Blue Jays: Birdwatching Guide, Facts, Identifying & More

September 25, 2020 // 10 minute read

Articles » Blue Jays

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How To Identify Blue Jays

Both male and female blue jays birds are a cerulean blue on the top or back half of their bodies and have white bellies. The males tend to be larger. Their heads have a small cap of blue feathers. The wings are barred or striped with black and have a broad white stripe.

Blue Jays Birds
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In flight, Blue Jays are white and dark grey with a white wingtip from as viewed from underneath. Their beaks and feet are black.

In the United States, Blue Jays and the California Scrub-Jay are most common. Both are blue, though the California Scrub-Jay has no cap. The term “Jay” refers to the fact that these birds are loud when disturbed or if they feel challenged. They can also be quite territorial and may be known as the bullies of the bird feeder.

How To Attract Blue Jays To Your Yard

Blue Jays are quire pretty and can be fun to watch, making them a favorite for birdwatching hobbyists. They’re omnivores, so seeds, nuts, grains, mealworms, and dried fruit will all draw them to the feeder. If you’ve got jays in the area and you’d like other birds to fill up your feeder as well, invest in a cage feeder with smaller gaps and perches for smaller birds.

Jays are quite territorial, but if they can’t get in the gaps of a songbird feeder and you set up feeders near the trees where jays like to nest, they may leave the songbirds alone. You can also use Nyjer seed to draw in finches and nectar for hummingbirds, as jays prefer neither.

Blue Jays birds like to build their nests in the crotches or naturally occurring “Y” spots in older trees, particularly oak trees. Once they’ve found that “Y” spot, they’ll add twigs and other sturdy vegetation, packed in with mud, to form the spot for their eggs.

It should be noted that blue jays will feed on the eggs left in the nests of smaller birds. Again, if you want a variety of birds to feed in your yard, and feel safe enough to nest nearby, invest in something with a size limitation. A small nesting box may draw a songbird, but a jay won’t fit.

FAQs About Blue Jays

What do Blue Jays sound like?

Here is a video that displays the typical Blue Jays calls, enjoy 🙂

What type of feeder suits Blue Jays best?

Blue jays love whole peanuts, so do your best to get a bird feeder with a large mesh pattern to hold these treats. Additionally, blue jays like black sunflower seeds, so consider setting up a sturdy feeding tray with a fine bottom mesh. Don’t put out a feeder with a solid bottom; jays like food with high-fat content, and standing rainwater in a blue jay feeder will lead to rancid, smelly bird food.

If you like a spotlessly clean patio, set your blue jay tray feeder up over grass or gravel. These birds are noisy and messy, so seed will be scattered everywhere as they fuss at one another.

Where and when do Blue Jays nest?

Blue jays like to nest near the trunk, in the interior of the tree. They don’t need a great deal of height, but the crooks where large branches meet the trunk are an ideal start for them. Their nesting period generally starts in mid- to late-spring. The time from when the eggs are laid to when the hatchlings are ready to leave the nest runs from 75 to 80 days.

How many eggs do they lay?

Once the nest is built up with twigs and mud, the female will lay from 3 to 6 eggs total. Incubation takes about 18 days and the chicks will be ready to leave the nest 2 months after they hatch.

The male blue jay may be noisy and territorial, but they will, on occasion, take a turn warming the eggs. The majority of their contribution, however, is feeding the female as she keeps the clutch warm, and feeding the chicks when they hatch.

What’s the best size of birdbath for Blue Jays?

Blue Jays really need at least 3 inches of water in the birdbath basin, so do your best to get something a little deeper and keep the water fresh and filled. Adding a wiggler or bubbler will draw their eye and bring them over to splash and drink.

Remember that blue jays are both territorial and messy; don’t put this feeder in a spot that you want to keep tidy or quiet.

Blue Jay Behavior And Migration Patterns

Because Blue Jays are similar in size, you really need to watch their mating behavior to be sure of their sex. These birds mate for life. The female does the choosing; in the spring, she will gather several males in a tree near her with her mating call. She then flies off, and all the males follow.

The pack thins over time until only one male remains, and she takes him as a mate. The last male flying is the chosen father of her offspring.

Before they choose a final site for their nest for the season, they’ll build several practice nests. The male brings up the raw goods and the female chooses the proper building materials. When they find their final site, the female will do the work to create the nest where she will lay their eggs.

In addition to bringing up building materials, the male will bring up food to the female as she searches for, builds, and populates a nest. If you’re wondering if the male in your yard is male or female, put out whole peanuts. They’ll be easy to spot as he flies up to their nesting site.

