blue birds in michigan

6 amazing small blue birds in Michigan

Welcome to the enchanting world of small blue birds in Michigan! Nestled amidst the lush forests and picturesque landscapes of the Great Lakes State, these captivating creatures captivate both birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. 

Michigan is home to a diverse array of avian species, but today we’ll embark on a journey to discover 6 amazing small blue birds in Michigan that grace the skies of this remarkable region. From their vibrant plumage to their melodic songs, these avian gems will leave you in awe. So, grab your binoculars and let’s explore the marvelous world of Michigan’s small blue birds!

Observing small bluebirds in Michigan can be a delightful and rewarding experience. To make the most of your birdwatching adventures, here are some best practices and tips to enhance your observation skills and maximize your chances of spotting these fascinating creatures:

  • Research and Plan: Before heading out, familiarize yourself with the specific small bluebird species you hope to observe. Learn about their habitats, preferred feeding grounds, and typical behaviors. This knowledge will help you narrow down your search and increase your chances of success.
  • Timing is Key: Different bird species have distinct activity patterns. Find out when your target bluebirds are most active. Early mornings and late afternoons are generally prime times for birdwatching, as many species are more active during these periods.
  • Choose the Right Locations: Michigan offers a variety of habitats that are attractive to small bluebirds. Look for areas with a mix of open fields, meadows, and wooded areas. Parks, nature reserves, and wildlife refuges are excellent places to start your search.
  • Be Patient and Quiet: When observing birds, it’s crucial to be patient and maintain a calm and quiet demeanor. Birds are easily startled by sudden movements or loud noises, so move slowly and avoid excessive noise. Allow the birds to become accustomed to your presence, and you’ll have better opportunities for close-up views.
  • Use Binoculars and Field Guides: A good pair of binoculars is a birdwatcher’s best friend. Invest in a quality pair that provides clear, sharp images. Additionally, carry a field guide specific to Michigan’s avian species. It will help you identify and learn more about the small bluebirds you encounter.
  • Pay Attention to Calls and Songs: Small bluebirds often communicate through their unique calls and songs. Familiarize yourself with their vocalizations to aid in identification. Mobile apps and online resources can provide recordings of bird calls, enabling you to recognize and locate the species you’re seeking.
  • Dress Appropriately: Dressing in muted colors, such as greens and browns, helps you blend into the surroundings and minimizes the chance of scaring away the birds. Consider wearing comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for walking in various terrains.
  • Practice Ethical Birdwatching: Respect the birds and their habitats. Maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing nesting sites or stressing the birds. Do not approach or handle nests or eggs. Leave no trace by refraining from littering and following established trails.
  • Record and Document: Take notes or use a field notebook to record your observations. Note the time, date, location, weather conditions, and any unique behaviors or characteristics you observe. Your records can contribute to citizen science efforts and provide valuable data for research and conservation initiatives.
  • Enjoy the Experience: Birdwatching is not just about ticking off species on a list but immersing yourself in the wonders of nature. Take the time to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings, the melodies of the birds, and the joy of being in their presence.

By following these best practices and tips, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on a memorable and fulfilling journey observing the small bluebirds of Michigan. Happy birdwatching!

List of 6 amazing small bluebirds in Michigan: 

  1. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  2. Cerulean Warbler
  3. Bluebirds
  4. Indigo Bunting
  5. Northern Parula
  6. Eastern Bluebird

1. Black-throated Blue Warbler

black throated blue warbler
black throated blue warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga caerulescens

Size: The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a small bird, measuring approximately 12 to 14 centimeters (4.7 to 5.5 inches) in length.

How to identify: 

  • Shape: The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a small songbird with a compact body and a relatively short tail. It has a rounded head and a thin, pointed bill.
  • Plumage: The male Black-throated Blue Warbler has striking plumage. During the breeding season, it displays a deep blue upper body with a black throat and a white belly. It also has a white patch on each wing, which is visible in flight. Outside of the breeding season, the male’s plumage becomes duller, with more grayish-blue tones.
  • Female and Juvenile Plumage: Females and juveniles have a more subdued appearance. They are primarily grayish-olive on the upper body with a pale eyebrow stripe and a hint of blue on the wings and tail.
  • Face Pattern: Both males and females have a distinctive white crescent-shaped patch on the face, just below the eye.

