The blue jay, with its bold coloration and even bolder personality, is one of the most common and familiar backyard birds in the eastern United States, and its intelligence and its willingness to visit feeders make it a welcome guest for many birders.
- Bill: Long, thick and black
- Size: 11 inches long with 16-inch wingspan, long tail and crested head
- Colors: Blue, purple, white, black, gray
- Markings: Birds have a white face, throat and chin bordered by a prominent black collar that extends from the nape to the breast. A thin back eye stripe marks the face. The head, crest and back are bluish purple, while the wings and tail are a bright blue with white spots and distinct black bars. The chest and abdomen are white or grayish-white, and the legs and feet are black. Male and female birds look alike.
Nuts, berries, seeds, corn, carrion, insects, eggs, small animals
Habitat and Migration:
Blue jays are common throughout the eastern and central United States and southern Canada from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and eastern Texas. Extreme northern populations may migrate but most birds remain in the same areas year-round. These birds are highly adaptable to different habitats and can be found in forests, cities, parks and suburban areas.
Blue jays are gregarious and noisy, though they are uncharacteristically quiet during the nesting season (May-July). Their calls include loud, strident “do-it” or “jaaaay” sounds as well as warbling chirps. Some birds have been heard to imitate hawk calls. Most vocalizations are used to intimidate or threaten other birds or intruders in nesting or feeding areas.
These birds are frequently found in pairs or family flocks and they are very protective of their nests, even to the point of diving at intruders, including humans. Another threat display includes raising the head crest very prominently. They are inquisitive and intelligent birds that cache nuts and seeds for later feeding.
Blue jays are monogamous birds and pair bonds may last through several nesting seasons. Both male and female birds incubate the brood of 4-6 eggs for 16-18 days, and both parents also feed and care for the nestlings for 18-20 days until the young birds are ready to leave the nest. Bird pairs may raise 1-3 broods per season depending on available food and regional climate.
Attracting Blue Jays:
Blue jays easily visit backyards that feature suet, sunflower seeds, whole or shelled peanuts, bread scraps and corn. With patience, birders may be able to hand-feed regular guests. Blue jays are also attracted to water and will frequently visit birdbaths.
Photo © Pbonenfant