The origin of bird names often is obscure. Sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible to discern what Adam was thinking. A “Bananaquit”? A “Lapwing”? How about “Bushtit”? Where did those names come from? The list of obscure bird names stretches across many pages of field guides.
But sometimes a name is perfectly obvious. For instance, “Mountain Bluebird.” The bird is blue and it lives in mountains. According to Kaufman, they, “Hover in midair before dropping to pick up insects from the ground.” One is hovering in this photo. See if you can spot it.
Here is a close-up.
On the recent day I was in these mountains, several hovered on the breeze blowing up from the river canyon below the ridge where I stood. I actually thought they might be eating insects that were floating on that breeze, not picking them off the ground, but who am I to argue with Kenn Kaufman who, I am certain, has forgotten more about birds than I will ever know. And they were dropping to the ground, relaunching, and hovering, so they probably were eating insects off the ground; stocking up for winter I imagine. It snowed in those mountains two days later.
Of course, many bird species are named for their habitats. Mountain Bluebirds are not alone in that regard. Cactus Wrens nest in cacti. You’ll find Seaside Sparrows exactly where you’d expect. Ovenbirds are brown and live in ovens.