Habitat:  The Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small blue bird found in Michigan, inhabits various forested habitats. It prefers mature deciduous forests with a dense understory, but it can also be found in mixed forests and second-growth woodlands. These warblers are particularly attracted to areas with a variety of tree species, including oaks, maples, and beech trees. They tend to occupy the middle to upper levels of the forest canopy, where they forage for insects among the leaves and branches. During migration, they may also utilize shrubby areas and woodland edges.

Diet: The diet of the Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small blue bird found in Michigan, primarily consists of insects. It feeds on a variety of small invertebrates, including caterpillars, beetles, flies, spiders, and other arthropods. These warblers forage actively among the leaves and branches of trees, gleaning insects from the foliage. They may also catch insects while hovering or flycatching. During the breeding season, they may supplement their diet with some fruits and berries. However, insects make up the majority of their food intake.

Lifespan: The lifespan of the Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small blue bird found in Michigan, can vary. On average, these warblers live for about 5 to 8 years. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of the Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small blue bird found in Michigan, is typically around 18 to 20 centimeters (7 to 8 inches).

Calls: The Black-throated Blue Warbler produces several distinct vocalizations. Here are some descriptions of its calls:

  • Song: The male’s song is a series of high-pitched, buzzy notes that rise and fall in pitch. It is often described as a repeating pattern of “zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee” or “I-zee.” The song is typically delivered from a perch within the tree canopy and is used to establish territory and attract mates during the breeding season.
  • Call Note: The Black-throated Blue Warbler has a sharp and high-pitched call note. It is a short, metallic “chip” or “tik” sound that can be repeated rapidly. This call is commonly used by both males and females to communicate with each other and maintain contact.
  • Chip Note: The bird also produces a softer, single-syllable “chip” note. It is a brief, subdued call that is often used as an alarm or contact call. The chip note is shorter and less distinct compared to the call note.

These vocalizations can vary slightly among individuals, but these descriptions provide a general idea of the calls made by the Black-throated Blue Warbler in Michigan.

Seasons: The Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small blue bird found in Michigan, exhibits distinct seasonal patterns. Here are the main seasons associated with this bird:

  1. Breeding Season: The breeding season for Black-throated Blue Warblers in Michigan typically occurs from late spring to early summer. During this time, the males establish territories and court females using their song and vibrant plumage. Breeding usually takes place between May and June.
  2. Nesting Season: Following courtship, the female constructs a cup-shaped nest made of twigs, bark, and grasses, usually placed on a horizontal branch in the forest understory. The nesting season for Black-throated Blue Warblers in Michigan spans from late spring to early summer, with eggs being laid and incubated during this time.
  3. Migration Season: Black-throated Blue Warblers are neotropical migrants, which means they undertake long-distance migrations. In Michigan, they typically migrate to their wintering grounds in Central America and the Caribbean during the fall season. Migration occurs from late summer to early fall, with peak movements usually observed in September.
  4. Wintering Season: During the winter, Black-throated Blue Warblers can be found in their non-breeding range, which includes areas such as the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and parts of Central America. They spend the winter months in these warmer regions, where they seek food and shelter until they return to their breeding grounds in Michigan for the next breeding season.

2. Cerulean Warbler

cerulean warbler
cerulean warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga cerulea

Size: The Cerulean Warbler is a small bird, measuring only about 4.3 inches long.

How to identify: The male Cerulean Warbler is a bright sky blue with a white belly and black streaks on its back. The female is a more greenish-blue color with yellow underparts.

Habitat:  Cerulean Warblers are found in deciduous forests, especially those with tall trees and open understories.

Diet: The Cerulean Warbler is an insectivore, and its diet consists of mostly small insects, such as flies, wasps, and beetles. They will also eat spiders, caterpillars, and other invertebrates.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Cerulean Warbler in Michigan is typically 2 to 4 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Cerulean Warbler in Michigan is typically 7.9 inches.

