blue jay facts

17 interesting facts about blue jay to learn

A blue jay is a songbird that lives in eastern North America. It belongs to the Corvidae family. Blue jays are easily recognized by their bright blue feathers and a pointed crest on their head. They are called “jays” because they are noisy and talkative. The name “jay” is also used for other birds in the same family that like to be social and hang out together.

Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata

Chara Azul (Spanish name)

Geai bleu (French name)

Color: Blue Jay is a brown-colored bird

Size: Adult blue jay is 25-30 cm long with wingspan size of 34-43 cm

Weight: 70-100 gm

Lifespan: 7-26 years

Class: Aves (warm-blooded vertebrates)

Family: Corvidae (Crow Family)

Habitat: Blue jays are not strictly confined to dense forests. They also inhabit open wooded areas, such as edges of forests, where there is a mix of trees and open spaces. They prefer areas with oak, pine, and beech trees as nesting sites. Since they are omnivorous, they like habitats that include seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and even small vertebrates.

Blue jay bird sounds:

1) Blue jays love to take Ant baths

Blue Jays have a quirky habit called anting, where they rub ants on their feathers. This is like a spa day for birds, helping them keep clean. They might actively pick up ants and rub them on their bodies or roll around in an area with lots of ants. The ants release chemicals called formic acid that is like bacteria killing potions for these birds.

The Blue Jays might also be doing this to make the ants taste better by getting rid of a bitter acid. It’s like they’re preparing a tasty snack! Ornithologists conducted an experiment to examine this hypothesis, exposing jays to ants both with and without formic acid. Those without acid were quickly consumed, whereas the ones with formic acid underwent a rubbing ceremony.

2) A small blue jay bird can gobble 5 acorns at a time

Blue Jay despite being tiny have a special thing called the Gular Pouch. It’s a patch of skin without feathers that connects their lower beak to the neck, making a flap or pouch. This pouch helps them store food while they’re hunting, and it can hold up to five acorns at once. The Blue Jay’s Gular Pouch opens under its tongue and goes down into the throat and upper esophagus.

It’s not just Blue Jays that have Gular Pouches. Other birds, like the Frigate Bird, Great White Pelican, and Florida Brown Pelican, also have them. These birds use their pouches to store fish and other prey while they’re hunting. Then can also hold up 100 black oil sunflower seed in their pouches.

3) Blue jay makes more than one nest

The nest is usually tucked away in the bend of a tree and crafted from twigs, roots, grass, and occasionally mud. These birds take their parenting very seriously. To protect their off spring from seasonal changes and predators they use crafty methods. Their nest has been found to be made of V-shaped twig, grasses, old woodpecker holes and even mud.

Blue jays often construct multiple nests, and if they sense a predator, they promptly relocate. If a predator discovers one nest, the other nests may still be safe, increasing the chances of successfully raising offspring. This also reduce competition for resources and nesting sites among blue jays in an area where suitable nesting locations are limited.

4)     Blue Jays are actually not blue in color

Blue Jays are renowned for their eye-catching blue plumage, but contrary to the name, their feathers lack actual blue pigment. According to information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the pigment responsible for the coloration in a Blue Jay’s feathers is brown and goes by the name melanin. The apparent blue hue is a result of an optical illusion known as light scattering. In different lighting conditions, their plumage may appear browner with black stripes.

When light interacts with the small air pockets and keratin in a Blue Jay’s feathers, all colors of the wavelength are absorbed except for blue. The blue wavelength undergoes refraction, creating the illusion of a blue color in the feathers. This visual phenomenon, shared by other blue-colored birds like indigo buntings imparts a vibrant appearance to their plumage despite the absence of actual blue pigment.

5) Bluebirds steals eggs from smaller birds

Yes, blue jays are known for stealing eggs and baby birds from other bird nests. They’re clever eaters and nest robbing also helps them find food easily. Nest robbing means taking or eating eggs/babies from other bird nests. Blue jays usually go for nests of smaller birds like robins, sparrows, and finches.

They use their smarts and agility to find and get into these nests, usually when the parent birds are away. Once inside, blue jays might eat the eggs or babies themselves, or they might take them to feed their own chicks. Even though nest stealing might seem mean, it’s an important part of blue jays’ survival strategy. By taking from other bird nests, blue jays can get extra food when it’s hard to find their usual meals.

6) They live with one partner for life long

Although 90% of the bird species are monogamous and jays comes under this category too. Blue birds remain loyal to single mate for life unless one of them sadly dies. During mating season, 6-10 male jays start following the female with a combination of sounds and calls. After the female finishes flying males mimic her actions and gather around her in a group. Males take turns showcasing their abilities by creating high-pitched whistling sounds and moving their heads up and down.

