Bluethroat is a prized bird for North American birders, a skulker of
thickets in the north Alaskan tundra. Almost always found in areas of
dense vegetation, they can be difficult to observe, but the brightly colored
males will sometimes pop out of the vegetation to sing their song. The
namesake blue throat is typically used to impress female Bluethroats, with
the males perching and displaying their throat plumage. The species is
rather common in Eurasia, and there are plumage differences between birds
found in Alaska and those found in Europe. European birds, such as the
one shown in the photo to the right, typically have a small white patch in
their middle of their throat, or the throat is entirely blue. The
Bluethroats in Alaska typically have a small rufous-colored patch in the
same location. While different in appearance, genetic analysis
indicates that Bluethroats are indeed one species.
Habitat: Bluethroats can be found in a variety of
thick, brushy vegetation. On their Alaskan breeding grounds, they
typically are found in areas of dwarf willow or birch, typically near
streams. On their wintering grounds, they also prefer thick
vegetation, often near water sources such as streams or lake edges.
Diet: They primarily feed on insects, and will
also take spiders, earthworms, and small snails. They also will
occasionally feed on berries, fruits, and seeds, mostly in colder months or
perhaps when insects are less available.
Behavior: While sometimes shy and difficult to
observe in the thick vegetation they call home, males will sometimes appear
on an obvious open perch to sing their variables songs .
Nesting: The nests of Bluethroats are constructed
under thick shrubs or at the base of other thick vegetation. The nest,
built by the female, is made of grasses, twigs, moss, and other bits of
vegetation, and lined with downy plant material. Both the male and
female will help to raise the young.
Song: Song of the Bluethroat is variable, but
typically includes a series of high staccato whistling which speeds up, and
then ends with a trill or series of harsher notes.
Migration: Migratory, with breeding Alaskan birds
primarily wintering in southeast Asia. They apparently migrate mostly
over land, as birds migrating to and from Alaska primarily come across the
Bering Strait, and are only very rare found in the Aleutian Islands.
Distinctive in range, particularly the brightly colored males.
Conservation Status: There are currently no
perceived major threats to Bluethroat populations, and Birdlife
International cites it as a species of "Least Concern". Breeding
populations in Alaska may be increasing.
Image Information: Colored pencil drawing by Terry