Calls: The Cerulean Warbler has a distinctive call that is often described as a “zeet” or a “chip.” This call is often given by both males and females, and it is used to keep in touch with each other. The Cerulean Warbler also has a song that is a series of high-pitched, warbling notes. This song is typically given by males, and it is used to attract mates.

Seasons: The Cerulean Warbler is a migratory bird, and it spends its summers breeding in Michigan and its winters in South America. In Michigan, they typically arrive in late April or early May and depart in early August.

3. Bluebirds

bluebird
bluebird

Scientific name: Sialia sialis.

Size: They are about 6.5 to 7 inches long. 

How to identify:  Male bluebirds have a bright blue back, forehead, crown, shoulders, wings, and tail. Their breast is reddish-orange, and their belly is white. Females are similar in appearance to males, but they are slightly duller in color and have a brown wash on their breast.

Habitat: Bluebirds in Michigan prefer open areas with scattered trees, such as meadows, fields, and orchards. They also like areas with low undergrowth and open ground, so they can easily spot and catch insects. Bluebirds will sometimes nest in areas with more trees, but they prefer to have open areas nearby where they can forage for food.

Diet: They eat insects, seeds, and berries.

Lifespan: on average, bluebirds can live for 6 to 10 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a bluebird in Michigan is typically 25 to 32 centimeters (9.8 to 12.6 inches).

Calls: 

  • Cheer-cheer-cheer: This is the most common call of the bluebird. It is a short, high-pitched call that is used for communication between birds.
  • Tu-a-wee: This is a soft, low-pitched call that is used to attract mates or to signal nestlings that adults are bringing food.
  • Screech: This is a harsh call that is used to warn other birds of danger.
  • Chipping: This is a rapid, high-pitched call that is used to communicate with nestlings

Seasons: Bluebirds arrive in Michigan a little earlier, in late March or early April. They stay until late October or early November. 

4. Indigo Bunting

indigo bunting
indigo bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea.

Size: The indigo bunting is a smallish songbird, around the size of a small sparrow. It measures 11.5–15 cm (4.5–5.9 in) long. 

How to identify: Only the head is indigo. The wings and tail are black with cerulean blue edges. In fall and winter plumage, the male has brown edges to the blue body and head feathers, which overlap to make the bird appear mostly brown.

Habitat: Indigo buntings are found in open habitats, such as meadows, fields, and forest edges. They are often seen flitting around in the undergrowth, looking for insects.

In Michigan, indigo buntings can be found in a variety of habitats, including:

  • Meadows: Indigo buntings are often seen in meadows, where they can find plenty of insects to eat.
  • Fields: Indigo buntings can also be found in fields, especially fields that are overgrown with weeds and shrubs.
  • Forest edges: Indigo buntings are attracted to forest edges, where they can find a mix of open space and trees.
  • Roadsides: Indigo buntings are sometimes seen along roadsides, where they can find insects that have been attracted to the roadkill.

Diet: Here is a more detailed breakdown of the indigo bunting’s diet:

  • Insects: Insects are the most important food source for indigo buntings during the breeding season. They eat a variety of insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, and beetles. Insects are a good source of protein, which is essential for breeding birds.
  • Seeds: Indigo buntings eat a variety of seeds, including millet, sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and nyjer seeds. Seeds are a good source of energy, which is important for birds during migration and the winter.
  • Berries: Indigo buntings will eat berries, such as blackberries and raspberries, when they are available. Berries are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Lifespan: The average lifespan of an indigo bunting is 2-3 years. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of an indigo bunting in Michigan is typically 18-23 cm (7.1-9.1 in).

Calls: The male’s song is a bright, lively series of sharp, clear, high-pitched notes that lasts about 2 seconds. It is often described as sounding like “sweet, sweet, chew, chew, see-it, see-it.” The female’s song is a less complex series of notes, but it is still quite distinctive.

The Indigo Bunting also gives a few different calls. The most common call is a short, sharp “spit” or “chip.” This call is often used as a contact call between birds, or as a warning call when a predator is nearby. The Indigo Bunting also gives a soft “churr” call, which is often used when the bird is feeding or courting.

