Category: Mountain bluebird


There are two things that are pretty common in Yellowstone during the spring. Almost everywhere we went we saw herds of bison and large flocks of mountain bluebirds, all of them searching out areas in the park where the snow had either completely disappeared or was just about to. The spring thaw and green-up was in full swing which made for prime feeding grounds. The bison were chomping down on tiny stems of green grass wherever they could find it and when that wasn’t available or was covered over in fresh snow, they resorted to winter-killed, high roughage stalks of grass. Bison have lots of character and this one seemed to want to go for a hillbilly look and I must say, pulled it off better than anyone else I have seen try.

Bison Hillbilly WM

It wasn’t until watching the bluebirds for some time that it became clear they were relying on by-products of bison to help them survive the first few months of spring. In March and early April there aren’t as many insects to feed on. But as it turns out, buried within and under old bison patties are lots of overwintering insect larvae. With their keen eyesight, the bluebirds snatched these insects up as they emerged from the dried-up dung. Other times they would use the piles as perches to get a better vantage point to spot their next meal.

Bluebird on bison patty WM

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is a another person’s treasure!  To some, this might diminish the image of these beautiful birds, but without them we would suffer even more from the torture of biting flies, mosquitoes, ticks and other pesky insects.  So for me it adds another level of appreciation since doing all of this dirty work and still looking good can’t be easy. With that I will end on a high note with one last photo that showcases just how spectacular and stunning these birds really are.

Bluebird flight and perched WM

Bluebird WM

Yellowstone was full of bluebirds.  I have only seen parents and offspring together before, but during this trip there were flocks of over 20 birds.  This handsome male perched on a branch right next to the road which made it very easy for me. He didn’t seem to be bothered and continued to eye up the landscape for unsuspecting insects.

This male mountain bluebird had just picked an insect off of one of the aspen trees.  The scars on the aspen trees are from elk that eat the bark and sap.

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This fledgling bluebird  was quiet particular about what insects it would accept from its parents.  Several times the parents would return with an insect that either the fledgling would close it’s mouth at or if it looked tasty it would take the insect, the parents would fly off and then the young bird would spit it out.  I guess some insects to birds are like some vegetables to kids!

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