Pennsylvania is known for its rolling hills, vast forests, and sparkling lakes, which provide habitats for a wide variety of bird species. Among these birds, the blue birds stand out for their striking blue plumage, unique songs, and interesting behaviors. These birds are a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts and can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Pennsylvania. In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of bluebirds in Pennsylvania, from their preferred habitats and migratory patterns to the best locations for observing them in the wild. Whether you’re an experienced birder or simply interested in learning more about the natural world, join us as we discover the fascinating world of blue birds in Pennsylvania and gain a deeper appreciation for the state’s rich ecological diversity.
Types of Blue Birds in Pennsylvania:
- Barn Swallow
- Belted Kingfisher
- Black-Throated Blue Warbler
- Blue Jay
- Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
- Cerulean Warbler
- Common Grackle
- Eastern Bluebird
- Indigo Bunting
- Northern Parula
- Purple Martin
- Red-Breasted Nuthatch
- Rock Pigeon
- Tree Swallow
- White-Breasted Nuthatch
- Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
- Lifespan: 4 years
- Size: 5.5 and 7 inches
- Native to: Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas
The barn swallow is a small bird with a distinctive appearance. It measures about 7 inches in length and has shiny steel-blue feathers on its back. Its forehead and throat are chestnut in color, while its underparts are a rusty-orange shade. One of its noticeable features is its long forked tail, which has a white base. It’s worth noting that the female barn swallow has lighter coloring and a shorter tail compared to the male.
When it comes to their diet, barn swallows primarily feed on insects, with a preference for beetles, wasps, and flies. They have a unique way of getting a drink by skimming the surface of the water, but they are not typically seen visiting bird feeders.
These birds are commonly found in open fields and pastures, where they build their nests. Barn swallows prefer manmade structures such as barns for nesting. They construct their nests using mud. During the breeding season, they produce two broods, each containing 4-5 white eggs with brown markings. The incubation period for these eggs ranges from 13 to 17 days.
Barn swallows are migratory birds. In the spring, they migrate north to the United States and Canada to breed and raise their young. When autumn arrives, they head south to the southern states of Mexico. However, some barn swallows remain in central Mexico throughout the year, maintaining a year-round range there.
Belted Kingfisher (Crested Bluebirds In Florida)
- Scientific name: Ardea alba
- Lifespan: 15 years
- Size: 3 feet
- Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe
The belted kingfisher is a relatively large bird, measuring about 13 inches in length. It has a distinctive appearance with a large head, a long bill, and a stout body. The bird is predominantly blue-gray in color with a white ring around its neck and a white chest. However, the female belted kingfisher is similar in appearance to the male but features an additional chestnut band on her chest.
When it comes to their diet, belted kingfishers primarily feed on fish. They are not commonly seen at bird feeders but are often attracted to areas with streams or ponds.
These birds are typically found in habitats near bodies of water, including streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and calm marine waters, especially those with clear water and minimal vegetation.
For nesting, belted kingfishers dig burrows along the water’s edge. They usually have 1-2 broods per season, each containing 5-8 large, glossy white eggs that are about 1.5 inches long. The incubation period for these eggs lasts for approximately 22-24 days.
Belted kingfishers are known for their migratory behavior, although not all of them migrate. In the spring, migratory individuals head north to places like Montana, North Dakota, northern Minnesota, Canada, and Alaska for breeding and raising their young. When fall arrives, these migratory birds head back south, sometimes as far as Arizona, New Mexico, southern California, and Mexico.
While many belted kingfishers migrate, some choose to stay in their year-round range, which includes all U.S. states except North Dakota and Arizona, as well as the Pacific coast of Canada’s British Columbia. During the winter, some remain in their year-round range, while others continue their migration south to escape the cold temperatures.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
- Scientific name: Setophaga caerulescens
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Size: 5.1 in
- Native to: North America
The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a small bird, measuring about 5 inches in length. These birds have midnight or steel-blue feathers on their back, a black throat, and a white belly. They primarily eat insects and fruit, but you can attract them to your feeder with suet, peanut butter, and nectar.
Black-throated Blue Warblers prefer to live in mature deciduous and mixed evergreen woodlands that have lots of thick shrubs. When it comes to nesting, they create cup-shaped nests in shrubs using bark and spider webs. They typically have 1 to 3 broods per breeding season, with each brood containing 2 to 5 small, speckled, creamy white eggs measuring about 0.6 to 0.8 inches. The incubation period for their eggs lasts approximately 12 to 13 days.