Seasons: Indigo buntings typically arrive in Michigan in late April or early May and stay until late September or early October. 

5. Northern Parula

northern parula
northern parula

Scientific name: Setophaga americana

Size: The Northern Parula is a small bird, measuring about 4.3 to 4.7 inches (11.4 to 12 cm) in length and weighing about 0.2 to 0.4 ounces (5.7 to 11.3 grams).

How to identify: The male Northern Parula is blue-gray on the back and head, with a yellow throat and breast. The female is more greenish-yellow overall, with a white throat and breast. The Northern Parula has a distinctive pattern of blue-gray, yellow, and white. The male has a blue-gray back with a yellow-green patch in the center. The female has a greenish-yellow back with a white throat and breast. The Northern Parula has white eye crescents and two white wingbars.

Habitat: The Northern Parula is a small, warbler-like bird that is found in a variety of habitats in Michigan, including:

  • Forests: Northern Parulas are most common in mature forests, especially those with a dense understory of shrubs and vines. They are also found in younger forests, but they are less common in these habitats.
  • Woodlands: Northern Parulas can also be found in woodlands, especially those with a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. They are less common in open woodlands, such as those found in the prairies.
  • Gardens: Northern Parulas are sometimes seen in gardens, especially those with a variety of trees and shrubs. They are more likely to be found in gardens that are located near forests or woodlands.
  • Swamps: Northern Parulas are also found in swamps, especially those with a dense understory of shrubs and vines. They are less common in open swamps, such as those found in the Everglades.

Diet: The Northern Parula is a small songbird that is found in North America. It is a resident of Michigan, and its diet consists primarily of insects. The Northern Parula’s diet includes:

  • Small beetles
  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Caterpillars
  • Egg clusters
  • True bugs
  • Ants
  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Spiders
  • Some small berries

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Northern Parula blue bird in Michigan is typically 4-5 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Northern Parula blue bird in Michigan is typically 6.3 to 7.1 inches (16 to 18 cm).

Calls: The Northern Parula has a distinctive buzzing trill song that is often described as sounding like a “motorboat.” The song is made up of a series of short, high-pitched notes that are repeated rapidly. The Northern Parula also makes a variety of other calls, including a sharp “chip” call and a soft “seep” call.

Seasons: The Northern Parula is a migratory bird that breeds in Michigan during the spring and summer. They arrive in Michigan in late April or early May, and they typically leave in September or October.

6. Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird
eastern bluebird

Scientific name: Sialia sialis

Size: The size of an eastern bluebird in Michigan is typically 16-21 centimeters (6.3-8.3 inches) long. 

How to identify

  • Males are bright blue on the back, head, and wings, with a rusty or brick-red breast. The blue on their back is often iridescent, and can appear to change color depending on the light. The rusty or brick-red on their breast is often more intense near the throat. 
  • Females are grayer on the head and back, with some blue on their wings and tail. Their breast is usually lighter in color than in males, and is more orange. They also have a white eye ring that is not as prominent as in males.

Habitat: 

Open country areas with scattered trees: This includes farms, meadows, and forest clearings. Eastern bluebirds prefer areas with some open space for hunting insects, but also with enough trees to provide nesting cavities and shelter from predators.

Diet: Eastern bluebirds in Michigan have a diet that consists mostly of insects and berries. In the summer, their diet is about 68% insects, including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other insects. They also eat spiders, earthworms, snails, and occasionally small lizards or tree frogs. In the fall and winter, when insects are less common, their diet shifts to berries, including blackberries, honeysuckle, dogwood, red cedar, and wild grapes. 

Lifespan: Eastern bluebirds in Michigan can live for up to 6 to 10 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of an Eastern bluebird in Michigan is typically between 9.8 and 12.6 inches (25 and 32 centimeters).

Calls: The Eastern bluebird in Michigan has two main calls: a soft, low-pitched tu-a-wee and a harsher screech. The tu-a-wee is used to keep in touch with each other or to signal nestlings that adults are bringing food. The screech is used as a warning call when bluebirds get too close to each other or when they are alarmed by a predator.

