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What Is Idaho’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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Mountain Bluebird

Idaho’s state bird is the brilliant and vibrant mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides), a small migratory thrush that calls the mountains of western North America its home. Mountain bluebirds can usually be found in habitats such as prairie, alpine tundra, sagebrush steppe, and open country with few trees where they forage in pastures. When foraging, mountain bluebirds have been observed to hover and pounce on their insect prey from elevated perches.

This omnivorous bird feeds on small fruits and insects such as grasshoppers, flies, and spiders and is lanky and long compared to other bluebirds. Mountain bluebirds can also be found in large flocks feasting on delicacies such as juniper berries in the colder months. Male mountain bluebirds are a stunning turquoise blue in color with a paler chest and white feathers under the tail. Females, however, are dimmer with a gray-brown coloration and touches of pale blue on the wings and tail.

How Was Idaho’s State Bird Decided?

Idaho chose the mountain bluebird as its state bird on February 28th, 1931 after school children in the state suggested it. When the Idaho General Assembly officially adopted the mountain bluebird through legislation, they pointed out its connotations of hope, happiness, and love. The mountain bluebird is also the state bird of Nevada.

mountain bluebird
Image By: Danita Delimont, Shutterstock

Fun Facts About Idaho’s State Bird

  • Mountain bluebirds are the least common bluebird species in North America, with a population of around 4.6 million individuals.
  • Mountain bluebirds are secondary nesters, meaning they build their nests in naturally occurring tree holes or old woodpecker holes.
  • The mountain bluebird is the only bluebird species that “hovers” while catching insect prey.
  • About 92% of a mountain bluebird’s diet consists of insects, with the remaining portion made up of berries and fruit in the winter months.
  • Mountain bluebirds can lay up to eight eggs in a single nest, the most of all bluebird species!
  • The Navajo people view the mountain bluebird as a source of happiness and an omen of Spring.
  • Before it was known as the mountain bluebird, this bird was also called the “Arctic Bluebird” and the “Ultramarine Bluebird.”
  • It is common to see mountain bluebirds traveling in flocks of 30 or more birds during the wintertime.
  • A group of mountain bluebirds is called a “mutation.”
  • The mountain bluebird is the only species of bluebird that lives in Alaska.
  • Robins are closely related to mountain bluebirds.

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Mountain bluebirds are easily identifiable, azure-colored thrushes that have won the hearts of people all over western North America. As the state bird of Idaho, Nevada, and a sacred symbol of the Navajo people, it is easy to see why this bird is so popular. If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, it is likely that you haven’t seen a mountain bluebird in your backyard before. However, these beautiful birds are worth the trip and are some of the most stunning backyard friends. Next time you’re in the mountain bluebird’s habitat, keep your eyes peeled for this popular and well-loved avian specimen.

Featured Image Credit: Brow Imagery, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.