a committee of the New York State Ornithological Association
of New York Rarities
and photographs by Angus Wilson
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) is
a rare visitor to New York State with less than 10 accepted records
(Levine, 1998). One individual was discovered on the grounds of
SUNY Purchase, Westchester County during the Greenwich 1998/99
Christmas Bird Count (Sunday 19th December, 1998). It frequented
an area of roughly cut grass, edged with small trees and bushes.
Here are a series of photos of this bird taken on
the morning of Tuesday 22nd December 1998 which was very windy.
The bird called several times giving a thin single-note whistle.
It fed by perching in exposed branches before flying out into short
stubble to pounce on prey items. Sometimes it hopped around in
the grass stubble, occasionally perching on short stems or hovering
for sustained period (like a little blue Kestrel!).
Figure 1. Dorsal-view
with head turned. Semi-circle of white behined the eye; orange-buff
throat; white edges to wing coverts and the tertials. Telescopic
foreshortening makes it difficult to see the long wings.
Figure 2. Side-view
on ground. A sleek bird without the dumpy posture of Eastern
Bluebird. Note the slight buff wash to the gray flanks and
bright white vent region and undertail coverts - this is
consistent with fresh plumage and becomes grayer with time
perched. Spent quite a lot of time perched in trees surrounding
the field. Would drop down to snatch prey in the short
grass. Note the white edging to the flight feathers (primaries,
secondaries and tertials) and wing coverts. The turquoise
blue coloration to the tail and flight feathers is most
Figure 4. Head-on
view. Note the strong wash of orange-brown on the throat
and breast forming is discrete border with paler (off-white)
belly and flanks. The white-edging to the alula is very striking.
Kaufman, K. (1992) 'Bluebirds' American Birds 46: 159-162.
Levine, E. (1998) 'Bull's Birds of New York State' Cornell Unversity
Pyle, P. (1997) 'Identification Guide to North American Birds -
Part 1' p390-391. Slate Creek Press. Zimmer, K.J. (1985) The Western
Bird Watcher: an introduction to birding in the American west.