These warblers are known for their migrations. They head north in the spring to breed and raise their young, and in the fall, they fly south to spend the winter in southern Florida and the Caribbean. Their breeding range includes areas like Northern Wisconsin, Northern Michigan, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, the New England states, and the southern provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada. During the winter, you can find them in southern Florida and various Caribbean islands.
- Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
- Lifespan: about 7 years
- Size: 9 and 12 inches
- Native to: North America
The blue jay is a large bird, measuring about 12 inches in length. It has a medium blue and white body with distinctive features like a blue crest on its head, which it can flatten at will. The bird also sports a gray belly and a white face. Its wings are a combination of white and blue with noticeable black spots. Interestingly, both male and female blue jays share the same appearance.
When it comes to their diet, blue jays are omnivorous, which means they eat a variety of foods. They enjoy insects, fruits, seeds, nuts, and they are not averse to consuming other birds’ eggs and nestlings.
For those interested in attracting blue jays to their yards, offering whole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn can be enticing.
Blue jays are quite adaptable when it comes to their habitat. They are commonly found in forested areas with mixed types of trees, but they are also a frequent sight in suburban and urban environments.
When it comes to nesting, blue jays build substantial nests made from twigs, bark, and mud, typically resting on tree branches at heights ranging from 5 to 50 feet. During the breeding season, they tend to have 1-2 broods, and each brood can contain 2-7 eggs. The eggs of blue jays vary in color from pale blue to a light brown base, often adorned with brown or gray spots. These eggs are relatively small, measuring about 1 inch by just under 1 inch. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs, which takes about 17-18 days. The young birds, or fledglings, typically leave the nest between 17 to 21 days after hatching.
Blue jays are known for being non-migratory birds. They tend to stay within their year-round range throughout all four seasons, including the breeding season. While they may move around within this range, they do not have a regular pattern of migrating north for breeding and south for the winter, as some other bird species do. However, in rare instances, some blue jays may venture west of their year-round range during the winter months.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Small Bluebirds In Florida)
- Scientific name: Polioptila caerulea
- Lifespan: 3-4 years
- Size: 3.9–5.1 in
- Native to: North America
The blue-gray gnatcatcher is a tiny bird, measuring around 4.25 inches in length. These birds have soft blue-gray feathers on their upperparts, distinctive white eye-rings, and white underparts. They are characterized by their long black tails with white undersides. Interestingly, both male and female blue-gray gnatcatchers look the same in terms of their appearance. However, during the breeding season, the male may have narrow black eyebrows that accentuate its features.
When it comes to their diet, blue-gray gnatcatchers primarily feed on insects and spiders, which they catch as they dart through the air.
These birds are not commonly seen visiting bird feeders. They tend to prefer foraging for insects in their natural environment.
Blue-gray gnatcatchers are typically found in deciduous forested areas, where they make their nests and raise their young.
For nesting, they create tidy cup-shaped nests using natural fibers, bark, and spiderwebs. These nests can be situated at heights ranging from 3 to 80 feet in trees or shrubs. During the breeding season, they usually have 1-2 broods, with each brood consisting of 3-5 pale blue eggs with red or brown spots. The eggs are quite small, measuring between 0.5 to 0.6 inches by 0.4 to 0.5 inches. The incubation period lasts for approximately 11-15 days, and the young birds, or fledglings, typically leave the nest at around 10-15 days old.
Blue-gray gnatcatchers exhibit migratory behavior. While some of them stay within their year-round range during spring and summer, most migrate north into the United States to breed and raise their young. In the fall, these migratory individuals head back south, returning to their year-round range or even traveling further south along the Mexican Pacific coast, southern Florida, and the Caribbean islands to spend the winter.
Their year-round range includes the southernmost parts of several U.S. states, such as California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Their breeding range encompasses the eastern half of the United States, as well as parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. During the winter months, they can be found in regions including southern California, southwest Arizona, along the Pacific coast of Mexico, the southernmost tip of Florida, and various Caribbean islands.
- Scientific name: Setophaga cerulea
- Lifespan: 6 years
- Size: 4.5 in
- Native to: Eastern North American
Cerulean Warblers are small birds, measuring about 4.3 inches in length. They have sky-blue feathers on their upper bodies with white wing bars and darker blue streaks on their backs. Their bellies are white, and they sport a steel-blue neck band with stripes on their sides. The female Cerulean Warblers, on the other hand, have light blue or green upper bodies, soft yellow bellies, brown wings, and a touch of white under their eyes.
