Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mountain Bluebird

Rare Fall Vagrant Found in Acadian Peninsula

Mountain Bluebird 
New Brunswick has had a rare visitor for the last 10 days or so.  A rare fall vagrant has been found in the Acadian Peninsula near Inkerman at Four Roads.  Although the bird may have left yesterday according to a report today, many birders and other interested people have seen it.

The Mountain Bluebird is a member of the Thrush Family and is a 'cousin' to our Eastern Bluebird and our American Robin.  Its preferred habitat is fields and field edges and mountainous areas.  It normally breeds in the Prairie Provinces, British Columbia, the western states and northwards into Alaska and Yukon.  It winters in southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and northern Mexico.  So the bird that was found here should be headed for Arizona now.  It is rare to find this species here but it does happen occasionally.  One was seen in 1996 in Caraquet and one in Pennfield in 2000.

Why is this bird here?  We don't know for sure but it is thought that their navigation system gets damaged somehow so instead of travelling southwest, they travel northeast, for example.  It could have also got caught up in high winds during a weather system which blew it way off course.

Mountain Bluebird
The Mountain Bluebird is about the size of our Eastern Bluebird, 7.25 in. or 18.5 cm long.  The male is very blue over most of its body, darker on its wings.  The blue of this bird is iridescent, a very beautiful colour.  Eye candy indeed!  Our visitor is a female and she is duller with gray on her throat and breast and ultramarine blue on her wings and cerulean blue on her back and tail.  She is still amazingly beautiful.  They are cavity nesters like our bluebirds and readily use nest boxes.  They use tree cavities in the wild.
Mountain Bluebird [L Legere Photo]
Mountain Bluebirds feed on insects, fruits and berries.  They are the only bluebird which hovers.  That was what the bird at Four Roads was doing, hovering over the field and dropping down to get an insect.  The one which I saw in Pennfield in 2000 was in a blueberry field eating blueberries.

The Mountain Bluebird flies like our Robin.  It has long primary feathers and the long primary projection is a way to tell it from the Western or Eastern Bluebird when there is a question.  This could happen when sometimes the female shows a bit of orange tinge on its breast causing some confusion.  The primary projection is a technical term used by serious birders and denotes the length the primary feathers project over the tail in a sitting position.

Mountain Bluebird
Shown below is one of the many peat harvesting sites from the Acadian Peninsula, near where the Mountain Bluebird was found.  It is good to boost the economy with the sale of natural resources but one wonders how long it will take before these areas return to natural vegetation which can be used by our wildlife.
Peat Harvesting

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