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Blue Jay Jamboree

Nov 30, 2015

For many of us, the flashy, bold blue jay was the first bird we learned to identify. Jays are conspicuous because of their size and striking color. White patches and black bars highlight the bird’s blue wings and tail, and it has white underparts and a black necklace on its front. A jay also sports a distinct crest.

Jays belong to a family of birds that includes magpies and crows. All of these birds are aggressive, a trait that might strike people as unappealing when they watch blue jays bullying smaller birds around feeders.

Blue jays act as danger alarms of the forest, and greet intruders with a piercing “jay, jay, jay” or “thief, thief, thief.” People, owls, hawks, snakes and other potential predators prompt this reception. Jays’ voices are harsh, but their calls are a varied repertoire that includes what sounds like a very good impression of a squeaky pump handle.

The bird’s powerful, all-purpose bill efficiently handles a wide range of food, but they prefer acorns. Blue jays will bury several to eat later. Some acorns are never recovered, giving them a good start on becoming oak trees.

Learn more about blue jays with the MDC’s Field Guide.

Blue Jay Mania

  • Blue jays usually form lifelong monogamous pairs and breed in spring to the middle of summer. Usually 4–5 eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest. Eggs hatch in about 16–18 days, and the young fledge about three weeks later.
  • Family groups travel and forage together for the rest of the season, with the young dispersing in wintertime.
  • The assertiveness of blue jays extends to their relationship with potential predators, and their screaming and mobbing behaviors serve to protect many bird species against hawks, owls, cats and other predators.
  • Their diet consists of acorns, fruits and seeds, but blue jays will also feed on insects, eggs, young birds and carrion. Blue jays are often found at bird feeders.

 

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