these avian wonders captivate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of blue birds in Virginia and learn more about these captivating species.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias):

  • Features: The great blue heron is a tall, wading bird with slate-gray plumage, a long, sinuous neck, and dagger-like bill.
  • Behavior: These herons are skilled hunters, stalking their prey in shallow waters and striking with lightning speed to catch fish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures.
  • Habitat: Great blue herons inhabit a variety of aquatic habitats, including marshes, swamps, rivers, and coastal shorelines.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea):

  • Features: The little blue heron is a smaller relative of the great blue heron, with slate-blue plumage that transitions to purplish-maroon during the breeding season.
  • Behavior: Like its larger cousin, the little blue heron feeds primarily on fish and other aquatic prey, using stealth and patience to capture its meals.
  • Habitat: Little blue herons prefer coastal habitats such as estuaries, tidal flats, and mangrove swamps, where they can find abundant food resources.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon):

  • Features: The belted kingfisher is a medium-sized bird with striking blue-gray plumage on the upperparts, white underparts, and a distinctive white collar and band across the chest.
  • Behavior: These skilled fish hunters perch on branches or hover over water bodies before diving headfirst to catch fish with their dagger-like bills. They also feed on crustaceans, insects, and small amphibians.
  • Habitat: Belted kingfishers are typically found near bodies of water such as rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal areas, where they can find suitable nesting sites in earthen burrows along the banks.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata):

  • Features: The blue jay is a striking bird with vibrant blue plumage, a crest on its head, and bold black markings on its face and wings.
  • Behavior: These vocal and intelligent birds are often seen foraging for acorns, seeds, and insects in woodlands, parks, and suburban areas.
  • Habitat: Blue jays inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and urban parks, where they can find food and suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor):

  • Features: Tree swallows are small, agile birds with iridescent blue-green plumage, white underparts, and long, pointed wings.
  • Behavior: These aerial insectivores are expert fliers, catching insects on the wing and performing intricate aerial displays during courtship.
  • Habitat: Tree swallows breed in open habitats near water, including marshes, wetlands, and grasslands, where they nest in tree cavities or artificial nest boxes.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Purple Martin (Progne subis):

  • Features: The purple martin is the largest swallow species in North America, with glossy blue-black plumage and a distinctive forked tail.
  • Behavior: These social birds are known for their gregarious nature, often nesting in large colonies and performing synchronized aerial displays.
  • Habitat: Purple martins breed in open habitats with access to water, including meadows, farmland, and urban areas, where they nest in cavities or artificial gourds.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea):

  • Features: The blue-gray gnatcatcher is a tiny, energetic bird with soft blue-gray plumage, white underparts, and a long, black tail edged with white.
  • Behavior: These insectivorous birds are constantly on the move, flitting through foliage and catching tiny insects and spiders with quick, agile movements.
  • Habitat: Blue-gray gnatcatchers inhabit a variety of wooded habitats, including forests, woodlands, and shrubby areas, where they forage for insects and build their nests.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis):

  • Features: The eastern bluebird is a medium-sized songbird with bright blue plumage on the back and wings, rusty-orange underparts, and a white belly.
  • Behavior: These cavity-nesting birds are often seen perched on fence posts or hunting for insects and berries in open fields and grasslands.
  • Habitat: Eastern bluebirds prefer open habitats with scattered trees, such as pastures, meadows, and parklands, where they can find suitable nest sites and forage for food.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea):

  • Features: The cerulean warbler is a small, neotropical migrant with sky-blue plumage on the head and back, white underparts, and bold black streaks on the sides.
  • Behavior: These canopy-dwelling birds forage for insects and caterpillars among the foliage, often performing fluttering flights to catch their prey.
  • Habitat: Cerulean warblers breed in mature deciduous forests with tall trees, particularly those near rivers, streams, and wetlands, where they build their nests in the canopy.
  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens):

  • Features: The black-throated blue warbler is a small songbird with deep blue plumage on the head and back, white underparts, and a black throat and face.
  • Behavior: These insectivorous birds forage for insects and spiders among the foliage, often flitting from branch to branch in search of prey.
  • Habitat: Black-throated blue warblers breed in dense deciduous or mixed forests, particularly those with a dense understory of shrubs and saplings, where they can find suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea):

  • Features: The blue grosbeak is a medium-sized songbird with rich blue plumage on the head and back, rusty-brown underparts, and a thick, conical bill.
  • Behavior: These seed-eating birds forage for seeds and insects in grassy fields, shrubby areas, and woodland edges, often perching conspicuously on fence posts or bushes.
  • Habitat: Blue grosbeaks inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, pastures, and agricultural fields, where they can find ample food and suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea):

  • Features: The indigo bunting is a small, stocky songbird with vibrant indigo-blue plumage in breeding males and duller brown plumage in females and non-breeding individuals.
  • Behavior: These seed-eating birds forage for seeds and insects in grassy fields, brushy areas, and forest edges, often singing from exposed perches.
  • Habitat: Indigo buntings inhabit a variety of open habitats, including fields, meadows, and woodland edges, where they can find food and suitable nesting sites.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Threats and Conservation

While many of the species mentioned in this article are currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, they still face various threats to their habitats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving and restoring critical habitats, implementing sustainable land management practices, and raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity are essential for safeguarding the future of these birds.

Citizen Science

Citizen science initiatives play a crucial role in monitoring bird populations, tracking migration patterns, and gathering data on species distributions. By participating in citizen science projects such as eBird, bird counts, habitat restoration efforts, and nest box monitoring programs, individuals can contribute valuable information that helps researchers and conservationists better understand and protect Virginia’s blue birds.


Virginia’s blue birds contribute to the state’s natural beauty and biodiversity, enchanting birdwatchers with their stunning colors, melodious songs, and fascinating behaviors. By protecting and preserving their habitats, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the sight and sounds of these captivating avian species.