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Intermediate & Advanced ID: Male and Female Bluebirds

There are three species of bluebirds in North America, and for the most part their ranges can help distinguish between them although there are regions where all three species can be seen.

Male Bluebirds

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Bluebird, male
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Bluebird, male
The males of the three species of bluebirds are fairly easy to distinguish by just looking at their throat and breast area. On the throat and breast one is all reddish brown, one is all blue, and the other is a mixture.

Here are the differences:

triangle picture Eastern Bluebird, male: Reddish brown throat and breast
triangle picture Mountain Bluebird, male: Blue throat and breast
triangle picture Western Bluebird, male: Blue throat and reddish brown breast

Female Bluebirds

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Bluebird, female
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Bluebird, female
The females are more subtly colored and can vary in the amount of blue showing on their upperparts and wings and tail depending on age. They are not always easy to distinguish. Many drawn field guides make them look much more different than they really are. Of course, range is very helpful. The Eastern Bluebird is the only bluebird generally found east of central Texas. The Western and Mountain Bluebird ranges overlap broadly in the West. The Western and Eastern females have two colors on their breast and belly—chestnut and gray or white; the Mountain is more uniformly colored on its breast and belly.

Here are the differences for the females:

triangle picture Eastern Bluebird, female: Usually rusty on the throat, although it can be whitish; pale chestnut breast and flanks contrast strongly with the white belly and undertail coverts
triangle picture Western Bluebird, female: Throat whitish to gray; pale chestnut breast and flanks blend into the gray belly and gray undertail coverts
triangle picture Mountain Bluebird, female: Uniformly gray or pale gray-brown head, back, breast, and belly; white undertail coverts

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