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Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) Turdidae

National Bison Range, MT
April 2, 2016
Robert Niese

Most birds that posses such striking blue plumage typically get these gorgeous colors from tiny air pockets inside the feathers that scatter light in a way that makes them appear blue. Learn more.

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) Turdidae

Walnut Creek, CA
December 25, 2015
Robert Niese

These rather unassuming birds have a hauntingly beautiful song that was beloved by Walt Whitman and the inspiration for the voice of the fictional Mockingjay. They also have a very interesting genetic history. There are five species of Catharus thrushes that are long-distance migrators (plus the closely related Wood Thrush in the monotypic genus Hylocichla), but the Hermit is not closely related to the others. Instead, Hermits are sister to the Russet Nightingale-thrush (C. occidentalis) which is non-migratory and endemic to Mexico. Along with the Swainson’s Thrush (C. ustulatus) and the Wood Thrush, these birds each evolved long-distance migratory behavior independently of the other thrush lineages. Learn more here.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) Turdidae  

Council Grove State Park, MT
March 16, 2015
Robert Niese

Although American Robins are one of North America’s most ubiquitous birds, there are a few things most people don’t know about these abundant creatures. For example, did you know that males and females show a slight dimorphism? Males tend to have blacker heads and redder breasts which females use as an indicator of the health of potential mates.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) Turdidae

Missoula, MT
May 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Most birds that posses such striking blue plumage typically get these gorgeous colors from tiny air pockets inside the feathers that scatter light in a way that makes them appear blue. Learn more.