One of the most iconic birds is the bluebird. Bluebirds are associated with good luck and happiness. Many seek to draw this little bird to their properties with houses and special food. Some may wonder why their lures aren’t working.
It could be that property owners aren’t paying attention to the bluebird’s migration habits. That leads to the question, do bluebirds migrate as other birds?
Majority of the bluebirds migrate south in winter and return back to Pennsylvania in early March.
There is a good bit of research on the migration habits of bluebirds, as they are properly called. There are definite migration patterns they use and they do have a schedule to follow. It may surprise some to know that not all bluebirds migrate, as there are different subgroups of bluebirds.
Which Bluebirds Migrate?
Bird lovers may find it interesting there are three types of bluebirds including:
1. The Eastern Bluebird
2. The Western Bluebird
3. Mountain Bluebird
The primary differences between the three types of bluebirds are their nesting and migration habits. Eastern Bluebirds are the largest of the three groups and, although they are most known to cover the eastern portion of the United States, these little birds also make Canada their home.
They also live as far south as Nicaragua.
They are part of the family of thrushes and can live in open areas with scattered trees, forest clearings, farms, and pine woods. They will make suburbs their hoes if there are attractive nest sites.
Most of the North American Eastern Bluebirds choose birdhouses for nests that people set up along “bluebird trails.”
Eastern Bluebirds sometimes migrate, but not all of them do. The migration habits of the Eastern Bluebird depend largely on their current nesting areas. Those in areas where winters are mild and food, like berries, are plentiful year-round tend to stay there.
Those who are in areas of harsher weather and scarce food head south for winter and return in the spring to breed. Most bluebirds stay within their range, even though some migrate annually from north to south.
The Western Bluebird covers areas of the Northwest, lower Canada, California, the Southwest, and Mexico. Like the other varieties, the Western Bluebird feeds on insects and berries but their diets vary slightly from their eastern counterparts.
Hundreds of Western Bluebirds will descend on the berries in the juniper woods available in their range.
The Western Bluebird living in the more southern areas tends to not migrate. Those that live further north will migrate south for winter and arrive back to breed in early spring. They will remain in the northern areas until late fall.
The Mountain Bluebird has the most extensive range of any of the bluebird species. They live as far north as Alaska and as far south and the southern portion of Mexico. Their range takes up the western part of the U.S. and they typically never venture outside the western areas.
They love nest boxes but also thrive in burned areas. They like areas where there are prairie and forest connections. Those Mountain Bluebirds that live in the middle portion of the west, like Colorado, Nevada, and California don’t migrate and nest in their territory year-round.
The rest fly the north-south migration route to escape winters and then back north to breed.
There are specific areas where bluebirds don’t migrate. The North Carolina Bluebird Society states the Eastern Bluebirds in their state don’t migrate. However, they do flock with other bluebirds traveling from the north that visit the area looking for berries.
The two groups are compatible and stay together until the northern birds head further south around November.
Other southern areas where bluebirds nest have the same stories. Their birds live there all year and host the northern travelers and they come through twice a year.
Those in Georgia call them “partial migrants” because there are some that live in the Peach State all year while others can be seen traveling through the state from the north or some local bluebirds are seen heading further south within the state.
How Far Do Bluebirds Migrate?
Bluebirds don’t travel as far as other bird groups and are considered to be a medium-distance flier when they do migrate. Those that migrate are from the northern areas of the United States and Canada. They travel to the southern portion of the U.S. or Mexico, so they can travel as far as 2,000 miles.
Most of the bluebirds living in the southeastern U.S. only travel short distances or remain in their areas.
Facts About Bluebird Migration
Bluebirds can accumulate into the thousands in a Southern area during migration season. These include both migratory birds and resident birds. Migration can double the local population.
Bluebirds depart their northern breeding areas at different times during the year. Most believe the time of migration depends on the weather, but it can be anytime from September to early December. The peak for bluebird migration from north to south in October.
Bluebirds travel in smaller flocks, although some can total in the hundreds. They fly in groups with younger birds, females and males flying together. These flocks stay together as family groups in their wintering areas.
Many travel back as a family, although that isn’t always the case.These birds travel during the day, which is different from most songbirds. They use forests and fields as landmarks, traveling around the edges.
The males travel ahead and arrive at the winter destination first. The spot out nesting areas and feeding grounds before the females and younger birds arrive.
Some bluebirds stay until late winter and arrive back home by late February, but the majority of them arrive back at their breeding grounds in mid-May. Between 30 to 50 percent of bluebirds return to the same spot they nested in previous years.
Understanding the migratory habits of bluebirds will help those who seek to attract them to their yard. Providing food, water, and nesting areas will encourage these little birds to make your yard a part of their migratory flight and perhaps become permanent residents.
Unlike other birds, bluebirds do have a habit of migration and they also follow a schedule. Understanding the migrating habits can help you figure out the time when they can reach your backyards and garden.
You can also check out article “Why do bluebirds fly into windows“, if you are really interested in knowing the facts about it.