These birds primarily eat insects and plants but are unlikely to visit bird feeders. They prefer living in deciduous forests with mature tall trees. When it’s time to nest, they create cup-shaped nests using twigs, grass, and spiderwebs, usually placed high up in trees at heights ranging from 16 to 115 feet. They typically have one brood per breeding season, with each brood containing 1 to 5 eggs. These eggs are small, measuring between 0.6 to 0.8 inches, and are grayish-green with brown speckles. The incubation period for their eggs lasts around 11 to 12 days.
Cerulean Warblers are known for their migrations. They head north to the Midwest and Northeastern United States for the spring and summer months, and then they travel south to South America for the winter. Their breeding range includes areas like Eastern Minnesota, the southern halves of Wisconsin and Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, southern New York, and the far southern edge of Ontario, Canada. During the winter, you can find them in various regions of South America.
- Scientific name: Quiscalus
- Lifespan: 17 years
- Size: 11-inch
- Native to: North and South America
The common grackle is a relatively large bird, measuring around 12.5 inches in length. These birds are easily identifiable by their iridescent blue-purple and bronze plumage. They have striking yellow eyes and distinctive long, flared tails. While both male and female common grackles share similar features, the female tends to have less vibrant coloring, appears somewhat browner, and possesses a shorter tail.
In terms of their diet, common grackles have diverse preferences, as they feed on insects, grains, seeds, and fruit, and even scavenge for discarded food in the garbage.
When it comes to attracting common grackles to bird feeders, offering sunflower seeds, particularly black-oil sunflower seeds, can be enticing.
These birds are adaptable when it comes to their habitat, and they are commonly found in fields with scattered trees, open woodlands, farmlands, and marshes. It’s not uncommon to spot common grackles in suburban yards as well.
For nesting, common grackles construct bulky cup-shaped nests made of twigs. They typically place these nests at heights ranging from 3 to 20 feet in conifer trees. Their nests usually contain 3-5 eggs, which are incubated for about 12-15 days. The young birds, or fledglings, typically leave the nest at around 12-15 days old.
Common grackles exhibit migratory behavior. While some remain within their year-round range throughout all four seasons, many migrate north in the spring, venturing as far north as Canada’s Northwest Territories to breed and raise their young. Then, when fall arrives, they head back south into their year-round range. A small portion of the population pushes even further southwest into Texas.
Their year-round range includes Nebraska and the U.S. states located south and east of it. Their breeding range extends to regions such as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, western Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, the New England states, and all Canadian provinces (except for Nunavut and British Columbia). During the winter months, common grackles can be found along the southwest edge of their year-round range in Texas.
- Scientific name: Sialia sialis
- Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
- Size: 6.3–8.3 in
- Native to: Eastern North America and south as far as Nicaragua
Eastern bluebirds are small birds, measuring about 7 inches in length. They are easily recognizable by their vibrant royal blue plumage, along with an orange throat and breast, and a white belly and undertail. While both male and female eastern bluebirds share similar features, the female tends to have more muted colors.
When it comes to their diet, eastern bluebirds have a varied menu. During the spring and summer months, they primarily feed on insects and spiders. However, as the seasons change to fall and winter, their diet shifts towards small fruits.
For those looking to attract eastern bluebirds to their yards, providing suet, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and jelly can be enticing food options.
Eastern bluebirds are often found in wide-open spaces, including fields and meadows, where they make their homes and raise their young.
In terms of nesting, eastern bluebirds are cavity nesters. The male bluebird takes on the task of selecting the nest site, which could be an old woodpecker hole in a tree or a manmade nestbox. However, it is the female who is responsible for building the nest. Interestingly, she may reuse the same nest for multiple broods. During the breeding season, they tend to have 2-7 broods, each containing 4-5 pale blue (sometimes white) eggs with no blemishes or discoloration. These eggs are relatively small, measuring about 0.9 inches by 0.8 inches. The incubation period for these eggs typically lasts from 11 to 19 days.
While many eastern bluebirds remain within their year-round range throughout the entire year, some exhibit migratory behavior. These migratory bluebirds head north for breeding and raising their young and then travel south during the winter months. They either return to their year-round range or move further west into regions like Colorado, New Mexico, and western Texas.
