Inside: A complete guide to blue birds in California including a full-color photo of each blue bird, details about habitat, diet – including feeder food they’ll eat, appearance, nesting habits, and a range map to show you where in the state you can expect to see them.
You spotted a blue-colored bird in California. The next step is to identify it. I got you!
With more than 20 years of experience attracting backyard birds to my yard (Wisconsin), I’ve studied all of the blue-colored birds in my area so I have the information you’re looking for. For the remaining blue-colored bird species, I rely on my trusty sourcebooks and friends at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology to guide me.
I’ll never forget my first blue-colored bird spotting – which I later learned was an Indigo Bunting! You’d have thought I’d seen Elvis in my backyard. I screamed “blue bird, blue bird” and ran around my house like a lunatic looking for my camera. It was still there when I returned, but not for long. I looked him up in my guide book and there he was in all his royal blue glory. Breathtaking.
All Variations Of Blue Birds In California Are Included
This article includes blue-colored wild bird species in California that range in size from tiny & small to large. The bird could be all blue or partly blue with a secondary color. They could be bright blue birds, dark blue birds, or light blue birds – all variations are here!
Some blue-colored birds live in California year-round, others are here to breed, and others are migrating through. The range maps are color-coded so you know if it’s a year-round bird, there to breed, migrating through, or there during a nonbreeding time.
I also included a beautiful photo to help you identify these blue beauties along with detail such as:
- Size + appearance description
- Diet in the wild and at the feeder
- Nest & eggs description
- Range map
My hope is that this article will help you easily identify the blue bird you saw or plan to see one day. So let’s get at it, here are the blue-colored birds in California:
Blue-Colored Birds In California
Appearance: 7″ long, steel blue glossy on top, chestnut forehead and throat, and rust-orange underparts. Long forked tail with a white base. The female’s coloring is lighter and the tail shorter.
Diet: Insects, preferably beetles, wasps, and flies. Drinks by skimming the surface of the water.
Feeder food: Not likely to visit a feeder.
Habitat: Open fields and pastures.
Nesting: A barn swallow typically nests in or on a manmade structure such as a barn. Builds nests of mud. 2 broods/season, 4-5 eggs per brood, eggs are white with brown markings, incubation from 13-17 days.
Migration: Barn swallows are migrators. In spring, they’ll migrate north into the US and Canada for breeding and to raise their young. When fall comes, they’ll head south to Mexico’s southern states. That said, they do maintain a year-round range in central Mexico where they remain for every season.
Appearance: The belted kingfisher is a large 13″ long bird with a large head, long bill, and stocky body. Blue/gray throughout with white ring around neck and white chest. The Female is the same but with an additional chestnut band on her chest.
Diet: Large 13″ long bird with a large head, long bill, and stocky body. Blue/gray throughout with white ring around neck and white chest. The Female is the same but with the additional chestnut band on the chest.
Feeder food: Unlikely to come to the feeder but often attracted to yards with streams or ponds.
Habitat: Near streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and calm marine waters – especially unclouded water with little vegetation.
Nesting: Belted kingfishers dig burrows along the water’s edge for their nest. 1-2 broods/season, 5-8 eggs/brood – large white glossy eggs (1.5″ long), 22-24 days incubation.
Migration: Many but not all belted kingfishers are migrators. In spring, the migrators will head north into Montana, North Dakota, northern Minnesota, Canada, and Alaska to breed and raise their young. When fall comes the migrators head back south – as far south as Arizona, New Mexico, southern California, and Mexico.
Year-round range: All US states (except North Dakota and Arizona) and the pacific coast of Canada’s British Columbia.
Breeding range: While some stay in their year-round range, many others migrate north into Montana, North Dakota, northern Minnesota, Canada, and Alaska to breed and raise their young. When fall comes the migrators head back south – as far south as Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California.
Winter range: While many belted kingfishers migrate south for winter, just as many remain in their year-round range when the temperatures dip.
