23 Blue-Headed Birds You Might See in North America: The Complete List + Photos for Fast ID

Let me guess. You spotted a bird with a blue head and want to know what type it is. Or, maybe the bird had some blue on its head. Either way, you’ve come to the right place!

This article includes wild bird species in the US and Canada with blue heads. They could have an entire blue head or part of it is blue.

The next step is to identify it.

I’ve been backyard birding for more than 25 years and have seen many blue-headed birds in my yard so can speak to them. For the remaining bird species, I rely on my trusty sourcebooks and friends at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology to guide me.

Along with each bird listed in this article, a beautiful photo of each one is included to help you identify the bird you’re interested in.

A range map is also included and further helps narrow down the species you’re laid eyes on. If the bird listed doesn’t exist in your area you can probably eliminate it from the running.

It doesn’t stop there. This article also includes a description of each bird, its habitat, diet, nesting habits, and even what foods it’ll eat at the feeder (you never know if you want to attract more of them!).

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. Time of year is another clue to identifying the bird.

range map color coded key

My hope is that this article will help you easily identify the bird that you saw so let’s get at it!

Birds with Blue Heads

Northern Parula

Northern Parula on a branch
Northern Parula. Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash
AppearanceSmall bird about 4.5″ long, blue/gray with a yellow throat and back patch, bluish-gray overall with a yellow-green patch on the back, a brown band on lower, white strips above and below each eye. Females are similar but more muted colors. neck, and 2 white wing bars.
DietSpiders, insects, berries, seeds, nectar.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatPrefer forested areas especially when water is present (streams, marshes) and in the lowland where moss is present.
NestingNests are built in mossy vegetation as high up as 100′ at the end of a branch. 1-2 broods/season, 2-7 eggs/brood, eggs are about .65″ long, white with red/brown/purple speckles and incubation lasts about 12-14 days.

Range Map

Northern parula range map.
Northern parula range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon
Rock Pigeon. Photo by Kieran Somerville on Unsplash
AppearanceLarge bird 12-14″ long, chubby with blue/gray wings with black pointy tips, short red legs, black, round wide tail, and iridescent neck. 
DietGrains, seeds, and fruit. Commonly seen scavenging trash cans for food.
Feeder FoodMillet, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower seed, safflower, peanut hearts.
HabitatCommon around cities and towns as well as farmlands
NestingA 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.

Range Map

Rock pigeon jay range map.
Rock pigeon jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Woodhouse's Scrub Jay
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.
Appearance11-12″ 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.
DietInsects, fruit, nuts, seeds, lizards and nestling birds, sometimes finding nests.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds.
HabitatPinyon pine habitats, dry shrublands of Nevada on south, suburbs and parks.
NestingBasket 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.

Range Map

Woodhouse's scrub jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.
Woodhouse’s scrub jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jay
Pinyon Jay. Photo by Tom Duncan.
Appearance10-11″ long bird, dusty blue body and lighter blue belly and throat, short tail, and no crown. The female looks similar.
DietPrimarily Pinyon-pine seeds, acorns, fruit, and grains. Also consumes insects, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, and small mammals.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn.
HabitatForested areas comprised of Pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, scrub oak, and other pine trees.
NestingLarge 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.

Range Map

Pinyon jay range map
Pinyon jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Mexican Jay

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay. Photo by Carl Bendorf.
Appearance11.5″ long, large blue bird with gray/blue back, soft white underparts and long tail.
DietAcorns, pinyon nuts, insects, spiders and lizards.
Feeder FoodN/A
HabitatOpen woodlands near pinyon and oak trees.
NestingCup-shaped nest of twigs located tree. 1-6 eggs, eggs are green with dark markings but some have no markings.

Range Map

Mexican jay range map.
Mexican jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Island Scrub-Jay

Island scrub jay
Island Scrub Jay. Photo by Damon Tighe.
Appearance13″ long, large vibrant blue bird, dark gray back and mask, white throat, light gray belly, large bill, and long tail. Female is similar.
DietAcross, insects, spiders, snakes, lizards, mice, and other birds’ eggs and nestlings.
Feeder FoodN/A – Only 2 people inhabit the island.
HabitatFound exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, California.
NestingBuilt with sticks, twigs, and roots in dense bushes and trees. 2-5 eggs/brood, incubation is about 20 days.

Range Map

Found exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, California.

Florida Scrub-Jay

florida scrub jay perched on a plant
Florida Scrub Jay. Photo by Save Our Florida Scrub Jays.
AppearanceAbout 10″ long, large blue bird, light gray back and belly, swipes of white through forehead, and very long tail. Female is similar.
DietVaried diet of insects, nuts (especially acorns), berries, small snakes, mice, and lizards.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts.
HabitatLow-growing scrub oak exclusively in Florida.
NestingCup-shaped nest of twigs and fibers located at the edges of scrubbed areas. 1-2 broods/season, 1-6 eggs/brood, eggs are about 1″ long, green with brown spots, 16-21 day incubation and young fledge at about 12-25 days.

