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14 Blue Birds in Colorado

blue birds in colorado
Mountain Bluebird in Douglas, Colorado: Photo by Krista Hinman


Colorado’s diverse landscapes provide habitats for an array of captivating bird species, including those adorned with stunning shades of blue. From majestic herons to vibrant buntings, these blue birds add beauty and intrigue to Colorado’s skies. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the notable blue birds in Colorado.

Blue Birds in Colorado

Jump to a species!

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

  • Features: The largest North American heron, known for its long legs, sinuous neck, and dagger-like bill. Shaggy plumes adorn its head, chest, and wings. During flight, it forms a tight “S” shape with its neck, while its broad wings and trailing legs extend beyond the tail. From afar, it appears blue-gray with a black stripe over the eye. In flight, its wings display a two-toned pattern.
  • Behavior: Great Blue Herons employ a patient approach to hunting, either wading leisurely or adopting a statue-like stance as they track fish and other prey in shallow waters or open fields. Keep an eye out for the rapid extension of their necks and heads, accompanied by a swift jab with their formidable bills. Their leisurely wingbeats, tucked-in necks, and trailing legs create a distinctive silhouette during flight.
  • Habitat: Spot Great Blue Herons in a variety of environments, including saltwater and freshwater habitats, ranging from open coastlines, marshes, and riverbanks to lakes and even backyard goldfish ponds. They are also known to forage in grasslands and agricultural fields. During the breeding season, these birds congregate in colonies, known as “heronries,” where they construct stick nests elevated high above the ground.
  • Range: Fairly common and widespread in suitable habitats across the entire state.
  • Fun Fact: Great Blue Herons possess specialized feathers on their chest that undergo continuous growth and fraying. These herons utilize a fringed claw on their middle toes to groom this “powder down,” employing it akin to a washcloth to cleanse their feathers from fish slime and other oils during preening. The application of this powder to their underparts serves to shield their feathers against the effects of slime and oils found in swamp environments.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

  • Features: Belted Kingfishers are robust birds characterized by a large head, topped with a shaggy crest, and a straight, sturdy, pointed bill. They possess short legs and medium-length tails with square tips. Their upper parts are blue-gray, adorned with delicate white spotting on the wings and tail, while the underparts showcase a white hue with a prominent blue breast band. Additionally, females feature a broad rusty band across their bellies, and juveniles display irregular rusty spotting within the breast band.
  • Behavior: Belted Kingfishers predominantly occupy solitary perches along the banks of streams, lakes, and estuaries, where they diligently seek out small fish. They are known for their rapid flights along rivers and shorelines, accompanied by loud rattling calls. Their hunting techniques involve either plunging directly from a perch or hovering above the water with their bill pointed downward before diving to catch sighted fish.
  • Habitat: Kingfishers inhabit areas near streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and estuaries. They construct their nests in burrows dug into soft earthen banks, often positioned near or directly above water. During the winter months, they reside in regions where water remains unfrozen, ensuring constant access to their aquatic prey.
  • Range: Relatively common in the whole state but more so west of Denver and Colorado Springs.
  • Fun Fact: The Belted Kingfisher’s breeding range is constrained in certain regions due to the scarcity of appropriate nesting locations. However, human activities such as road construction and gravel excavation have generated suitable banks for kingfishers to nest, thereby facilitating the expansion of their breeding territory.

Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

  • Features: The Pinyon Jay is a medium-sized jay characterized by its lack of crest, resembling a miniature crow. It features a shorter tail and a longer, more dagger-like bill compared to other jays. Both males and females exhibit a dusky blue hue overall, with a typically paler, often dingy blue-gray belly. Notably, they have a dusky white throat.
  • Behavior: Pinyon Jays meticulously search pinyon-juniper patches for seeds and typically travel in groups rather than solitary. These large gatherings forage both in trees and on the ground, navigating the landscape in tightly knit flocks characterized by swift and powerful wingbeats.
  • Habitat: Spot Pinyon Jays in pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush, scrub oak, chaparral, and occasionally in pine forests.
  • Range: Fairly common to uncommon in western Colorado, once the terrain becomes more mountainous.
  • Fun Fact: The bill of the Pinyon Jay lacks feathers at its base, which is reflected in its scientific name “Gymnorhinus,” meaning bare nostrils. Unlike most other members of the Corvidae family, which have feathers covering their nostrils, the Pinyon Jay’s bare nostrils allow it to probe deep into resinous cones without risking fouling the feathers that would typically cover the nostrils of other jays.