Appearance: Blue grosbeaks are medium birds about 8″ long, large, bright blue, with large silver bills, and chestnut wingbars. The female’s primary color is light cinnamon with darker-colored wings.
Diet: Insects, seeds, and grains.
Feeder food: Grain and birdseed.
Habitat: Thick shrubbery and areas with tall trees.
- Nest: Small cup-shaped nest of twigs and miscellaneous organic materials resting in low-lying trees, shrubs, and bushes.
- Brood: 1-2 broods/season
- Clutch: 3-5 eggs/brood
- Egg color: Pale blue to white with occasional brown spots
- Egg size: 0.8 inches by 0.7 inches
- Incubation: 12-13 days incubation.
Migration: Blue grosbeaks are migrators. In spring, they migrate north into the US to breed and raise their young. Then in the fall, they head back south for the winter. There is a small area in Mexico they call their year-round home. The birds in this area don’t typically migrate.
Year-round range: Parts of Mexico.
Breeding range: Southern half of the US as well as North Dakota, South Dakota, and Kansas.
Winter range: Mexico and the Caribbean islands.
Appearance: Blue-gray gnatcatchers are tiny birds 4.25″ long, with soft blue/gray upperparts, white eye-rings, white underparts, and long black long tails with white under. The females are the same. The breeding male is accented with narrow black eyebrows.
Diet: Insects and spiders.
Feeder food: Unlikely to visit the feeder.
Habitat: Deciduous forested areas.
- Nest: Tidy cup-shaped nest of natural fibers, bark, and spiderweb about 3-80′ high in a tree or shrub.
- Broods: 1-2 broods/season
- Clutch: 3-5 eggs/brood
- Egg color: Pale blue with red/brown spots.
- Egg size: 0.5 – 0.6 inches by 0.4 – 0.5 inches
- Incubation: 11-15 days and the young fledge at about 10-15 days.
Migration: While many blue-gray gnatcatchers remain in their year-round range during the spring & summer, most migrate north into the US for breeding and to raise their young. The migrators then head back south in the fall and return to their year-round range or even further south along the Mexican Pacific coast, southern Florida, and the Caribbean islands to spend winter.
Year-round range: The southernmost part of these US states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Breeding range: Eastern half of the US as well as California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansa, and Oklahoma.
Winter range: Southern California, southwest Arizona, along the Pacific coast of Mexico, the southernmost tip of Florida, and the Caribbean islands.
Appearance: Large bird 11″ long, slender, shades of bright azure blue and gray, brown patch on the back, white underparts, blue necklace, and long tail. Females look the same.
Diet: Insects, nuts (especially acorns), seeds, fruit, other birds’ eggs and nestlings, and small animals.
Feeder Food: Whole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet.
Habitat: Along the edges of the west coast including from Baja, Mexico to the southernmost part of British Columbia. Prefer open areas with ample trees and scrubs even within suburban and urban areas.
Nesting: Large and bulky open-cup nest of twigs and bark, in a tree or bush about 3-10′ up. 2-3 eggs/brood, incubated for 15-17 days, and young fledge between 18-23 days. Eggs are 1-1.5″ long, pale green blotched with olive, or pale gray spotted with brown.
|Appearance||13″ long, large vibrant blue bird, dark gray back and mask, white throat, light gray belly, large bill, and long tail. Female is similar.|
|Diet||Across, insects, spiders, snakes, lizards, mice, and other birds’ eggs and nestlings.|
|Feeder Food||N/A – Only 2 people inhabit the island.|
|Habitat||Found exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, California.|
|Nesting||Built with sticks, twigs, and roots in dense bushes and trees. 2-5 eggs/brood, incubation is about 20 days.|
Found exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, California.
Appearance: Small bird 5-6″ long, brilliant blue on top, soft orange-cinnamon color chest, white belly and patch on the shoulder, cone-shaped bill, and slightly flat forehead.
Diet: Insects, fruits, and grasses.
Feeder Food: White proso millet, sunflower seeds, or nyjer thistle seeds.
