Mountain Bluebird We Sighted At Grand Canyon Heliport
When Bob and I decided to travel to the Grand Canyon, it was more about seeing the spectacular scenery than anything else, but on our first morning at Grand Canyon National Park, we had an early morning helicopter flight booked at the local heliport. When we emerged from our rental car to check in, our birding instincts took over when we spotted a Mountain Bluebird perched in one of the trees at the edge of the parking lot.
It seemed to matter not that, within steps, helicopters were firing up their engines and propellers whipping the air into a turbulent vortex. Our excitement was tangible, but still we took time to photograph the bluebird.
Papillon Grand Canyon Heliport offers a variety of helicopter tours, and we opted for early morning hoping for good light on the canyon as we hovered over it and dipped into some of its crevices. Even though we were anxious to get going, the beautiful bluebird demanded attention.
We were in awe of the striking turquoise blue plumage of this adult male, but the female, that alighted for a moment on the curb near the heliport office, was much plainer in comparison. Her plumage was bluish-grey with a tinge of brighter blue on the edge of the wings, the rump and the tail. We were so focused on capturing images of the male bluebird that we missed our chance to photograph the female.
It is commonplace for Mountain Bluebirds to hover in the air about a meter above the ground when searching the surface for insects, and then, in a hawk-like manner, swoop down and snatch up the likely prey. Although they also will swoop down from a perch in a tree, this stunningly feathered male seemed more intent on preening its feathers.
Mountain Bluebirds are small thrushes commonly found in open habitats of the American West. They live in the high country, which is what led to them being called “mountain” bluebirds.
Mountain Bluebirds differ from both the Western Bluebird, shown here, which we also saw in Grand Canyon National Park,
and the Eastern Bluebird, which my dad has seen here in Ontario. Both of these birds have a reddish-brown breast that contrasts nicely with their predominantly blue plumage.
The Mountain Bluebird has a pale blue breast and a white belly. After snapping a few photos, Bob and I had to hurry in to register for our helicopter flight; we wanted to be first in line. In hindsight, we were sure glad that we took the time to photograph this little fellow because it was the only one we saw on our whole vacation.