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Blue Birds in Illinois: Species, Appearance, and Habitat (2024)

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blue birds in illinoisFrom the bright blue of a Lazuli Bunting to the dark hue of an Indigo Bunting, Illinois is home to several species of beautiful blue birds. These feathered friends have been captivating bird-watchers for generations with their vibrant colors and diverse habitats; they can be seen in coniferous forests, orchards, parks and scrubs where they feed on a variety of small invertebrates such as grasshoppers and caterpillars.

This guide will explore the different types of blue birds found in Illinois – from Eastern Bluebirds to Northern Parulas – along with their appearances, diets nesting habits and distributions across the state.

So if you’re looking for more knowledge about these delightful creatures or just want some tips on how best to spot them around your neighborhood then read on!

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois is home to various beautiful blue bird species.
  • Eastern Bluebirds inhabit open prairies and utilize nest boxes.
  • Mountain Bluebirds are an uncommon sight in Illinois, primarily in the western regions.
  • Conservation initiatives strive to safeguard the Eastern Bluebird population.

Eastern Bluebird: Appearance and Habitat

Eastern Bluebird: Appearance and Habitat
The sky blue back and reddish-orange chest of the Eastern bluebird frequents open prairies, fields, and edge habitats in parts of the Southeastern U.S. and Mexico. Nesting in natural tree cavities or man-made nest boxes, Eastern bluebirds start scouting for breeding sites in March.

The male proclaims its territory with warbling calls while defending the area from tree swallows and house sparrows – unwanted competitors. Females build nests of grasses, pine needles, and feathers, usually raising two broods of 4-6 eggs between April and August.

While feeding on insects and berries, adults must watch for predation from snakes, squirrels, and blue jays.

Conservation efforts aim to provide more suitable nesting habitat for Eastern bluebirds, as their numbers declined last century from introduced species and loss of open land. Through devoted nest box programs and protection of native grasslands, the beautiful song and flash of blue from the Eastern bluebird continue lighting up the prairies and farms of Illinois.

Eastern Bluebird: Diet and Nesting Habits

Eastern Bluebird: Diet and Nesting Habits
Look at those pretty blue eggs in the nest box. Eastern bluebirds are cavity nesters that prefer open areas near forests.

  • They’re primarily insectivores, feasting on beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and other insects.
  • They prefer nesting in natural tree cavities but readily use nest boxes. The female builds the nest out of grasses and pine needles, lining it with soft materials.
  • Clutch size is typically 4-6 light blue or white eggs. Incubation lasts 12-14 days and the altricial young fledge at 15-18 days old.
  • Major nest predators include raccoons, opossums, cats, snakes and other birds like the House Sparrow.

This beautiful blue bird species thrives in open habitat. Support conservation by putting up properly constructed nest boxes. Enjoy observing their interesting behaviors as they raise their young. With community effort, the Eastern Bluebird will continue brightening the fields and forests of Illinois for generations.

Eastern Bluebird: Distribution and Migration Patterns

Eastern Bluebird: Distribution and Migration Patterns
The vibrant Eastern Bluebird brings its brilliant blue plumage to Illinois each spring as it returns from its southern wintering grounds. You may spot these azure beauties perched on fence posts or fluttering across open fields as they forage for insects and berries.

Their melodious warbles fill the air as males stake out nesting cavities, hoping to attract a mate.

Once paired, the female builds a nest of grasses and pine needles inside a natural hollow or birdhouse while her mate defends their territory.

Breeding Season: April to August

Clutch Size: 4-6 eggs

Incubation: 13-16 days

Fledging: 17-19 days

After rearing their young, Eastern Bluebirds form large migratory flocks and return to the southeastern U.S. for the winter. Though abundant, keep an eye out for these iconic songbirds whose sky blue plumage brightens even the dreariest Illinois day.

Mountain Bluebird: Appearance and Habitat

Mountain Bluebird: Appearance and Habitat
With their bright blue plumage contrasted by white under-tails, Mountain Bluebirds inhabit open prairie lands across western North America, only occasionally venturing into western Illinois. As cavity nesters, they seek out natural openings in dead trees, rock crevices, old woodpecker holes, and human-made nest boxes.

The males sing a soft warbling song to attract mates and defend territory. They forage for insects like grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and caterpillars, along with berries and seeds.

While their numbers declined with the loss of open habitats, they remain secure overall. In Illinois, sightings mostly occur during migration and winter, though some do nest in the northwest part of the state.

With conservation efforts restoring prairie lands, the Mountain Bluebird may expand its range eastward.

Though an uncommon visitor, this bright blue bird brings beauty wherever it goes.

Mountain Bluebird: Diet and Nesting Habits

Mountain Bluebird: Diet and Nesting Habits
Y’all’d know that this mountain-dwellin’ blue beauty snacks on berries and bugs while nestin’ in tree holes if you lived out west. The Mountain Bluebird fills its belly with all kinds of insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and spiders.