Habitat: Open woodlands, brushy hillsides, thickets, and backyards throughout the West.
Nesting: Cup-shaped nest of bark, twigs, and leaves nestled in a shrub about 3′ up. They have 1-2 broods/season, 3-4 eggs/brood, and eggs are .7-.8″ long and pale blue to faint green/blue or white. 11-14 days incubation period.
Appearance: Small bird about 7″ long. Sky-blue color, darker blue wings and tail, lighter shades of below underneath, white undertail with black wing tips, and straight thin bill. Females are gray/brown with a bit of soft blue on their wings and tail.
Diet: Insects, fruit, and seeds.
Feeder Food: Unlikely to visit a feeder.
Habitat: Open woodlands, fields, prairies.
Nesting: Cavity nesters – will use an old woodpecker hole or manmade nesting box.
Brood: 1-2 broods/season
Clutch: 4-8 eggs/brood
Egg size: 1″ x .8″
Egg color: Pale blue to bluish-white (rarely pure white)
Incubation: 18-21 days
Appearance: 10-11″ long bird, dusty blue body and lighter blue belly and throat, short tail, and no crown. The female looks similar.
Diet: Primarily Pinyon-pine seeds, acorns, fruit, and grains. Also consumes insects, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, and small mammals.
Feeder Food: Whole peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn.
Habitat: Forested areas comprised of Pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, scrub oak, and other pine trees.
Nesting: Large bulky nests of sticks and twigs in the trees about 3-115′ up. 1 brood/season, 2-5 eggs/brood, eggs are 1.3-1.5″ long, pale blue with dark brown specks, incubation last 17 days and young fledge between 21-22 days.
Appearance: The purple martin is a medium bird about 8.5″ long with a blue/purple head, back, and belly with black wings and tail.
Diet: Insects especially dragonflies.
Feeder food: Unlikely to visit a feeder.
Habitat: Usually within 100′ of human dwelling. Purple Martins exist in large colonies.
Nesting: Purple martins are cavity nesters. They primarily use manmade nest boxes which accommodate a colony of birds. They have 1 brood/season, 4-5 white eggs/brood, 15-18 days incubation, and fledge after 26-30 days.
Migration: Purple martins are migrators. They spend the winters in South America and migrate north to breed and raise young.
Breeding range: Pacific northwest coast of Washington, Oregon, and California, parts of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, the eastern half of the US, and the southern parts of Canada’s Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.
Winter range: South America
Appearance: The red-breasted nuthatch is a small bird about 4.5″ long, with gray/blue backs, a white head with black stripes running over either eye, orange-cinnamon-colored breast, and a pointy pick-like beak. The females look the same except their underside is a more faded color. Usually spotted climbing upside-down on a deciduous tree foraging for insects beneath the bark.
Diet: Insects, spiders, and other bugs.
Feeder food: Suet, sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, fruit.
Habitat: Forested areas primarily comprised of coniferous trees (i.e. pines). Woodsy areas of deciduous trees in the east. Southern birds prefer mountainous regions until winter comes in which case they head to lower land.
Nesting: Red-breasted nuthatches are cavity nesters and they prefer to excavate their own holes. They have 1 brood/season, and 6 eggs/brood, eggs are white & speckled with red-brown.
Migration: Red-breasted nuthatches are partial migrators. While many remain in their year-round range, others migrate south for winter.
Year-round range: Southern Alaska, states in the western third of the US, northern Minnesota & Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New England as well as all Canadian provinces except Nunavut.
Winter range: US states that are not part of the year-round range.
Appearance: Large bird 12-14″ long, chubby with blue/gray wings with black pointy tips, short red legs, black, round wide tail, and iridescent neck.
Diet: Grains, seeds, and fruit. Commonly seen scavenging trash cans for food.
Feeder food: Millet, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower seed, safflower, peanut hearts.
