The Blue Jay is a passerine North American bird that lives through most of eastern and central United States and southern Canada. Its breeding range is commonly in both deciduous and coniferous forests, although it is also commonly observed near and in residential areas. Its name is derived from its noisy, loquacious nature, which is why is it sometimes called a “jaybird”.
The Blue Jay bird has a predominant blue color with a white chest and underparts, complemented with a blue crest. The color of the plumage in the crest, back, wings, and tail ranges from lavender-blue to mid-blue. The face is white in color.
The well-defined crest found on its head may be raised or lowered, depending on its mood. It will be fully raised when the bird is excited or aggressive. And it bristles outwards, brush-like, when threatened. The crest rests on the head when it is resting or feeding among other members of its species.
The underneath portions of its body are white or light gray. A U-shaped collar forms around its neck, and a black border is found behind the crest. The wing primaries and tail are lined with black, sky-blue, and white streaks. The bill, legs, and eyes all exhibit black coloration. It has a broad, rounded tail.
Its total body length from bill to tail is 9-12 inches, and its wingspan runs from 13-17 inches. Its weight ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 ounces. It is quite smaller compared to an adult crow, and a little larger than a mature robin.
Both sexes have similar sizes and overall plumage. Also, its plumage is not seasonal and is mostly consistent throughout the year.
Distribution and Habitat
The preferred habitat locations of Blue Jays are forest edges. They are commonly observed near oaks, in forests, woodlots, towns, cities, and parks – where there is abundance of oaks or bird feeders.
The diet of Blue Jay birds primarily consists of nuts and seeds like acorns, grains, soft fruits, arthropods, and sometimes, small vertebrates. They get their food from trees, shrubs, and ground through gleaning. Sometimes, they hawk insects in mid-air. Sometimes, they would pick up dead or dying adult birds. Insects make up approximately 22 percent of their diet over the year.
Similar to squirrels, they are also known for hiding nuts that they will consume at a later date or time. When they eat, they would hold a seed or nut in feed and peck it open.
Blue Jay birds are noisy and aggressive birds. As a matter of fact, they create a wide variety of vocalizations that carry long distances. Most of their calls are produced while perching. They are also known as intelligent animals with complex social systems.
They are moderately slow fliers when not provoked. When flying, their bodies and tail are held in the same level, and joined with slow wing beats. And because of their slow flying speed, they are easy targets for hawks and owls in open areas. They commonly fly across open areas silently, particularly during migration. Sometimes, they would put food items in their throat pouch to cache somewhere else.
Both sexes participate in building the nest, which is often built in a branch of a tree. The nest is an open cup made of twigs, grass, and sometimes mud, and is often lined with rootlets. The nest is usually placed in the crotch or thick outer branches of deciduous or coniferous tree, commonly around 10-25 feet above the surface. The male Blue Jay does more gathering of materials, while the female takes charge in building the nest.
The clutch can have 2 to 7 eggs, which have a bluish or light brown color with some brown spots. The young birds are ‘altricial’ upon hatching, and are generally in a helpless condition. The nesting period spans from 8-12 days after hatching. After a few weeks, the young birds already fledge the nest.
The Blue Jay Bird is classified under the ‘Least Concern’ category of the IUCN. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the population of the species has been slightly decreasing throughout their range since the year 1966. Its estimated global breeding population is 13 million, with 87 percent spending some parts of their year in the United States, and 13 percent living in Canada.
It has an 8 out of 20 rating on the Continental Concern Score and is not listed in the 2012 Watch List.