This bird likes open country and will build its nest in holes excavated by woodpeckers. It doesn’t seem to mind living the high life, nesting anywhere from 4,000 to 10,600 feet in elevation.

The Mountain Bluebird bobs its head while perched upright on branches or wires, watching for food. It breeds in the mountain west but in winter can wander eastward in search of food, making rare appearances with other blue feathered friends like the blue jay, blue grosbeak and cerulean warbler.

While the Eastern Bluebird prefers nesting in cavities closer to water, the Mountain Bluebird is right at home on mountainsides among the pines.

Mountain Bluebird: Distribution and Presence in Illinois

Mountain Bluebird: Distribution and Presence in Illinois
You’re correct that mountain bluebirds are not commonly found in Illinois, though they may pass through the western part of the state during migration or winter.

  • Mountain bluebirds primarily live year-round in western states like Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Some migrate south to Mexico for the winter, while others head to lower mountain elevations when food is scarce.
  • Though uncommon, mountain bluebirds have been spotted in western Illinois during migration and winter when deep cold fronts dip down.
  • Preferred habitat is open areas like mountain meadows, prairies, pastures, and grasslands.
  • Sightings are rare in Illinois, but birders can look for these bright blue birds with white bellies in western counties during winter.

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Red-Breasted Nuthatch
You’re seeing a small blue-gray bird with a white underside and black cap foraging headfirst down tree trunks in Illinois, that’s a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a small songbird, only 4-5 inches in length. It has a short dark bill perfect for probing into crevices of bark for insects and spiders.

This agile species can be seen walking down trunks and branches with ease. Though the Red-breasted Nuthatch tends to favor coniferous forests further north, it’s occasionally spotted in deciduous woodlands and urban parks during winter in Illinois when food becomes scarce.

With patience, you may be able to witness the upside-down foraging behavior that gives this little blue-colored bird its charm.

Species Length Color Diet
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4-5 inches blue-gray back, rusty undertail coverts and sides Insects, seeds, nuts

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Northern Parula

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Northern Parula
The Northern Parula‘s blue-gray back and patch of yellow-green help set it apart from other small songbirds in Illinois, where it breeds in large numbers across the state.

The tiny Northern Parula is a colorful warbler that migrates through the Prairie State each spring and fall. Preferring forests near water, it flits actively in the treetops, feeding on insects and spiders.

Its beautiful trilling song echoes through the canopy as the male defends his territory and courts females.

The male’s plumage features a bluish back, white underside, yellow-green patch on its back, and reddish stripes on its breast.

Parulas nest in hanging lichens or masses of moss in trees. So watch for these striking migratory warblers passing through on their way between their breeding grounds in Illinois and wintering habitats farther south.

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Little Blue Heron

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Little Blue Heron
While many birds in Illinois exhibit shades of blue, the Little Blue Heron stands out with its slate-blue plumage. You may spot this wading bird stalking the shallows of inland marshes and wetlands when foraging.

With patience, you can observe its specialized skills for catching small fish, frogs, and insects.

This species favors isolated and overgrown wetlands, nesting in trees or bushes near water. Their conservation status is Least Concern, but habitat loss threatens their breeding grounds. Careful wetland management and protection of waterways helps support Little Blue Heron populations in Illinois and beyond.

Though elusive, a glimpse of Little Blue Heron reminds one of the biodiversity sustained in local habitats. Paying attention to each species, however small, reconnects you to the wildlife heritage of the Prairie State.

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Cliff Swallow

Other Blue-Colored Birds in Illinois: Cliff Swallow
You’ll often glimpse cliff swallows circling ponds or rivers as they swoop down to snatch insects midair with their wide mouths. These 5- to 6-inch birds have steel blue upperparts, buffy underparts, and a square tail with white spots on the tips of the outer tail feathers.

  1. Cliff swallows build gourd-shaped mud nests on vertical surfaces like cliff faces or buildings.
  2. They migrate from Central and South America to breed in North America between April and October.
  3. Cliff swallows forage on the wing over open country near water. They eat insects like flies, bees, wasps, and ants.
  4. Originally cliff-dwellers, they now commonly nest on barns, bridges, and highway overpasses.

Cliff swallows are a unique blue-colored bird in Illinois, recognized by their mud nest colonies and aerial insect hunting. Observing their nesting and feeding behaviors provides insight into the diverse avian wildlife of the state.


Have you ever wondered what species of blue birds can be found in Illinois? This article provided an overview of the two main blue bird species in Illinois: the Eastern Bluebird and the Mountain Bluebird.

We discussed their appearance, habitat and range, diet, nesting habits, and distribution or migration patterns. Additionally, we highlighted some other blue-colored birds in Illinois, such as the Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Parula, Little Blue Heron, and Cliff Swallow.

It’s important to be aware of the different species of blue birds in Illinois, as they play an important role in the local ecosystem and can be an enjoyable sight in spring and summer. With this article, you should now have a better understanding of blue birds in Illinois and be able to identify them when you see them.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.