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

  • Features: Steller’s Jays are sizable songbirds characterized by their robust build, large heads, rounded wings, and lengthy, full tails. They possess a formidable bill, straight with a subtle hook. These jays boast a distinctive triangular crest that typically stands erect from their heads. From afar, Steller’s Jays appear notably dark, lacking the white underparts typical of other species. Their charcoal black heads contrast with their entirely blue bodies, with the wings appearing the lightest, almost sparkling. Additionally, white markings above the eyes are relatively inconspicuous.
  • Behavior: Similar to their jay counterparts, Steller’s Jays exhibit boldness, curiosity, intelligence, and vocalization. They primarily inhabit the forest canopy, where they explore with deliberate wingbeats. Occasionally, they descend to the forest floor to investigate visitors and search for food, characterized by decisive hops facilitated by their long legs.
  • Habitat: Spot Steller’s Jays in the evergreen forests of western North America, typically at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 feet. These birds are commonly encountered in campgrounds, picnic areas, parks, and even backyards.
  • Range: Quite common in Colorado’s western half, similar to the Pinyon Jay.
  • Fun Fact: Steller’s and Blue Jays are the sole North American jays adorned with crests. The Blue Jay is gradually extending its territory to the west. In areas where their ranges intersect, these two species sporadically interbreed, giving rise to hybrids.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

  • Features: A sizable songbird with a prominent crest and a broad, rounded tail, the Blue Jay falls between the size of crows and robins. Its underparts are typically white or light gray, while its upperparts display various shades of blue, black, and white.
  • Behavior: Blue Jays emit a diverse range of calls that can carry over long distances, with many of these vocalizations occurring while the bird is perched within a tree. Typically, they fly across open areas silently, particularly during migration. They have a habit of storing food items in their throat pouch to cache elsewhere, and when feeding, they grasp a seed or nut in their feet and peck it open.
  • Habitat: Blue Jays inhabit the edges of forests and are particularly fond of acorns, frequently congregating near oak trees in various environments such as forests, woodlots, urban areas, towns, cities, and parks.
  • Range: Very common birds in the eastern half of Colorado, before being largely replaced by Pinyon and Steller’s Jays and Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays in the west.
  • Fun Fact: Blue Jays often imitate the vocalizations of hawks, particularly those of the Red-shouldered Hawk. This mimicry serves to convey information to other jays about the presence of a hawk or to potentially deceive other species into believing that a hawk is in the vicinity.

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

  • Features: Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are relatively sizable songbirds characterized by their lanky build, long, drooping tails, and frequently hunched posture. They possess a moderately long, straight bill with a pointed tip. Their upperparts typically showcase shades of light blue and gray, while their throat appears whitish and their belly is grayish, often divided by a faint, partial breast band of blue. It’s worth noting that in varying lighting conditions, the blue coloration of these jays can appear quite dark.
  • Behavior: Confident, vocal, and curious, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are frequently observed perched high in trees, on wires, or atop posts, where they serve as vigilant lookouts. When in flight, they appear somewhat underpowered and leisurely, alternating between fluttering and gliding movements.
  • Habitat: Spot Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays in open environments and pinyon-juniper woodlands across the intermountain West, as well as in backyards and pastures. They are commonly found in lower and drier habitats compared to Steller’s Jays, although this isn’t always the case.
  • Range: Common in the western half of the state.
  • Fun Fact: Observing Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays perched on the backs of mule deer is not uncommon. They engage in the task of removing and consuming ticks and other parasites from the deer. Interestingly, the deer appear to welcome this assistance, often remaining stationary and even positioning their ears to facilitate the jays’ access.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

  • Features: Tree Swallows are sleek, small songbirds distinguished by their elongated, pointed wings and short, squared, or slightly notched tails. They possess very short, flat bills. Adult males exhibit a blue-green coloration above and white below, accented by blackish flight feathers and a slender black eye mask. In contrast, females appear duller, with more brown tones in their upperparts. Juveniles are entirely brown above, with some displaying a faint, blurred gray-brown breast band.
  • Behavior: Tree Swallows primarily subsist on small, airborne insects captured in their mouths during agile, acrobatic flight. Following the breeding season, they assemble in sizable flocks for molting and migration. During the nonbreeding period, they congregate in massive communal roosts.
  • Habitat: During the breeding season, Tree Swallows inhabit open environments such as fields and wetlands, typically near water bodies. They construct nests in both artificial nest boxes and natural tree cavities. Foraging flocks are commonly observed soaring over wetlands, bodies of water, and agricultural fields.
  • Range: A fairly common summer visitor to most of Colorado, most abundant in the central and western mountainous areas.
  • Fun Fact: Tree Swallows, typically spotted in open, treeless regions, derive their name from their tendency to nest in tree cavities. They also readily accept nest boxes as alternative nesting sites.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

