Have you seen the bluebirds? Western bluebirds, that is—not to be confused with the scrub jay, our valley member of the jay clans of the family Corvidae.
Jays are kin to crows and magpies. Bluebirds are part of the thrush family—cousins to the robin. They are smaller than scrub jays, seven inches from beak tip to tail tip, compared to 11 and a half inches for the jays.
Adult bluebirds have red breasts, called “chestnut” or “rusty” in the bird guides. The head, back and tail of the mature males are a deep purple-blue. If you get a good look, it is hard to miss. This is one strikingly beautiful bird! My friend Dixie once asked me, “What color blue is a bluebird, anyway?” I replied, “Well, you really have to see it to understand.”
Younger juvenile bluebirds are speckled. Older juveniles and females are much paler than the mature males.
Western bluebirds are fruit eaters who tend to hang together in small flocks this time of year. Look for them in and around Chinese pistache trees. They are among the many species of birds who seem to relish the fruit of these trees.
When I first started watching birds, some forty plus years ago, I only saw bluebirds in the foothills or along the rivers. According to my observations, they have become much more common in town since the city started planting Chinese pistache trees and these have grown and matured, producing an abundance of fruit each winter. Bluebirds seem to have adapted well to this available food source.
I have spotted them all over Turlock in recent weeks. While driving my grandson to Pitman for school one day, I saw bluebirds at least four times. So keep your eyes open. You just may be blessed by a Western bluebird sighting!