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13 Blue Birds in Massachusetts

blue-colored birds in Massachusetts
Indigo Bunting in Suffolk, Massachusetts: Photo by Ryan Schain

Introduction

From shorebirds wading through coastal marshes to songbirds flitting through woodland canopies, there is a variety of brilliant blue birds in Massachusetts. The state’s diverse ecosystems from Boston’s urban parks to the Berkshires’ forests provide habitat for these beautiful azure-hued species. Read on to learn about some of the vivid blue birds that color the landscapes of the Bay State.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

  • Features: Large wading bird around 4 ft tall with grayish-blue plumage, long neck, dagger-like yellow bill, and black stripes over the eyes. Slow, steady wing beats in flight. 
  • Locations: Fresh and saltwater wetlands across Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: Stands motionless waiting to ambush fish and amphibian prey. Also eats small mammals, insects, and reptiles. 

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea

  • Features: Smaller heron with blue-gray plumage, purplish head during breeding, greenish legs. Immature birds are solid white. Stalks shorelines at a slower pace than Great Blue.
  • Locations: Along the coast from Cape Cod south especially in tidal marshes and estuaries. Rare inland.
  • Fun Fact: The white immature birds were once thought to be snowy egrets.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

  • Features: Small heron with greenish-blue back, rusty neck, and long shaggy crest. Compresses body and flicks open wings when alarmed to show chestnut coloring. 
  • Locations: Along wooded ponds, streams, and wetlands across Massachusetts.
  • Fun Fact: Uses bait to lure small fish within striking distance. Also known to drop insects, feathers, or flowers onto the water’s surface to attract prey.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

  • Features: Stocky bird with large head, shaggy crest, and thick pointed blue-gray bill. Female has extra rufous belly band. Loud rattling call.
  • Locations: Rivers, lakes, estuaries, and coastal areas across Massachusetts. 
  • Fun Fact: Aggressively defends feeding territory, diving headfirst into the water to catch fish.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata

  • Features: The blue jay has bright blue upperparts with a white face, black necklace, and blue crest. Their undertail coverts and vent are also white. 
  • Locations: This common backyard songbird is found in forests, parks, and backyards across Massachusetts year-round.
  • Fun Fact: Blue jays are intelligent, social birds in the corvid family known for mimicking hawks when mobbing predators. Their loud, rolling calls are associated with alarm or aggression.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

  • Features: The tree swallow is a small songbird with glossy iridescent blue-green upperparts and clean white underparts. In flight, its pointy wings and forked tail are distinctive.
  • Locations: Tree swallows nest in cavities including natural hollows and nest boxes across Massachusetts. 
  • Fun Fact: Aerial insectivores, they perform acrobatic twists and turns when catching insects in flight. Tree swallows form large migratory flocks in open areas near water when flying south for winter.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica

  • Features: The barn swallow is a sleek, streamlined small bird with steely blue upperparts and light cinnamon underparts. It has a deep violet-blue breast band and long, deeply forked tail.
  • Locations: Barn swallows are found statewide in summer in open habitats, building mud nest cups on the interior walls of barns and under bridges. 
  • Fun Fact: Their pointed wings, fluid motions, and long tail streamers are beautiful to watch in flight. They migrate all the way to South America for winter.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

  • Features: A tiny gray-blue songbird with a long white-edged tail. The slim bill is dark on top with a pale base below. White eye ring contrasts with darker head. Constantly moves and fans tail.
  • Locations: Found statewide in forests, orchards, parks, and backyards with mature trees during summer. Winters in southern U.S, Mexico, and the Caribbean. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages actively in trees searching for insects, spiders, and other small prey. Song is a series of thin, soft high-pitched notes. 

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

  • Features: Medium-sized thrush with males bright blue-violet on head, wings, tail, and back contrasting with brick-red breast. Females are grayer overall with bluish wings and tail. 
  • Locations: Open country including meadows, parks, fields, and suburban areas with scattered trees across Massachusetts. 
  • Fun Fact: Readily uses nest boxes, allowing them to thrive near human habitation. Male’s melancholy song is a soft repetition of “chur-lee.”

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea

  • Features: Small songbird with sky-blue upperparts and white underparts with black streaks. Male has black necklace and sideburns. Rapidly gleans insects along the treetop canopy. 
  • Locations: Mature deciduous forests, especially those with tall oaks and hickories, across western and central Massachusetts. Winters in South America.
  • Fun Fact: One of the fastest declining warblers in North America due to habitat loss, their ethereal breeding season song ascending the treetops gives them their name “cerulean.”

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)

  • Features: Male has black face and throat contrasting with bright blue back and white underparts. Female is olive-brown above with dingy yellow face and breast. Forages actively in trees and shrubs.
  • Locations: Mainly in broad-leafed hardwood forests across western Massachusetts. Winters in Caribbean. 
  • Fun Fact: The male’s buzzy “zoo-zee” song rings through the treetops where pairs nest and forage for insects in summer.

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)

  • Features: Large conical bill. Male is deep blue with brown wing bars, female is gray-brown overall. First year males may be female-like. 
  • Locations: Scattered across southern Massachusetts in overgrown old fields with shrubs, small woodland clearings, scrubby areas. Winters in Central America.
  • Fun Fact: Secretive singer usually hidden by dense foliage. Song is a vibrant, warbling mixture of buzzes, whistles and gurgles. 

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

  • Features: Small seed-eating songbird with a short thick bill. Breeding male is entirely brilliant indigo blue. Female is plain brown. First year males may appear female-like.
  • Locations: Fields, roadsides, forest edges with dense shrubs across Massachusetts. Winters in Central America.  
  • Fun Fact: Male sings incessantly through the summer with a high-pitched, buzzing song to defend his breeding territory.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss threatens many species, as wetlands are drained for development and forests are fragmented. Climate change causes mismatches in migration and food supply. Preventing large-scale land conversion protects ecosystems. Citizens can get involved in annual bird counts that help monitor populations.

Citizen Science Opportunities

Anyone can contribute to scientific knowledge and conservation by participating in bird surveys. The annual Christmas Bird Count and breeding bird surveys like the Breeding Bird Atlas allow volunteers to submit data on sightings. Apps like eBird make reporting easy. Getting involved monitors trends and improves protection.

Conclusion

The brilliant blue birds found across diverse Massachusetts habitats, from the coastline paths of the Little Blue Heron to the forest canopies where Cerulean Warblers breed, are an important part of the state’s natural heritage. Conservation initiatives to protect habitats and public engagement in citizen science efforts can help ensure thriving populations of these striking blue species continue gracing the Massachusetts landscape.