Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a common, medium-sized, crested jay species with blue upperparts, gray and white underparts, and a narrow black collar.
If you see noisy, crested, blue and gray birds, you have found some Blue Jays. This adaptable bird is just as common in parks and wooded urban areas as it is in wilder places.
Have you wondered where you can see Blue Jays? See this article to learn all about this common, handsome species!
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The male Blue Jay is a medium-sized bird with a stout black beak, crest, and narrow black collar. It has gray-blue on its head and back, and brighter blue on its wings and long tail.
Blue Jays also have a gray wash on their chest and flanks, and whiter plumage on their belly. They have a narrow black line through their eyes, a bit of black in front of their eyes, and a white or pale gray face.
Male Blue Jays are also a little bit bigger than females, but the differences are impossible to tell in the field.
The female Blue Jay looks just like her male counterpart but is a little bit smaller. Like the male, she also has blue upperparts, gray and white underparts, and a white face with a narrow black collar that extends up the back side of their face.
On average, even though females are smaller, Blue Jays are 11 inches long, have a 16 inch wingspan, and weigh 3 ounces. Both sexes also have one white wing bar, and a few white spots and black barring on their rounded wings.
They also have some black bars and a white tip on their longish tails.
Blue Jays are smart, vocal birds that make a variety of sounds. They don’t really have a song but seem to always be making some sort of call. One of their most commonly heard sounds is a loud, jeering and nasal nyeeah nyeeah nyeeah.
They can also make bubbling, whistling sounds, rattle-like calls, and clucking sounds.
Blue Jays are omnivorous birds that feed on a wide variety of items. They like to eat acorns and other nuts and seeds, berries and other fruits, insects, and small animals.
These birds are very opportunistic and can catch caterpillars, beetles, and whatever other bugs they find.
While searching for acorns, if they notice berries, they can perch and feed on them. Likewise, if jays notice any small animals they think they can catch, the birds won’t hesitate to attack them.
Such animals can include mice, frogs, and small birds. Like crows and other members of the Corvid family, Blue Jays are also common predators of bird nests. They keep a close eye on any other small birds in their territory and watch for nesting activity.
If they notice a bird carrying insects, they will investigate to see if they can find the nest. When they find it, the Blue Jays will attack the adult birds to get at the eggs or the nestlings.
These birds typically forage by moving together in pairs or in a small group. They watch from a perch and then move forward, always looking for potential food. They can take food from the ground or high in trees, and also listen for other jays to communicate about food sources.
Nesting and Eggs
In most areas, Blue Jays start to build their nests in mid-March. It might take them just a few days to build the nest or a few weeks.
The female Blue Jay probably has the final say on the nest site and usually picks a fork or thick branches in a tree, 10 to 25 feet high.
Although the female constructs the nest, her mate brings most of the nesting material. They like to use twigs, rootlets, grass, and some mud to make a shallow, messy cup nest.
If the nesting birds notice a predator, they typically abandon the process and pick another site. Once the nest is ready, the female Blue Jay lays two to seven light blue, 1.2-inch long eggs with brown spots.
The female Blue Jay incubates her eggs for 17 to 18 days. After hatching, she and the nestlings are fed by the male as she broods them for 8 to 12 days. When the baby birds are 12 days old, their mother also starts bringing them food.
After around another week or so, the young jays leave the nest but stay in the area and continue to be fed by their parents for another month or two.
Blue Jay habitat includes woodlands, parks, and other places with lots of oak trees. They are also common visitors to backyards, especially ones with feeders. They live in central and eastern Canada, and throughout the eastern USA. Northern populations can also migrate to areas just south of their usual range as well as the northwestern USA.
Blue Jays are listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List and are common birds in much of their large range.
The Blue Jay has a big estimated population of 17 million and is not considered to be threatened. However, similar to some other common bird species, they have declined in some places.
These declines are believed to be mostly related to overall habitat degradation and heavy pesticide use. The pesticides can directly affect the birds themselves as well as the insects, seeds, and nuts they feed on.
- When Blue Jays see a small bird with or near food they want, they can mimic hawk sounds to startle it. They hope to scare the small bird away or make it drop its food so they can fly in and take it.
- Unlike most other small birds, Blue Jays migrate during the day. At migration hotspots like Point Pelee in Ontario or Magee Marsh in Ohio, flocks of hundreds of Blue Jays can be seen flying past and overhead.
- This species often hides acorns and other seeds. Although it remembers where most of them are, some seeds and acorns always end up germinating and growing into saplings. In this respect, Blue Jays can help with reforestation, especially oak forests.
- Like other members of the Corvid family, Blue Jays are very smart birds. They have complex communications and can use basic tools to obtain food!
- Oddly enough, Blue Jays aren’t actually blue. Technically, their feathers are brown but they have structures that scatter and refract light to make them appear blue.
With its crest and pretty plumage, the Blue Jay is an easy bird to recognize. However, there are a couple other related species that can look similar to it.
Steller’s Jays have a crest but mostly live in places where Blue Jays do not occur. However, in winter, Blue Jays can be found with Steller’s Jays in the northwestern USA. Even so, Steller’s Jays are easily separated from Blue Jays by their sooty head and darker blue plumage.
Found only in Florida, Florida Scrub Jays can be seen in some of the same areas as the Blue Jay. However, they don’t have a crest, nor do they have white in their wings and tail. Florida Scrub-Jays also lack the Blue Jay’s black collar. Due to loss of suitable habitats, Florida Scrub-Jays are considered to be in a threatened state.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do Blue Jays symbolize?
Blue Jays symbolize intelligence, creativity, and trickery. They are also a symbol of mental clarity and a reminder to express ourselves and take pride in our beliefs, feelings, and creative energy.
How long do Blue Jays live?
Blue Jays often live as long as seven years. Many live to be at least nine, and they can live to be 14 or even older.
Do Blue Jays migrate?
Yes, Blue Jays do migrate. Northern populations migrate rather short distances to places within the USA.
Do Blue Jays mate for life?
Yes, Blue Jays mate for life. They form strong, life-long bonds.
What do Blue Jays eat?
Blue Jays eat acorns, seeds, grain, insects, fruit, and small animals.
Do Blue Jays eat other birds?
Yes, Blue Jays eat other birds. Blue Jays frequently attack bird nests to eat the eggs and young birds. They can also eat small birds that fly into windows or become vulnerable for other reasons.