Sialia sialis - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Eastern Bluebird
Other English Common Names: eastern bluebird
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sialia sialis (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 179801)
French Common Names: merlebleu de l'Est
Spanish Common Names: Azulejo Garganta Canela
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101930
Element Code: ABPBJ15010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 10991

© Jeff Nadler

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Turdidae Sialia
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sialia sialis
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 03Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (26Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Arizona (S4), Arkansas (S5), Colorado (S2B), Connecticut (S5), Delaware (S5), District of Columbia (S4N), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S4S5), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S4B), Iowa (S4B,S5N), Kansas (S5), Kentucky (S5B,S5N), Louisiana (S5), Maine (S4B), Maryland (S5B,S4N), Massachusetts (S3B,S4N), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (S5B,S5N), Missouri (SNR), Montana (S4B), Nebraska (S3S4), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S4B,S4N), New Mexico (S1B,S5N), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S5B,S5N), North Dakota (SU), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S5), Pennsylvania (S5B,S5N), Rhode Island (S3B), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (S4B), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5B), Vermont (S5B,S3N), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4B,S4N), Wisconsin (S4B), Wyoming (S2)
Canada Manitoba (S4B), New Brunswick (S4B,S4M), Nova Scotia (S3B), Ontario (S5B), Prince Edward Island (S1B), Quebec (S4?), Saskatchewan (S4B)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (01Apr1996)
Comments on COSEWIC: The population has increased substantially in the past decades in large part as a result of a successful nest box program. There are currently no significant threats to the species.

Designated Special Concern in April 1984. Status re-examined and designated Not at Risk in April 1996.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Breeding range extends from southern Saskatchewan east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south to Nicaragua, the North American Gulf Coast, southern Florida, and Bermuda, and west to the western Great Plains; also southeastern Arizona. Winter range extends from the middle portions of the eastern United States south through the breeding range and western Cuba.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threatened by nest-site competiton with starling and house sparrow, though this has been alleviated by provision of suitable nest boxes.

Short-term Trend Comments: Breeding Bird Survey data indicate a decline and subsequent recovery following severe winter conditions in the late 1970s (Sauer and Droege 1990). Declines were reported in some areas of the northeastern U.S. and adjacent Canada in the 1980s (Ehrlich et al. 1992). Risley (1984 COSEWIC report) concluded that populations in Canada were stable or increasing.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Breeding range extends from southern Saskatchewan east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south to Nicaragua, the North American Gulf Coast, southern Florida, and Bermuda, and west to the western Great Plains; also southeastern Arizona. Winter range extends from the middle portions of the eastern United States south through the breeding range and western Cuba.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY
Canada MB, NB, NS, ON, PE, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Cochise (04003), Santa Cruz (04023)
ND Burleigh (38015)*, Grand Forks (38035), Grant (38037), Morton (38059)*, Ransom (38073)
NM Dona Ana (35013)*, Eddy (35015)
SD Brown (46013), Charles Mix (46023), Clay (46027), Custer (46033), Davison (46035), Day (46037), Deuel (46039), Grant (46051), Hanson (46061), Harding (46063), Hutchinson (46067), Jackson (46071), Jerauld (46073), Lincoln (46083), Marshall (46091), Pennington (46103), Roberts (46109)*, Sanborn (46111), Union (46127), Yankton (46135)
WY Albany (56001), Converse (56009)*, Crook (56011), Fremont (56013)*, Goshen (56015)*, Johnson (56019)*, Laramie (56021)*, Platte (56031)*, Sheridan (56033)*, Weston (56045)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
07 Upper Minnesota (07020001)+, Lac Qui Parle (07020003)+
09 Lower Sheyenne (09020204)+, Turtle (09020307)+
10 Lower Wind (10080005)+*, Upper Powder (10090202)+*, Dry Fork Cheyenne (10120102)+*, Upper Cheyenne (10120103)+*, Angostura Reservoir (10120106)+*, Beaver (10120107)+*, Middle Cheyenne-Spring (10120109)+, Middle Cheyenne-Elk (10120111)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, Redwater (10120203)+, Painted Woods-Square Butte (10130101)+*, Upper Lake Oahe (10130102)+*, Apple (10130103)+*, Lower Heart (10130203)+, North Fork Grand (10130301)+*, South Fork Grand (10130302)+, Middle White (10140202)+, Upper James (10160003)+, Middle James (10160006)+, Lower James (10160011)+, Lewis and Clark Lake (10170101)+, Middle Big Sioux Coteau (10170201)+, Lower Big Sioux (10170203)+, Glendo Reservoir (10180008)+*, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+*, Crow (10190009)+, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+*
13 El Paso-Las Cruces (13030102)+*, Upper Pecos-Black (13060011)+
15 Upper San Pedro (15050202)+, Upper Santa Cruz (15050301)+, Rio De La Concepcion (15080200)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Male has blue upperparts, red-orange throat, breast, and flanks, and white lower belly and undertail coverts. Female has blue-gray upperparts, a gray-brown wash across the back, sometimes a vague white eye-ring; the wings and tail are dull blue; and the underparts are paler orange than on male. Both sexes have a short, stout, black bill. Birds in winter are generally duller and more grayish. Juveniles are browner than are adults, with white streaking above and dusky spotting below, and have a white eye-ring. Length is around 7 inches (18 cm).

See Kaufman (1992, Am. Birds 46:159-162) for detailed information on identification of bluebirds.

Reproduction Comments: Nesting period varies with location and may begin as early as late February in some areas and extends into late summer. Clutch size is usually 4-5. Individual females in most areas produce 2 broods/year, sometimes 3, very rarely 4. Incubation, mainly by the female, lasts 12-16 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 15-20 days. Male tends fledged young if female renests. Young of the first brood may help feed the second brood.

Males and females of nesting pairs of eastern bluebirds commonly engage in copulations with other eastern bluebirds. As a result, some nests contain nestlings with different fathers.

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Breeding populations in the northern U.S. and Canada move south for winter. Northward migrants arrive in northern breeding areas mostly in March-April, sometimes late February. Southward migration is mainly September-November.
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Old field, Savanna, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes forest edge, open woodland, and partly open situations with scattered trees, from coniferous or deciduous forest to riparian woodland, also pine woodland or savanna in the tropics. Nests are in natural cavities, old woodpecker holes, bird boxes, or similar sites, mostly 3-20 feet (1-6 meters) above ground.
Adult Food Habits: Frugivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Frugivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats mainly insects, also other invertebrates and small fruits; often flies from low perch to ground to feed on Orthoptera and beetles (Terres 1980); also gleans from foliage.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 18 centimeters
Weight: 32 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See Peterson (1987), McComb et al. (1987), Mitchell (1988), and Parren (1991) for recent nest box designs and placement recommendations. See Lumsden (1989) for nest box preferences in Ontario. See also Scriven (date?), Bluebirds of the upper Midwest, a guide to successful trail management, Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, 200 pp.

In Kentucky, Davis et al. (1994) found that bluebirds overwhelmingly preferred nest boxes containing old nests over empty boxes, suggesting that cleaning out nest boxes each year may not be a good idea. The authors speculated that the risk of blowfly parasitism may be reduced in boxes containing old nests because blowflies in those sites may be more likely to be victimized by a parasitic wasp. More research is needed. In South Carolina, Plissner and Gowaty (1995, Wilson Bulletin 107:289-295) found that sites with two nesting boxes were more attractive than those with only one nesting box.

Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01Feb2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 01Feb2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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