Range Map

Florida scrub jay range map.
Florida scrub jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle
Common Grackle. aPhoto by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash
Appearance12.5″ long bird with iridescent blue with purple and bronze. Eyes are yellow, long flared tail. Female is similar with less vibrant coloring (more brown) and shorter tail.
DietInsects, grains, seeds, fruit, scavenged garbage.
Feeder FoodSunflower seeds, black-oil sunflower seeds.
HabitatFields with scattered trees, open woodlands, farmlands, and marshes. Common in suburban yards.
NestingBulky cup-shaped nest of twigs placed 3-20′ high in conifer tree. 3-5 eggs incubated for 12-15 days. Young fledge at about 12-15 days.

Range Map

Common grackle range map.
Common grackle range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

California Scrub-Jay

California Scrub Jay
California Scrub Jay. Photo by Rob Stanard.
AppearanceLarge bird 11″ long, slender, shades of bright azure blue and gray, brown patch on the back, white underparts, blue necklace, and long tail. Female look the same.
DietInsects, nuts (especially acorns), seeds, fruit, other birds eggs and nestlings and small animals.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet.
HabitatAlong 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.
NestingLarge 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.

Range Map

California scrub jay range map.
California scrub jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash
AppearanceTiny birds 4.25″ long, soft blue/gray upperparts, white eye-rings, white underparts, long black long tail with white under. Females are the same. The breeding male is accented with narrow black eyebrows.
DietInsects and spiders.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit the feeder.
HabitatDeciduous forested areas.
NestingNest: 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.

Range Map

Blue gray gnatcatcher range map
Blue gray gnatcatcher range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted kingfisher on a perch
Belted kingfisher. Image by Katherine Durtnell from Pixabay
AppearanceLarge 13″ long bird with a large head, long bill, and stocky body.  Blue/gray throughout with white ring around neck and white chest. Female is same but with additional chestnut band on chest.
DietMostly fish with some crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and berries.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to come to the feeder but often attracted to yards with streams or ponds.
HabitatNear streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and calm marine waters – especially unclouded water with little vegetation.
NestingDig burrows along waters edge. 1-2 broods/season, 5-8 eggs/brood – large white glossy eggs (1.5″ long), 22-24 days incubation.

Range Map

belted kingfisher range map
Belted kingfisher range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow. Photo by Lisa Minica.
Appearance7″ 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.
DietInsects, preferably beetles, wasps, and flies. Drinks by skimming the surface of the water.
Feeder FoodNot likely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen fields and pastures.
NestingTypically 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.

Range Map

barn swallow range map
Barn swallow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting. Photo taken at the Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland, taken by Patti Bright.
AppearanceSmall 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.
DietInsects, fruits, and grasses.
Feeder FoodWhite proso millet, sunflower seeds, or nyjer thistle seeds.
HabitatOpen woodlands, brushy hillsides, thickets, and backyards throughout the West.
NestingCup-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.

Range Map

Lazuli bunting range map.
Lazuli bunting range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Black Throated Blue Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler.
Black-Throated Blue Warbler. Photo by Forest Jarvis.
Appearance5″ long, midnight/steel blue back, black throat, white belly
DietInsects and fruit.
Feeder FoodSuet, peanut butter, and nectar.
HabitatPrefer mature deciduous and mixed evergreen woodlands with plenty of thick shrubs.
NestingCup-shaped nest in shrub made of bark and spider webs. 1-3 broods/season, 2-5 eggs/brood, eggs are small .6″-.8″, creamy white and speckled. 12-13 days incubation and fledges at x

Range Map

Black throated blue warbler range map
Black-throated blue warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warbler. Photo by Ruth Cornwell.
AppearanceSmall 4.3″ long bird, sky-blue above, white wing bars, darker blue streaks on back, white belly, steel/blue neck band & stripes on the sides. Females are light blue/green above, soft yellow belly, brown wings, and a bit of white under the eye.
DietInsects and plants.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit feeder.
HabitatDeciduous forests with mature tall trees.
NestingCup-shaped nests of twigs, grass and spiderwebs placed in tree 16-115′ up. 1 brood/season, 1-5 eggs/brood, eggs are .6-.8″ long, gray/green and speckled with brown, incubation lasts 11-12 days.

Range Map

Cerulean warbler range map.
Cerulean warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow. Photo by Lisa Minica.
Appearance5-6″ long, dark metallic blue – blue/green with white belly, notched tail and pointed wing tips. Females have same coloring but a bit duller.
DietInsects and small fruits.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen areas such as fields, large lawns, and marshes.
NestingCavity nester, will use a manmade nest box or natural woodpecker tree hold. 1 brood/season, 4-6 white eggs, 13-16 days of incubation.

Range Map

Tree swallow range map.
Tree swallow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Purple Martin

Purple Martin
Purple Martin. Photo by Ruth Cornwell.
Appearance8.5″ large bird with blue/purple head, back, and belly with black wings and tail.
DietInsects especially dragonflies.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatUsually within 100′ of human dwelling. Purple Martins exist in large colonies.
NestingCavity nester primarily using manmade nest boxes which accommodate a colony of birds. 1 brood/season, 4-5 white eggs/brood, 15-18 days incubation, fledge after 26-30 days.