Once a blue jay finds a mate, they stick together for their entire lives, taking care of baby birds together each breeding season. They stay connected throughout the year, hanging out in big family groups during winter until the next breeding season starts. If one of them passes away, the surviving blue jay looks for a new partner to have babies with. These birds keep a strong connection with their chosen mate by sharing things like food or twigs to show they’re still committed.

7)    Blue jay erects their crest when annoyed

Blue jays are highly intelligent birds with ability to communicate with their crest. Their communication involves a combination of vocalizations, body language, and other behaviours. When blue jays feel annoyed, they elevate their crests as an indication of either agitation or the perception of a potential threat. The positioning of the crest in blue Jays varies depending on different behavioural contexts, ranging from an upright posture to being pressed against the head.

The crest itself is developed during the initial pre basic molt, which occurs after the loss of the juvenal plumage. Following this molt, the crown feathers grow longer, creating the distinctive crest. Positioned at the top of the bird’s head, the crest encompasses the very upper part known as the crown. The presence of this “crest” is a result of the elongated crown feathers standing out from the rest of the head.

8) Both male and female are similar in appearance


One of the interesting aspects of blue jays is that both males and females are sexually monomorphic. This makes it challenging to distinguish between the sexes based on visual characteristics alone. Blue jays are known for their striking blue plumage on their wings and tails. Although male and female blue jays closely resemble each other, their difference become clear when observing them in their natural surroundings.

The facial markings of blue jays are also uniform between the sexes. This includes a distinctive black ‘necklace’ or ‘collar’ that wraps around their throat and a white face with a black line running through the eyes. Both males and females engage in similar behaviours, including loud calls, mimicry, and an opportunistic diet. Male birds are larger than females by slightest difference.

9) Blue jay does “sunning” for bone health

By staying blue jay motionless puff up its feathers to maximize exposure to the sun. This sun bathing adopted by Blue Jays, serves as a means of finding relief from parasites while simultaneously obtaining essential vitamin D. The phenomenon of avian sunbathing has intrigued ornithologists for many years. Recent research is validating a long-held suspicion that this behaviour aids birds in warding off lice and other parasites.

As the sun’s rays penetrate their feathers, it creates an environment too hot and dry for parasites to endure. A study from 2016, published in the Journal of Avian Biology, revealed that wild birds deliberately engage in sunbathing when faced with higher loads of feather lice. Sunbathing not only exposes the parasites to elevated temperatures, effectively “cooking” them, but it also triggers preening behaviour.

Certain species employ sunbathing as a method to regulate their body temperature and promote the drying of their feathers following exposure to water. The sun’s warmth additionally facilitates the production of vitamin D, crucial for maintaining robust bone health.

10) Both partners together make their nests

Blue jays couple exhibit interesting nesting behaviours, encompassing both nest building and nest renovating tendencies. They construct their nests using a combination of twigs, grass, leaves, and bark. Blue Jay couples also renovate and repurpose old existing nests built by other birds. These birds usually make their nest about 10-20 feet above the ground.

Blue jay nests are typically cup-shaped and are built on V-shaped branches. The female blue jay is the main leader in the construction of the nest. Male partner does the labour work like gathering materials like grasses, rootlets and twigs. Male travel vast distances to collect rootlets from recently dug holes, newly opened graves in cemeteries, and freshly fallen trees.

11) A group of bluebirds can create a whole forest

According to Scott, a diligent assembly of blue jays can effectively relocate “a forest worth of trees every autumn”. Blue jays are known to be opportunistic feeders, and they often consume acorns, nuts, and seeds from various tree species. Blue jays play a role in the repopulation of trees through their foraging behaviour and seed dispersal. They sow oaks across diverse landscapes by transporting and caching thousands of acorns in a relatively short period. An average blue jay can hide an astonishing amount of 107 acorns per day into the ground.

During the fall, where these birds seize acorns from both the canopy and the ground, swiftly carrying them away. In winter, they continue their pivotal role by plucking acorns from the ground and ascending into the trees. Surprisingly not all the acorns from the ground are collected some remains inside the field. This meticulous behaviour of blue jay aids in the dispersal of oak trees in wide areas. Here they can successfully germinate and develop into thriving ecosystem of trees.

12) Blue jay is good at mimicking bigger birds

Blue Jays are capable of mimicking screams of bigger predatory hawks such as the Red-tailed Hawks. Some species of jays can even imitate calls of cats and humans too. Research suggests that blue jays do this to get a reply from hawk in order to hide himself to a safer location. This even warns other small birds of the danger lurking nearby.