Their year-round range encompasses the U.S. states located south and east of Nebraska, as well as Mexico and Central America. During the breeding season, they can be found in regions including northwest Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, the northern half of Wisconsin and Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, and parts of Canadian provinces such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. In the winter, eastern bluebirds can be spotted in areas including eastern Colorado, New Mexico, western Texas, and northeast Mexico.
- Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Size: 5 inches
- Native to: Southern Canada to northern Florida during the breeding season, and from southern Florida to northern South America during the winter.
Indigo Buntings are commonly found in a variety of habitats. You can spot them in brushy fields, where they often perch on weedy plants, scrub areas, and along the edges of woodlands. They also make themselves at home in clearings within deciduous woods and along the edges of swamps.
When it comes to their diet, savannah sparrows have a diverse menu. They typically feed on small seeds, insects, and fruits. While they are not regular visitors to bird feeders, you may attract them by offering nyjer/thistle and white millet seeds.
Their preferred habitat includes brushy fields, weedy plants, scrubland, and woodland edges, as well as clearings within deciduous woods and swampy areas.
For nesting, Indigo Bunting create cup-shaped nests, which they usually place in shrubs or trees about 3 feet high off the ground. During the breeding season, they tend to have 1-3 broods, with each brood containing 3-4 eggs. These eggs are white with a few brown spots.
- Scientific name: Progne subis
- Lifespan: about 5 to 7 years
- Size: 7-inch
- Native to: North America
The Purple Martin is a medium-sized bird, approximately 8.5 inches in length, known for its distinct appearance. It boasts a blue-purple head, back, and belly, along with black wings and tail.
In terms of diet, Purple Martins primarily feed on insects, with a particular fondness for dragonflies.
Although they are not commonly seen at bird feeders, Purple Martins are known to be social birds and are usually found within 100 feet of human dwellings. They often exist in large colonies, where multiple birds live together.
When it comes to nesting, Purple Martins are cavity nesters, meaning they nest in cavities or hollow spaces. They primarily utilize manmade nest boxes designed to accommodate a colony of birds. During the breeding season, they typically have one brood, which consists of 4-5 white eggs. The incubation period for these eggs lasts for approximately 15-18 days, and the young birds, or fledglings, typically leave the nest after 26-30 days.
Purple Martins are migratory birds. They spend their winters in South America and migrate north during the breeding season to raise their young.
Their breeding range includes the Pacific northwest coast of Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as parts of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. They are also found in the eastern half of the United States and the southern parts of Canada’s Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. During the winter months, Purple Martins can be found in South America.
- Scientific name: Sitta canadensis
- Lifespan: 6 years.
- Size: 4.5 in
- Native to: North Americ
The Red-Breasted Nuthatch is a small bird, measuring about 4.5 inches in length. These birds have distinctive features, including grayish-blue backs, a white head adorned with black stripes over each eye, and an orange-cinnamon-colored breast. They also have a pointed, pick-like beak. Female Red-Breasted Nuthatches share a similar appearance, but their undersides tend to have more muted colors. You’ll often spot them climbing upside-down on deciduous trees while foraging for insects beneath the bark.
When it comes to their diet, Red-Breasted Nuthatches primarily feed on insects, spiders, and various other bugs.
While they may not be regular visitors to bird feeders, you can attract Red-Breasted Nuthatches by offering suet, sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, and fruit as feeder food.
Red-Breasted Nuthatches are commonly found in forested areas, particularly those primarily comprised of coniferous trees like pines. In the eastern regions, you can also find them in wooded areas with deciduous trees. During the winter months, southern populations of these birds tend to prefer mountainous regions before heading to lower-lying areas.
For nesting, Red-Breasted Nuthatches are cavity nesters, and they have a unique habit of excavating their own holes for nesting. During the breeding season, they typically have one brood, and each brood contains about 6 eggs. These eggs are white and speckled with red-brown markings.
Red-Breasted Nuthatches exhibit partial migratory behavior. While many remain in their year-round range throughout the year, others migrate south for the winter. Their year-round range encompasses southern Alaska, the western third of the United States, northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New England, and all Canadian provinces except Nunavut. During the winter, you can find them in U.S. states that are not part of their year-round range.
