Mountain Bluebird – A Perch Hunter
On November 30 I drove from Niagara Falls, Ontario where I had spent the weekend looking at gulls and other bird species along the Niagara River to Whitby, Ontario where a Mountain Bluebird had been reported the previous day as well as early yesterday morning. I was thrilled to see and photograph the beautiful female Mountain Bluebird, a lifer for me, as it spent much of the day making its way back and forth along a pathway in search of bugs and insects. Mountain Bluebirds are perch hunters (Dunne 2006) and this individual would sit atop one of the thin wooden stick posts along either side of the pathway visually searching for prey. It would at times hover briefly while foraging and it would frequently fly briefly from its perch on a wooden stick to the grass to pounce on whatever prey it could and just as quickly return to either the same or a nearby post or weedy stalk.
Mountain Bluebird in Canada is common in the western provinces, but are known to stray to the East in late fall. Interestingly another Mountain Bluebird has been seen recently in the Ottawa area and recently, my friend Mark Dennis who now resides in Nova Scotia posted photos of a Mountain Bluebird that he photographed in Mavillette, Nova Scotia. The two Ontario sightings are the only ones reported in 2015 from this province that I could find in my eBird search.
Slightly longer than both Western Bluebird and Eastern Bluebird, the female Mountain Bluebird is dull brownish gray with a striking pale blue on rump (see second photo below), tail and wings. It is slimmer than other bluebirds and is longer-winged and –tailed as well as thinner billed (Sibley 2000). First winter Mountain Bluebirds are similar in appearance to females; however, first winter birds retain juvenile coverts, which I don't see in any of these photos.
I've included a photo of a female Eastern Bluebird I took this past spring above for comparison purposes. Of note here is how much orange/rufous colour we see on the throat and flanks.
The photo above shows off the beautiful pale blue rump of this individual.
Above a Mountain Bluebird prepares for one of its quick flights to the ground in search of prey. I increased my shutter speed to 1/1600 sec in an effort to capture an in-flight photo. Here the bird is about to take off on one of its many searches for food. This active behaviour was observed consistently throughout the whole time I observed and photographed this bird.
A nice profile view of a female Mountain Bluebird highlighting its subtle blues. For comparison purposes I've included an
Capturing sharp images of this bird in flight proved elusive to me. The above photo represents one of my better efforts, which I've included here partly because of how much blue shows when the bird is in flight, much more than one might think just looking at this individual perched atop a wooden stalk or post.
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