A solo jay will be loud and aggressive at the feeding tray, but a family of jays can be downright scary, especially right after the chicks have hatched. If you can, get outside to fill your tray feeders early in the morning before the birds are active. The male will be very vigilant at this time, protecting the female and bringing her food, so you want to get to the tray and get away early in the day. The same timing should be used when filling up the birdbath.

Blue Jays occasionally migrate, but it’s not really a patterned behavior for most of these birds. Do your part to keep them safe and well-fed by bumping up their fat intake in the wintertime and keeping the birdbath open. You can add a warmer to the birdbath, or include a black rock or reflective piece of material to soak up solar heat and keep the water open during the day.

Keep an eye on their feeders in winter; you may need to add a lean-to roof on an elevated tray feeder that blocks the wind and keeps the food free of snow and ice. A black lean-to roof will keep the gap nice and warm as well.

Also, if you have pets that frequent the same area as a family of blue jays, keep an eye on cats that are inclined to climb and dogs that like to bark. One angry jay, dive-bombing and squawking, can be pretty tough on a high-strung dog. A noisy dog may end up being driven away from a nest, or damage the male by snapping. Cats that climb should always be kept away from bird feeders, especially if you hope that birds will nest nearby.

Finally, consider adding some cayenne pepper to the seed and nut mix. Birds tolerate the heat fine, but squirrels don’t like it and may avoid your yard when it becomes associated with heartburn in their territorial understanding of the neighborhood. It would be nice to think that birds and squirrels could exist peacefully, but there is little noisier than the sound of a knock-down, drag-out fight over food between squirrels and a Blue Jays birds.

19 Fun & Interesting Facts About Blue Jays

Blue Jays Rub Ants On Their Feathers

Blue jays rub ants on their feathers, also known as “anting”. However, as unusual as this behavior may seem, there is a good reason for it. When an ant feels threatened, they produce formic acid as a means to defend itself. Therefore, when a blue jay puts an ant in its beak, it will perform this behavior to remove the harmful formic acid, making the ant edible.

Blue Jay Size Facts

Blue jays can reach 9 to 12 inches in length and weigh 2.5 to 3.5 ounces.

Lifespan For Blue Jays

Some blue jays in captivity have been recorded to live for more than 25 years. One wild jay was recorded to be 16–17 years old. However, the typical lifespan for these wild birds is generally around 7 years.

Blue Jay As A Recognized Bird

Blue Jays are not a state bird within the 50 states that make up the United States. However, they are the official bird of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The Blue Jay Is Not Really Blue

As blue as some Blue Jays may seem, they are actually grey and brown. The reason they appear blue is due to the sunlight’s refraction, giving them various blue shades.

Blue Jay Personality

The blue jay is an aggressive bird, with a bold and curious personality. They are also considered to be intelligent.

Blue Jay Diet

Like humans, blue Jays are omnivores. A Blue Jay’s diet includes seeds, small insects, and nuts.

Blue Jays And Squirrels Store Food

Blue jays, like squirrels, hide nuts to eat at a later time, such as during the cold season.

Blue Jays Are More Vocal At Specific Times Of Year

Blue Jays are quieter during the warmer months of spring and summer. During this time, they are busy building their nests and raising their family. However, as the temperatures start to drop, they become quite loud.

Blue Jay Male And Female Identification

Male and Female jays have the same plumage and identification marks. It is difficult to distinguish males and females from one another based on physical appearance alone. This is also known as monomorphism. However, males tend to be slightly larger than females.

Blue Jays Are Diurnal

Blue jays are active during the day. This is also known as being a diurnal bird.

Blue Jays Can Mimic Other Sounds

Blue jays can mimic, or imitate, other bird sounds such as hawks.

Blue Jays Have A Crested Head

Blue jays have a crest that is located on top of their heads. When a blue jay’s crest is erect, it is considered a sign of aggression.

Both Male And Female Play A Significant Role When Raising Their Family

Blue jays form monogamous pair bonds that last throughout the duration of their lifetime. Both sexes help build their nest and raise their young. However, only the female broods them. The male blue jay feeds the female while she is busy brooding the eggs.

Blue Jay Flight Speed And Wingspan

The blue jay has a wingspan of about 13 to 17 inches in length and it can fly at a speed of 20-25 mph.

Blue Jays Are The Official Mascot For John Hopkins University

In 1920, the blue jay became the official mascot for John Hopkins University. He was given the name “Jay”.

Blue Jay  Nesting And Egg Color Facts

The incubation period for blue jays is 17-18 days. There are usually 2-7 eggs in a clutch with a nestling period of about 17-21 days. Their eggs are either blue or light brown in color and have brownish spots.

Blue Jay Name Meaning

The word “jay” has an archaic meaning in American slang. It implies a person who chatters. Similarly, the blue jay is notorious for its endless chatter.

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