  • Features: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are petite, slender songbirds characterized by long legs, a lengthy tail, and a slender, straight bill. They exhibit a pale blue-gray hue with grayish-white underparts and a predominantly black tail accented by white edges. The underside of their tail is predominantly white. Their facial features include a distinct white eyering. During the summer season, male Blue-gray Gnatcatchers showcase a black ‘V’ marking on their foreheads, extending above their eyes.
  • Behavior: The lively Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is constantly in motion, darting after small insects amidst shrubs and trees with its tail held at a perky angle. These birds frequently procure food from spiderwebs and also collect strands of webbing to incorporate into their tiny, knot-shaped nests.
  • Habitat: In Western regions, spot them in shorter woodlands and shrublands, such as pinyon-juniper and oak woodlands.
  • Range: Observed in most of the state, most frequently during the summer months, although there have been scattered records from the rest of the year.
  • Fun Fact: A mating pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers has the capability to construct up to seven nests within a single breeding season. They frequently recycle materials from previous nests, expediting the re-nesting process. This ability is crucial for breeding success, as nest loss and brood failure due to predation, nest parasitism, or mite infestations are common occurrences.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

  • Features: The Eastern Bluebird, a diminutive thrush, is distinguished by its sizable, rounded head, large eyes, plump body, and vigilant stance. While its wings are lengthy, its tail and legs are relatively short, and its bill is short and straight. Male Eastern Bluebirds exhibit vibrant, deep blue plumage on their upperparts, complemented by a rusty or brick-red throat and breast. However, the blue hue in birds is subject to lighting conditions, often rendering males appearing as plain gray-brown from afar. In contrast, females feature grayish upperparts with bluish wings and tail, along with a muted orange-brown breast.
  • Behavior: Eastern Bluebirds adopt an upright posture while perched on wires, posts, and low branches in open terrain, scanning the ground for prey. They employ a feeding strategy that involves dropping to the ground to capture insects or, during fall and winter, perching on fruiting trees to consume berries. Additionally, Bluebirds frequently utilize nest boxes and old woodpecker holes for nesting purposes.
  • Habitat: Eastern Bluebirds inhabit meadows and clearings bordered by trees that provide appropriate nesting sites. Thanks to the widespread installation of nest boxes and establishment of bluebird trails, these birds have become a familiar presence along roadsides, field boundaries, golf courses, and other open landscapes.
  • Range: Colorado is one of the state’s that occupies the range where the bluebird species largely transition. Eastern Bluebirds are frequent in the state’s eastern parts, but slowly disappear as you move west, giving way to Mountain and Western Bluebirds.
  • Fun Fact: The male Eastern Bluebird showcases at the nest cavity to entice a female, bringing nest material to the entrance, entering and exiting the cavity, and fluttering his wings while perched above it. This essentially sums up his role in nest construction; it’s solely the female Eastern Bluebird who constructs the nest and incubates the eggs.

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)

  • Features: Western Bluebirds, small thrushes typically found perched upright, are characterized by their stocky build, thin, straight bills, and relatively short tails. Male Western Bluebirds sport a glossy blue plumage above, with rust-orange extending from a vest-like pattern on the breast to the upper back. Conversely, females exhibit a gray-buff coloration with a faint pale orange wash on the breast and hints of blue on the wings and tail. The throat is blue in males and gray-buff in females, while the lower belly appears whitish in both sexes.
  • Behavior: These avians exhibit strong social tendencies and typically gather in flocks outside the breeding season. They search for terrestrial insects by descending to the ground from low perches. Western Bluebirds also commonly consume berries from trees. Their dependence on trees extends to both nesting cavities and hunting perches, and they are often observed perching on fences and utility lines as well.
  • Habitat: Search for Western Bluebirds in open woodlands, encompassing both coniferous and deciduous habitats. They can also be found in backyards, areas affected by wildfires, and agricultural land, spanning from sea level to high elevations in the mountains.
  • Range: Uncommon but widespread in Colorado’s western half.
  • Fun Fact: At times, Western Bluebirds may have assisting individuals at their nests. Many of these additional birds are aiding their assumed parents, particularly after their own nesting attempts have been unsuccessful. Intriguingly, research indicates that numerous nests contain offspring that were not sired by the resident male.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)

