Bluebirds, Robins, & Thrushes

Bluebirds are primarily found in the subalpine areas of the park, while thrushes frequent the park's lower elevation forests. Tanagers are also forest birds similar in size to thrushes, but are in a different family.


Thrushes - Oder Passeriformes, Family Turdidae

A juvenile robin.
American Robin (juvenile)

NPS/I. Metzen Photo

American Robin
Turdus migratorius

Habitat: forest, subalpine
Seasons: common spring-fall
Size: length 10 in (25.4 cm), wingspan 17 in (43 cm)
American Robin Calls

This common bird has a orange-red breast and belly with a black head and throat, and dark wings. Females can have paler coloring, while juveniles can have dark speckles on the breast, and white edging on the wings. Robins are adaptable to a wide range of habitats, from front lawns to subalpine meadows. They are also common in the park's forests, often foraging for insects on the ground.

A bright blue bird perches on a fir tree branch.
Mountain Bluebird (male)

NPS/P. Wold Photo

Mountain Bluebird
Sialia currucoides

Habitat: subalpine
Seasons: common spring-fall
Size: length 7.25 in (18.4 cm), wingspan 14 in (35.5 cm)
Mountain Bluebird Calls

This slim bluebird has long wings and tail, and a thin bill. Adult males are vibrant blue overall. Females are grey, with pale blue on the tail and flight feathers. Some females (and occasionally males) can have reddish coloring mixed in on the breast and throat, with a pale chin. Mountain bluebirds can be found in open subalpine parks, particularly common around Sunrise.

A bird with an open mouth nests on a branch.
Swainson's Thrush

NPS/IRJ. Hentges Photo

Swainson's Thrush
Catharus ustulatus

Habitat: forest
Seasons: common spring-summer
Size: length 7 in (17.8 cm), wingspan 12 in (30.5 cm)
Swainson's Thrush Calls

Swainson's thrushes in the Pacific region are called "russet-backed", for the tinge of red to their coloring, while eastern populations are more olive colored. Pacific popultions have red-olive heads, backs, and flanks, with a tan-to-white chest and belly smudged with dark spots. Tan "spectacles" encircle the eyes. Swainson's thrushes nest in desnse coniferous forests.

A puffed-up orange and black bird on a snowy branch.
Varied Thrush

Crow Vecchio Photo

Varied Thrush
Ixoreus naevius

Habitat: forest
Seasons: common spring-fall
Size: length 9.5 in (24 cm), wingspan 16 in (40.6 cm)
Varied Thrush Calls

Varied thrushes can sometimes be confused with robins. They both have orange-red breasts and throats, but on the varied thrushes this is broken by a dark grey (females) or black (males) breast band. Varied thrushes also have bold orange superciliums (streaks over the eye), and orange patterns breaking up the black on the wings. When flying, they have an orange wingstripe on both sides of the wings. Varied thrushes have a piercing whistle-like call that can be commonly heard in the park's forests in spring.


Tanagers - Order Passeriformes, Family Cardinalidae

A bright red-yellow bird on a branch.
Western Tanager

NPS/I. Metzen Photo

Western Tanager
Piranga ludoviciana

Habitat: forest
Seasons: occasional spring-fall
Size: length 7.25 in (18.4 cm), wingspan 11.5 in (29 cm)
Western Tanager Calls

Male western tanagers are easy to spot with bright yellow bodies and red heads. Females are also yellow, but do not have red on the head. Wings are grey-black, with a yellow wing bar in both sexes. Tail is black and relatively short.


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Last updated: July 20, 2021

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