In addition to these two main calls, Eastern bluebirds also make a variety of other sounds, including:

  • Chip: This is a soft, high-pitched call that is often given by females when a courting male approaches.
  • Chit-chit-chit: This is a loud, continual call that is given by birds when they are nervous or alarmed.

Seasons: Eastern bluebirds in Michigan have a two-season cycle: breeding and migration.

  • Breeding season: The breeding season for Eastern bluebirds in Michigan typically begins in late March or early April and lasts until late August or early September. During this time, they will build nests and raise their young.
  • Migration: Eastern bluebirds are migratory birds, which means they travel long distances between their breeding and wintering grounds. In Michigan, they typically arrive in the state in late March or early April and leave in late August or early September. 

Frequently asked question: small blue birds in Michigan

Q: What are the six amazing small bluebirds that can be found in Michigan?

A: The six amazing small bluebirds found in Michigan are the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana), Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea), and Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea).

Q: Where can I find these small bluebirds in Michigan?

A: Small bluebirds in Michigan can be found in a variety of habitats, including open fields, meadows, wooded areas, and near water sources. Ideal locations include parks, nature reserves, and wildlife refuges throughout the state.

Q: When is the best time to spot small bluebirds in Michigan?

A: Small bluebirds are typically most active during the breeding season, which occurs from spring to early summer in Michigan. Early mornings and late afternoons are generally the best times for birdwatching, as many species are more active during these periods.

Q: How can I identify the different small bluebird species?

A: Each small bluebird species has unique physical characteristics. Eastern Bluebirds have a vibrant blue back, reddish-orange breast, and white belly. Mountain Bluebirds have pale blue plumage with a hint of gray on the wings and tail. Western Bluebirds have blue plumage with a rusty-orange breast. Indigo Buntings are predominantly blue with black wings and tail. Blue Grosbeaks have blue plumage with a large silver bill. Cerulean Warblers have a blue-green back and a lighter blue underbelly.

Q: Do these small bluebirds migrate in and out of Michigan?

A: While Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents in Michigan, the Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, and Cerulean Warbler are migratory species. They spend the breeding season in Michigan and migrate to their wintering grounds in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, or even South America.

Q: What do small bluebirds in Michigan eat?

A: Small bluebirds primarily feed on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They also consume berries, fruits, and seeds, especially during the winter months when insects are less abundant.

Q: Are small bluebirds in Michigan endangered or threatened?

A: While the Eastern Bluebird has made a successful recovery from population decline in the past, the Cerulean Warbler is listed as a species of concern in Michigan due to habitat loss. Conservation efforts and habitat restoration projects aim to protect and preserve these remarkable birds.

Q: Can I attract small bluebirds to my backyard in Michigan?

A: Yes, you can attract small bluebirds to your backyard by providing suitable nest boxes or birdhouses specifically designed for them. Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers that produce berries or attract insects can also make your yard more appealing to these beautiful birds.

Q: Are small bluebirds known for their songs?

A: Yes, small bluebirds are known for their melodious songs. Each species has its unique song, which is often a delightful combination of whistles, trills, and warbles. Their songs add to the enchanting experience of observing these birds in Michigan.

Q: How can I contribute to the conservation of small bluebirds in Michigan?

A: You can contribute to the conservation of small bluebirds in Michigan by participating in citizen science projects, such as bird counts and monitoring programs. Supporting habitat preservation initiatives, avoiding the use of harmful pesticides, and promoting the planting of native vegetation in your area are also effective ways to help these birds thrive.

Conclusion:

the world of small bluebirds in Michigan is a captivating realm filled with beauty and wonder. The Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, and Cerulean Warbler grace the skies of this remarkable state, each with its unique charm and allure. By following best practices and tips for observation, you can embark on unforgettable birdwatching adventures and increase your chances of spotting these amazing creatures. 

Remember to plan your outings, be patient and quiet, use binoculars and field guides, and respect the birds and their habitats. Whether you seek the vibrant blue plumage or the melodious songs, these small bluebirds will leave you awe-inspired. So, venture forth into Michigan’s diverse landscapes and revel in the magic of encountering these six remarkable avian treasures. Happy birdwatching!

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