Other observation shows that hawk call is mimicked by them to trick other birds from their favourite food source. When the others poor birds fly off, they get all the feeding ground for themselves. These fake hawk calls even scare away the squirrels making easier for jays to steal their food.

13) They become bald headed during summer

Yes, blue jays become bald by going through a process called molting every summer. Molting is like a makeover for them, where they replace their old feathers with new ones. This happens bit by bit over their bodies, so they always have enough feathers to fly and protect themselves.

During this molting time, some Blue Jays also lose feathers on their heads. While some birds gradually lose these head feathers, others lose them all at once. When this happens, their heads are without feathers for about a week or two. This baldness is not because of bugs or mites; it’s just part of their natural molting process.

The good news is that this balding doesn’t harm the Blue Jays. They stay healthy, can still fly, and the bald head is basically just a temporary change in their looks. So, it’s like a fashionable and natural way for Blue Jays to refresh their appearance!

14) These songbirds like to eat your house paint

Limestone is an ingredient in paint which is a good source of calcium for bluebirds. These birds get their natural source of calcium through snail shells, millipedes and pill bugs. But blue jays in Canada cache calcium by  chipping paint of the walls during nesting season.

Study suggest they might be collecting paint chips because they need calcium for laying eggs in the spring. Instead of eating the paint, they might be storing it in their throats and flying away to keep it for later. If you’re having this issue at home, you can offer them crushed eggshells as a different calcium source. This will stop the habit of blue jays of destroying wall paint.

15) Males takes good care of females while growing chicks

Female jays make the final choice of nesting site by rubbing her chest on the site. Males gather building materials for nest building while female do the main construction. These birds show loyalty towards each other until one of them dies. They even take care of each other when female blue jay can’t leave the nest for long duration.

The female can lay up to 3-7 eggs while the incubation process of these birds can last for 18 days. During the incubation process she sits on the eggs and male’s primary task is to bring food for females. Even after the eggs got hatch the female jay can’t leave their nest for 2 weeks. During this time also all the feeding of chicks and mother both is done by male bird.

16) These bluebirds are as clever as humans

Blue jays are survivor in all sense from territorial defense to unpredictable migration patterns. As we know the voice mimicry of hawks done by these birds not only fools large predatory but also protects smaller birds. By destroying other birds nest they ensure more food and survival rate for their chicks. They’ve been seen using things like strips of newspaper to move their food closer. Plus, they can figure out how to open locks on cages to get out.

But their cleverness is also reflected in their food storing habits. As descendant of crows, they dig up the seeds into the ground. While digging seeds they carefully watch for observers for food security. If anyone is watching them, they pretend to hide the seeds in front of other birds and squirrels. But later they dugout those seed and change its location when the observer left the premises of buried seed.

17) Baby Blue Jays sometimes stray away from their nests

Yes, baby blue jays can sometimes get separated or lost from their nest or home. After fledging, the young birds are grounded for approximately a week before gaining the ability to fly. It takes them 17 to 22 days to venture out of the nest. Fledglings has to maintain proximity to their parents, who frequently shift their location within dense treetop foliage. This may happen if they venture too far while exploring or if they’re accidentally pushed out of the nest.

Should you come across a juvenile blue jay that has fallen from its nest, it is advisable to attempt to return it to its original nest, if feasible. The parents will continue to attend to its care. If you come across a lost baby blue jay, it’s best to contact local wildlife authorities. Those rehabilitators can give you guidance on what to do to help the bird.

Blue Jay FAQ’s

  1. What does a blue jay eat?

A study revealed that blue jays incorporate approximately 22% insects into their diet, with the remaining 78% consisting of plant-based material like nuts and seed. Additionally, Blue jays exhibit a diverse diet by consuming small creatures like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. Their omnivorous nature extends to scavenging carrion and capturing prey, especially flying insects.

2. Is a blue jay a national bird or a state bird?

The Blue Jay does not hold the status of a national bird in any country. Nevertheless, it has been designated as the state bird of Missouri in the United States. In India, individual states have their own state birds, and in Odisha, the Indian Roller, commonly referred to as the Blue Jay, holds the distinction of being the state bird.

3. What is the blue jay bird spiritual meaning?

The blue jay bird holds symbolic significance across various cultures and belief systems, representing spiritual power, protection, and communication. Regarded as a messenger connecting the spirit world to humans and acting as an intermediary with nature spirits, the blue jay embodies profound symbolism.

Additionally, it is perceived as a symbol of resilience, renewal, and reincarnation. In Native American traditions, the blue jay is considered a sign of protection, good fortune, and divine presence. Ancient Greeks associated blue jays with Apollo, the god of prophecy, believing their sightings to be omens of good luck and predictors of future events.

Read more: 10 interesting American crow facts to blow your mind

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