Range Map

Purple martin range map.
Purple martin range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak. Photo by Donna Cooper.
Appearance8″ long, large, bright blue, large silver bill, and chestnut wingbars, Female’s primary color is light cinnamon with darker colored wings.
DietInsects, seeds, and grains.
Feeder FoodGrain and birdseed.
HabitatThick shrubbery and areas with tall trees.
NestingNest: 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.

Range Map

blue grosbeak range map
Blue grosbeak range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird. Photo by Arnold Joe.
AppearanceSmall 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 big of soft blue on their wings and tail.
DietInsects, fruit, and seeds.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen woodlands, fields, prairies.
NestingNest: Cavity nesters – will use an old woodpecker hold 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

Range Map

Mountain bluebird range map.
Mountain bluebird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Western Bluebird

Western bluebird perched on branch
Western Bluebird
AppearanceSmall bird 7″ long, deep blue underparts, orange-chestnut back and breast. Female gray/blue, light blue wings and tail, and pale chestnut breast.
DietInsects, fruits & berries.
Feeder FoodMealworms
HabitatOpen woodlands especially those with pines and oaks, orchards, and farmland with some trees.
NestingNest: 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.

Range Map

Mountain bluebird range map.
Mountain bluebird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Blue Jay

Blue jay on snowy branch
Blue jay. Photo by Cathy Cardone.
AppearanceLarge bird 12″ long, medium blue & white body, blue crest (which he flattens at will), gray belly and white face. White & blue wings with black spots. Female look the same.
DietInsects, fruit, seeds, nuts, other birds’ eggs and nestlings.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.
HabitatForested areas with mixed trees types. Also common in suburbs and urban areas.
NestingNest: bulky large nest made from twigs, bark, and mud resting on a tree branch about 5-50′ up.
Broods: 1-2 broods/season,
Clutch: 2-7 eggs/brood,
Egg color: Pale blue to a light brown base color, and these eggs usually have brown or gray spots.
Egg size: 1 inch by just under 1 inch
Incubation: Both parents incubate the eggs for 17-18 days and the young fledge between 17-21 days.

Range Map

Blue jay range map
Blue jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Wouldn’t you love to have blue jays in your yard? Check out: 7 Proven Ways to Attract Blue Jays to Your Yard.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo bunting male
Male indigo bunting. Photo by Lonnie Gilstrap.
AppearanceSmall bird 5″ long. Breeding males are bright blue with short, gray, triangle-shaped beaks, and dark blue wings with a brush of tan. Wintering male and first-spring male are patchy brown and blue. Females are a soft yellowish-brown and some light streaking on the underparts.
DietSmall seeds, insects, and fruits. 
Feeder FoodAlthough not a regular at the feeder you may entice them with nyjer/thistle and white millet seeds.
HabitatBrushy fields, on weedy plants, scrub, and along the edges of the woods. Also in clearings within deciduous woods, and edges of swamps.
NestingCup-shaped nest in shrubs or trees 3′ high. Shrubs or trees 3′ high. 1-3 broods/season, 3-4 eggs/brood, eggs are white with few brown spots.

Range Map

Indigo bunting range map
Indigo bunting range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

For more detail about the Indigo Bunting such as its mating & nesting, how to attract them to your yard, and more: check out Proven Ways to Attract Indigo Buntings.

Eastern Bluebird

Male eastern bluebird
Male eastern bluebird. Photo by Mike Carmo.
Appearance7″ long, royal blue, orange throat & breast, white belly & undertail. Female is similar but more muted colors
DietInsects & spiders in spring/summer. Small fruit in Fall/Winter. 
Feeder FoodSuet, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, jelly. 
HabitatWide-open spaces, fields, meadow.
NestingNest: Cavity nesters. The male bluebird determines the nest site (an old woodpecker hole in a tree or manmade nestbox), but the female is the one who builds the nest. She keeps the nest for multiple broods.
Brood: 2-7 broods/season
Clutch: 4-5 eggs/brood
Egg color: Pale blue eggs (sometimes white) with no blemishes or discoloration. 
Egg size: 0.9 inches by 0.8 inches
Incubation: 11-19 days

Range Map

US map showing the migration range of the eastern bluebird
Map depicting where Eastern bluebirds can be found throughout the year. Compliments of Cornell University.

Wrapping Up

Blue-headed birds come in all shapes & sizes. They also exist in various parts of North America.

This article contained all the information you need for accurate and fast identification of the bird you spotted.

  1. First, take a look at color photos of birds matching your description.
  2. Then, check out the species’ range map to confirm whether or not the species lives in your area.
  3. Finally, learn about its habitat and diet to further refine the characteristics of the bird you saw and the known facts about it.
  4. You’ve got a match!

So, did you identify the bird you were interested in? Let me know below in the comments.

Happy Birding!

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.

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