Habitat: Common around cities and towns as well as farmlands
Nesting: Rock pigeons build a large nest of sticks and grass wherever there’s a ledge (e.g. highway overpass, barns, bridges, tall buildings). 1-6 broods/year, 1-3 eggs/brood, eggs are white, incubation about 18 days and the young fledge at about 25-32 days.
Migration: Rock pigeons are not migrators. They remain in their year-round range all seasons of the year.
Year-round range: Every US state, the southernmost edges of Canada, and Mexico.
Appearance: Large bird 11.5″ long, dark blue body and crest, black head and crest with spots of blue. Females are similar.
Diet: Nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, other birds’ eggs and nestlings, and small animals.
Feeder Food: Whole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet.
Habitat: Typically found in forested areas of mixed tree types – coniferous and deciduous.
Nesting: Large open-cup nest of twigs, bark, and mud located high in a conifer tree. 1 brood/season, 4-5 eggs/brood, eggs are blue/green with dark brown/purple/olive spots, 16-18 days incubation, and the young fledge at about 16-18 days.
Appearance: 5-6″ long, dark metallic blue to blue/green with a white belly, notched tail, and pointed wing tips. Females have the same coloring but are a bit duller.
Diet: Insects and small fruits.
Feeder Food: Unlikely to visit a feeder.
Habitat: Open areas such as fields, large lawns, and marshes.
Nesting: Tree swallows are cavity nesters. They often take up residence in an old dead tree or existing hole left behind by other cavity nesters. They have 2-8 eggs, eggs are light pink then slowly fade to white. Incubation is 14-15 days and young fledge at about 18-22 days.
Appearance: Small bird 7″ long, deep blue underparts, orange-chestnut back and breast. Female gray/blue, light blue wings and tail, and pale chestnut breast.
Diet: Insects, fruits & berries.
Feeder Food: Mealworms
Habitat: Open woodlands especially those with pines and oaks, orchards, and farmland with some trees.
Nest: Cavity nesters – old woodpecker hold or manmade nesting box.
Brood: 2 broods/season
Clutch: 4-5 eggs/brood
Egg color: Pale blue without blemishes, although sometimes are white
Egg size: Length: 0.8-2.4″ x Width: .8″
Incubation: 12-18 days and young fledge at about 20 days.
Appearance: 5-6″ long, gray/blue back, white head with a black cap, chestnut under the tail, and a long thin pick-like beak. Females look similar except their cap and neck are gray. Usually spotted climbing upside-down on a deciduous tree foraging for insects beneath the bark.
Diet: Insects & seeds.
Feeder food: Suet, sunflower seed, shelled peanuts.
Habitat: Near mature deciduous and mixed forests; wooded suburban areas such as orchards, parks, and backyards.
Nesting: White-breasted nuthatches are cavity nesters. They have 1 brood/season, 5-9 eggs/brood, eggs are white with brown markings, incubation is 11-12 days and young fledge at about 13-14 days.
Migration: White-breasted nuthatches are not migrators. They remain in their year-round range all seasons of the year. That said, a small part of the population may migrate to a strip in the southcentral US for the winter.
Year-round range: Every US state, Canada’s southern provinces, and Mexico.
|Appearance||11-12″ large bird, light blue and gray, white throat, gray belly separated by an indistinct, angled stripe of bright blue on chest, and long wide tail. Female are similar.|
|Diet||Insects, fruit, nuts, seeds, lizards and nestling birds, sometimes finding nests.|
|Feeder Food||Whole peanuts, sunflower seeds.|
|Habitat||Pinyon pine habitats, dry shrublands of Nevada on south, suburbs and parks.|
|Nesting||Basket shaped nest of twigs and plant in pinyon pine or shrub between 6-14′ up. 1-5 eggs, eggs .9-1.3″ long, pale green blotched with olive, or pale gray spotted with brown. Incubation 17-19 days and long fledge 17-19 days.|
The great state of California hosts many different species of blue birds. Hopefully, you’ve identified the one you’re interested in within this article or just broadened your knowledge of blue birds in California. If you want to see more blue birds consider taking steps to attract them.