The Blue Jay
Updated: Jan 6
Have you noticed a large, noisy, bright blue bird with a prominent crest flying around in your neighborhood or around a woodland edge? Does your bird have black and white wing bars, a pale gray belly, and a bold, black necklace? If so, your bird is probably a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata, for all you Latin geeks like me).
This bold, smart bird can be found throughout eastern and central North America, and a migratory population travels throughout much of the northwest. They migrate by the thousands around the Great Lakes and most of the Atlantic coast. The Blue Jay’s habitat is mostly woods and woodland edges, but they are not as common in deep woods. They are also found in neighborhoods (so long as they have enough trees) but they are found more commonly in areas with oak trees. The Blue Jay is often found in flocks, and they can usually be detected by their noisy calls before they are actually seen.
Some interesting facts about the Blue Jay: Blue Jays mimic the calls of hawks and other birds, and they often use the hawk cries to scare away other birds from a bird feeder, so that they may have the feeder all to themselves, they also may use this to test if there is a predator around. One individual in my neighborhood, went so far as to make a Red-tailed Hawk cry and then scream wildly while flying down really fast and thrashing around the leaves on the ground – seemingly making it look like a hawk was attacking. All the birds scattered and he had the feeders to himself for a couple minutes. What a smart bully!
Blue Jays are omnivorous, and one thing that has hurt the reputation of the Blue Jay is that they sometimes eat the eggs and nestlings of other birds. The Blue Jay is actually largely vegetarian, eating a variety of nuts, seeds, and berries, but they do eat small creatures like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles and a variety of other small animals, and will only rarely eats nestling birds and eggs.
One way you may attract Blue Jays to your area, is to put up a bird feeder. Blue Jays prefer eating on platform feeders and the ground and suet feeders but may eat on hopper feeders as well. Try filling the feeders with peanuts, sunflowers, and cracked corn.
Overall, I think Blue Jays are a delight to the eyes. They are colorful, bold, and fun to watch, and I do not think I will ever tire of looking at one. How about you?
By Gabriel Ricketts