Readers’ wildlife photos

January 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

We have another themed post by John Avise. His notes and IDs are indented; click on the photos to enlarge them.

Birds with Blue Plumages

Blue is a rather rare color in avian plumages, and when present is typically not due to blue pigments, but rather to a scattering of light by the microscopic structure of feathers, especially when a dark melanin layer overlies small air cavities and keratin particles in a feather’s micro-structure.  Such light-scattering is called the Tyndall effect, which I’ve read is also the physical process that makes the sky appear blue despite the absence of blue pigment in the atmosphere.  I can’t claim to understand exactly how such light-scattering works, but perhaps a physicist in the readership can enlighten us.  In any event, I love birds that include blue in their plumages, several of which appear in the following photographs, all taken in North America.

Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana:

Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides:

Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis:

Blue Grosbeak male, Guiraca caerulea:

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata:

Florida Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma coerulescens:

California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica:

Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri:

Lazuli Bunting, Passerina amoena:

Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris:

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor:

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Polioptila caerulea:

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius:

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Dendroica caerulescens:

Blue-throated Hummingbird, Lampornis clemenciae:

Belted Kingfisher, Ceryle alcyon:

Blue-winged Teal, Anas discors:

Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea:

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias:

24 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. As a retired ornithologist/forest ecologist, I am really enjoying this series. Thanks! One stunning blue bird not seen here is actually reasonably common where I live in SE Ohio, the Cerulean Warbler (male). A canopy species, very hard to get a good look at, let alone a photo.

    1. I’ve never managed to photograph a Cerulean Warbler, though I would LOVE to do so. Indeed, i’ve only seen them (and at a distance) once or twice.

  2. Hmmm, some of those birds have such intense blues that I’d have thought the colour is more likely from thin-film reflection, not the Tyndall effect.

  3. Lovely pictures. Actually the California Scrub Jay has been split with the inland or more eastern sub-species now called Woodhouse’s Jay. I saw it in Texas. Don’t forget the Pinyon and the Mexican Jays. I saw the former in Colorado and the latter in SE Arizona.

  4. Lovely photos! – I especially like the buntings.
    The kingfisher looks a bit drab, gray rather than blue; I’ve seen kingfishers with lots brighter colors – the sacred kingfisher in NZ/Australia as an example. But when I checked it on Wikipedia and was offered photos of other kingfishers, I saw that the little kingfisher is the true blue of that family.

  5. I recall seeing, when I lived in Southern California, a large, dazzling blue magpie. Very striking, with a long tail. I don’t know the species. Is anyone familiar with this bird?

  6. These were a delight. Speaking of blue birds, while living in the Bay Area in the late 80’s, I once spotted a Hyacinth Macaw sitting on a telephone line. Obviously an escapee, and an unforgettable encounter.

      1. Never heard about that, but wouldn’t be surprised. California is warm enough for tropical birds to overwinter and birds will be birds finding their kin and flocking. That’s cool to know though. I had a cockatiel that escaped while living near SF. Maybe he/she made it to Telegraph Hill. 🙂

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