- Scientific name: Columba livia
- Lifespan: 6 years
- Size: 11-13 inches
- Native to: Europe North Africa and India, it now lives in wild or semi-wild conditions in cities all over the world, including most of North America
The Rock Pigeon is a large bird, measuring approximately 12-14 inches in length. These birds have a plump appearance, characterized by blue-gray wings with black pointed tips, short red legs, a round and wide black tail, and an iridescent neck.
When it comes to their diet, Rock Pigeons primarily feed on grains, seeds, and fruit. They are often spotted scavenging for food around trash cans in urban areas.
While they may not be regular visitors to bird feeders, you can attract Rock Pigeons by offering foods like millet, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower, and peanut hearts.
Rock Pigeons are commonly found in areas around cities, towns, and farmlands. They are adaptable birds that thrive in urban environments.
For nesting, Rock Pigeons construct large nests made of sticks and grass. They often choose locations with ledges, such as highway overpasses, barns, bridges, and tall buildings. During the breeding season, they can have multiple broods in a single year, ranging from 1 to 6 broods. Each brood typically contains 1-3 eggs, which are white in color. The incubation period for these eggs lasts for about 18 days, and the young pigeons, or squabs, fledge at around 25-32 days of age.
Rock Pigeons are not migratory birds. They stay within their year-round range throughout all seasons of the year. Their year-round range includes every U.S. state, the southernmost edges of Canada, and Mexico.
- Scientific name: Tachycineta bicolor
- Lifespan: 5 years
- Size: 14 cm
- Native to: North America
The Tree Swallow is a small bird, measuring about 5-6 inches in length. These birds have a distinct appearance, featuring dark metallic blue to blue-green feathers with a white belly. They also have notched tails and pointed wingtips. While the males exhibit these vibrant colors, female Tree Swallows share a similar appearance but tend to be a bit duller in coloring.
When it comes to their diet, Tree Swallows primarily feed on insects and small fruits, which they catch while in flight.
Although they are not typically seen at bird feeders, Tree Swallows prefer open areas such as fields, large lawns, and marshes for foraging and nesting.
Speaking of nesting, Tree Swallows are cavity nesters. They often choose to nest in old, dead trees or existing holes left behind by other cavity-nesting birds. During the breeding season, they lay 2-8 eggs. These eggs start with a light pink color and gradually fade to white. The incubation period for these eggs lasts for approximately 14-15 days, and the young Tree Swallows, or fledglings, typically leave the nest at about 18-22 days of age.
- Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
- Lifespan: 2-6 years
- Size: 13-15 centimeters (5-6 inches)
- Origin: North America
The White-Breasted Nuthatch is a small bird, typically measuring between 5 to 6 inches in length. These birds have a distinct appearance with a gray-blue back, a white head adorned with a black cap, and a chestnut-colored area under their tail. They also possess a long, thin, pick-like beak. Female White-Breasted Nuthatches share a similar look, except their cap and neck are gray. These nuthatches are often observed climbing upside-down on deciduous trees as they search for insects beneath the tree bark.
When it comes to their diet, White-Breasted Nuthatches primarily feed on insects and seeds.
While they may not be frequent visitors to bird feeders, you can attract White-Breasted Nuthatches by offering suet, sunflower seeds, and shelled peanuts as feeder food.
White-Breasted Nuthatches tend to reside in habitats near mature deciduous and mixed forests, as well as wooded suburban areas such as orchards, parks, and backyards.
For nesting, White-Breasted Nuthatches are cavity nesters. They typically have one brood per breeding season, consisting of 5-9 eggs. These eggs are white with brown markings. The incubation period for these eggs lasts for approximately 11-12 days, and the young nuthatches fledge at about 13-14 days of age.
Unlike migratory birds, White-Breasted Nuthatches do not undertake seasonal migrations. They remain in their year-round range throughout all seasons of the year. However, a small portion of the population may migrate to a strip in the south-central United States for the winter months. Their year-round range includes every U.S. state, Canada’s southern provinces, and Mexico.
Final Thoughts on Bluebirds in Pennsylvania
Blue birds in Pennsylvania are not just stunning to behold; they’re also vital indicators of our state’s environmental health. As we celebrate their vibrant plumage and melodious songs, let’s also remember the crucial role we play in preserving their habitats. By promoting conservation efforts, providing nest boxes, and being mindful of our impact on their ecosystems, we can ensure that these iconic bluebirds continue to grace our skies for generations to come