Bright blue and beautiful

Just as I was about to leave the one of the parks on the Mississippi River that I visited today, I heard bluebirds singing in a nearby tree, so I tried to track them down.  They never let me get close, but the contrast of the males’ bright blue feathers against the rusty brown of old oak leaves was striking enough to make some nice photos.

In fact, his rusty brown breast feathers just matched the color of the oak leaves.

The bright blue really makes this bird stand out, but the rusty brown breast feathers just matched the color of the oak leaves.

male eastern bluebird

Some males are bluer than others, and the females have paler rusty breast feathers and much less blue in their wing and tail feathers.

Some males seem to be much bluer than others, and the females (upper left) have paler rusty breast feathers and much less blue in their wing and tail feathers.

My long-term blog readers may recall from earlier posts that the blue color is structural, rather than the result of a pigment.  Tiny air spaces in the feathers contain particles (like dust) that scatter and reflect short wavelengths of light so that the feathers appear blue to our eyes.  In the wrong light (i.e., indirect), the bright blue feathers just look slate gray.

A poorly lit subject without direct sunlight on his blue back looks a little dull gray.

A poorly lit subject without direct sunlight on his blue back looks a little less blue.

Bluebirds are not very cold tolerant birds, and we may still experience more spring snowstorms and sub-freezing temperatures, so I hope these guys haven’t arrived too early.

10 thoughts on “Bright blue and beautiful

  1. Gorgeous bluebird shots. I just love the vibrant blue of the males and continue to keep my eyes peeled for them in my local area. I think they are present year round, but I haven’t seen any in quite a while.

    • Thanks, Mike. It might have been the light on that particular day — sort of filtered and hazy that made the blue just stand out against the background. I guess bluebirds will stick around anyplace that doesn’t get too cold or have snow on the ground too long. I think they are opportunistic migrants in the winter.

    • It’s possible there aren’t many of them in your area. They really like open meadows or grassy areas, but prefer wooded edge for nesting.

  2. These are lovely. You are quite right about the blue against the warm background – it really sings. I went for a walk this morning and watched a small charm of goldfinches fluttering about for a while. Just gorgeous.

    • Thanks, Rachael. I wish I could have gotten closer, but they were wary, and kept moving off. I’ll have to try to sit in a blind sometime, and get some closer shots.

  3. Bluebirds are one of my favorite subjects but as you say, so shy. They always look so sweet. I usually see a few of them here in the winter and wonder what they find to eat, especially this year.

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