  • Features: Mountain Bluebirds are relatively small thrushes characterized by their round heads and straight, slender bills. They possess a lanky, long-winged physique and a lengthy tail compared to other bluebirds. Male Mountain Bluebirds exhibit a sky-blue hue, slightly darker on the wings and tail and lighter below, with white under the tail. In contrast, females are predominantly gray-brown with hints of pale blue on the wings and tail, occasionally displaying a hint of orange-brown on the chest. Their bills are entirely black. Juveniles have fewer spots compared to other bluebird younglings and lack spotting on the back.
  • Behavior: In contrast to other bluebird species, Mountain Bluebirds frequently engage in hovering behavior while foraging, and they also swoop down on insect prey from a raised perch. During winter, these birds are often observed in sizable flocks traversing the landscape, where they eagerly consume berries, especially those from juniper trees.
  • Habitat: Mountain Bluebirds are prevalent in the expansive open landscapes of the Western region, especially at middle and higher elevations. They breed in various native habitats, including prairies, sagebrush steppe, and even alpine tundra, seeking out areas with open terrain and at least a few trees capable of offering nest cavities. Additionally, they readily adapt to human-modified environments, often utilizing bluebird boxes for nesting and foraging in pastures.
  • Range: Most common in the western parts of the state, but Mountain Bluebirds can also be found elsewhere in Colorado, only less frequently.
  • Fun Fact: A female Mountain Bluebird prioritizes finding suitable nest sites over selecting mates based on their attractiveness. Her choice of a mate is solely determined by the location and quality of the nesting cavity he provides, with little regard for his singing ability, flying prowess, or physical appearance.

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)

  • Features: The Blue Grosbeak is a robust songbird distinguished by its large, triangular bill, which appears to envelop the entire front of its face, extending from the throat to the forehead. Adult males showcase a deep, vibrant blue plumage with a small black mask in front of the eyes, chestnut wingbars, and a black-and-silver bill. In contrast, females are predominantly rich cinnamon-brown, with the coloration being more intense on the head and lighter on the underparts, while their tails exhibit a bluish hue. Both sexes feature two wingbars: the upper one is chestnut, and the lower one is grayish to buffy. Immature Blue Grosbeaks typically display a rich, dark chestnut brown coloration, along with chestnut wingbars.
  • Behavior: Blue Grosbeaks maintain a relatively inconspicuous presence despite their vivid colors; however, during the summer season, males often serenade with their delightful, melodious warbling songs. They frequently sing while perched atop high points within the shrubs and small trees of their typically open or shrubby habitats. Keep an ear out for their distinctive loud, almost metallic chink call. Additionally, observe their peculiar behavior of twitching their tails sideways.
  • Habitat: Blue Grosbeaks are emblematic inhabitants of old fields undergoing the transition back to woodland. They nest in regions characterized by a blend of grass, forbs, and shrubs, typically with a scattering of taller trees. In drier regions, they frequently utilize the shrubby vegetation along watercourses for breeding purposes.
  • Range: Uncommon visitors between May and September, scattered across the state, but mostly in the east.
  • Fun Fact: Based on genetic evidence, the Lazuli Bunting is determined to be the closest relative of the Blue Grosbeak.

Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)

