Nevada is the seventh-largest state by area and the thirty-second most populous state in the United States. It is made up mainly of a mixture of mountain and desert regions. The state animal for Nevada is the Desert Bighorn Sheep, but what is the state bird?
In 1967, the state of Nevada chose the mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides), also referred to as the bluebird. This azure thrush comes in two feather blends – white feathers with a blue breast on males and brown feathers with blue breast on females.
The state bird for Nevada, the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)
The mountain bluebird resides in Nevada year-round. A resident of the Nevada high country area, it sings its warbled song during every season of the year. That kind of loyalty earned the bluebird a special place in the hearts of the state’s residents. The state and federal governments designated this bird with protected status because pesticide use has caused it to lose nesting sites, as has the loss of old trees.
The Nevada General Assembly adopted the bird through legislation in 1967. It shares the mountain bluebird as a state bird with Idaho. Don’t confuse this bird with its cousin, the eastern bluebird. Its eastern cousin serves as the state bird of Missouri and New York.
Mountain Bluebird with insect in beak
Both genders of Nevada’s state bird feature brilliant azure feathers, but the male mountain bluebird’s blue appears on its head and back, while the female’s blue feathers comprise the wings, rump, and tail. The male has a white or bluish-white stomach, while the has a brown head, back, and stomach.
These tiny birds weigh just an ounce and measure six inches in length, typically. They have an average wingspan of 11 to 14 inches.
Female Mountain Bluebird perched on a post
Like the Dixie Chicks, these breathtaking birds prefer wide-open spaces. The mountain bluebird enjoys chillier weather, so they choose to winter where they summer. Think of these birds as dwelling skyscrapers. They make their nests at an elevation of 5,000 feet., but in the summertime, they willingly live at an elevation of up to 12,000 feet.
In the winter months, they might relocate to Nevada’s valleys or to sea level. When given the choice, these thrushes choose the mountains as their favorite stomping grounds, but when food grows scarce, they will move to the foothills, the lowlands, or Nevada ranchlands.
Male Mountain Bluebird in flight with prey
When a male reaches breeding age, he stakes out a breeding territory that features numerous possible nesting grounds. Once a male chooses his territory, he begins singing to attract mates each day. He launches his repertoire at sunrise and sings loudly to attract potential mates. When an appropriate female bluebird approaches him, he encourages her to consider the available nesting sites by flapping his wings at a moderate speed, waving to her, and poking his head in and out of potential nesting holes.
The female of the species thinks logically, and to win her heart and mind, the male must choose a good neighborhood. The top priority of the female bluebird is safety. She won’t mate with a bluebird who chooses a bad neighborhood. If she does like his song and the territory he chose, the female consents to mating with him. Once they choose one another, these birds remain monogamous for life.
She chooses the nesting hole and constructs the nest inside it. He hovers while she chooses the construction materials and takes them to the nest. While the female handles all of the construction work, he hunts for food and delivers it to the nest. The bluebird species uses mate feeding. The male picks up food with his beak and feeds his mate directly to her beak. From far away, it may look like the two are kissing.
Mountain Bluebird in nesting cavity
The female uses a deserted hole sometimes constructed by a woodpecker or a hole in a tree that formed naturally, adding grasses and twigs to it to create a comfortable bed inside. Mountain bluebirds weave their nest in the shape of a three to four-inch deep basket using hardy materials. These materials include woven grasses, pine needles, woven grass, hair, straw, and feathers.
Because they want a clean environment, the birds clean the materials before adding them to the nest. They remove the trash, such as cigarette butts, from the materials before transporting them to their tree. The roomy next provides room for both parents and the eggs, plus it can accommodate the hatched baby birds.
Once she constructs the nest and they dine, they begin copulating. The female adds a bit to the nest each day, and the two birds copulate throughout the nest building. This provides a better chance that the female will become pregnant by the time she finishes the nest. She ideally lays eggs as soon as the nest becomes complete.
The incubation begins, lasting for 13 to 14 days. While the male hunts for food, the female cares for the eggs by sitting on them. This provides both warmth and safety. Once they hatch, both parents care for their brood. He continues to hunt for food, delivering dinner for the entire family to the nest.
Bluebirds have a reputation as a meticulous species. The couple cleans their nest each day, sharing the cleaning duties.
Mountain Bluebirds often flock together in large family communities
As a monogamous couple that breeds each year, mountain bluebirds procreate massive families. They form a nuclear family that grows into a community. Their many children live nearby, moving to their own tree or hole as fledglings.
The various branches of the family help each other out, and a careful birdwatcher can see fledglings helping to feed their parents’ newborns. Baby mountain bluebirds can’t leave the nest for the first 12 days of their lives.
The stoic female bluebird simply flicks her wings towards her husband when she gets hungry. These thrushes eat both meat and vegetation, favoring a diet of berries and insects year-round. Nevada’s fall and winter crops allow this bird to add other fruits to its dining menu.
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