  • Features: Lazuli Buntings are diminutive, stout songbirds resembling finches, characterized by their cone-shaped bills and gently sloping foreheads. Their tails typically feature a notched or slightly forked shape. Breeding adult males exhibit a vibrant blue plumage above, contrasting with a pumpkin-colored breast and a white belly. Additionally, they display a conspicuous white shoulder patch, visible both when perched and in flight. In contrast, females are adorned in warm grayish-brown plumage above, tinged with blue on the wings and tail, and feature two buffy wingbars along with an unstreaked pale cinnamon or tan breast. Juveniles and nonbreeding males boast a pumpkin-colored breast, but their backs and heads display a mottled pattern of blue and tan.
  • Behavior: Male Lazuli Buntings adopt an upright stance while perched and often sing from prominent positions in low trees and shrubs. They engage in foraging activities at different heights but predominantly occupy the understory, where they hop between branches and the ground in search of insects or seeds.
  • Habitat: Lazuli Buntings breed in a variety of habitats across the Western region, including brushy hillsides, streamside areas, wooded valleys, thickets, hedges along agricultural fields, recently burned areas, and residential gardens. They can be found at elevations of up to about 9,500 feet.
  • Range: An uncommon visitor across Colorado between May and September, similar to the Blue Grosbeak.
  • Fun Fact: The striking appearance of the Lazuli Bunting caught the attention of early naturalists, leading to its scientific name, Passerina amoena, which translates to “beautiful sparrow.”

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

  • Features: Indigo Buntings are petite birds, roughly the size of sparrows, with a sturdy build, short tails, and thick, conical bills. During flight, they present a plump silhouette with short, rounded tails. Breeding male Indigo Buntings are uniformly blue, with a slightly deeper hue on the head and a gleaming, silver-gray bill. In contrast, females exhibit a predominantly brown plumage, featuring subtle streaking on the breast, a whitish throat, and occasionally hints of blue on the wings, tail, or rump. Immature males display a mix of blue and brown patches in their plumage.
  • Behavior: Throughout the summer, male Indigo Buntings serenade from treetops, shrubs, and telephone lines. This species sustains itself on a diet comprising insects, seeds, and berries and can be enticed to backyard feeders stocked with thistle or nyjer seed. While perched, they frequently engage in a characteristic behavior of swishing their tails from side to side. Indigo Buntings typically lead solitary lives during the breeding season but congregate in sizable flocks during migration and while wintering.
  • Habitat: Search for Indigo Buntings in areas abundant with weeds and brush, particularly where fields intersect with forests. They are fond of habitats characterized by edges, hedgerows, overgrown patches, and brushy roadsides. When they’re not perched atop the tallest vantage points in the vicinity singing, they can often be observed foraging amidst seed-rich shrubs and grasses.
  • Range: Very uncommon visitor to Colorado, more likely to be seen during the summer.
  • Fun Fact: Indigo Buntings undertake nocturnal migrations, relying on the stars for navigation. Researchers illustrated this behavior in the late 1960s by observing captive Indigo Buntings in a planetarium and subsequently under the actual night sky. These birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continuously adjust their orientation angle to a star, even as the star shifts across the night sky.

Threats and Conservation

In Colorado, birds confront threats like habitat loss from urbanization and climate change, collisions with buildings, pollution, and predation. The Denver Audubon chapter and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory conduct conservation efforts and research to protect bird habitats. These organizations work together to safeguard Colorado’s avian populations and their habitats.

Citizen Science

Citizen science plays a vital role in bird conservation and research efforts in Colorado. Through citizen science programs, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds contribute valuable data on bird populations, distribution, behavior, and ecology, helping researchers and conservationists monitor trends, identify threats, and inform conservation priorities.

One notable citizen science initiative is the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, a collaborative project aimed at documenting the distribution and abundance of breeding birds across the state. Volunteers conduct systematic surveys to record bird observations, document breeding evidence, and map breeding territories, providing valuable insights into Colorado’s avian biodiversity and informing conservation and management decisions.

Additionally, bird enthusiasts can participate in bird monitoring programs such as eBird, a global online database managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. By submitting bird sightings, photographs, and audio recordings, participants contribute to a vast repository of bird data used for scientific research, conservation planning, and public education.

Engaging in citizen science not only fosters a deeper connection to nature but also empowers individuals to play an active role in bird conservation and contribute to scientific knowledge. By joining citizen science initiatives, Coloradans can make meaningful contributions to bird conservation efforts while enjoying the rewards of birdwatching and outdoor exploration.



Colorado’s blue birds add vibrant splashes of color to the state’s diverse landscapes, from the majestic herons and kingfishers found along its waterways to the charismatic songbirds inhabiting its woodlands and grasslands. Whether soaring overhead, perched in treetops, or flitting through the underbrush, these captivating birds enrich Colorado’s natural heritage and inspire awe and wonder in all who encounter them. By preserving and protecting their habitats, we can ensure that future generations continue to marvel at the beauty and diversity of Colorado’s birds.