The Blue Jay

The blue jay is native to North America and is one of the loudest and most colorful birds in backyards. | Jillian Cain Photography

Not everyone loves the Blue Jay. But you cannot deny its pretty blue color. Larger than the average song bird, the Blue Jay has a bad reputation for disrupting the nests of other smaller birds in the area. While this is what we think of when we think of the Blue Jay, the actual evidence does not hold true. Blue Jays are known to eat eggs and young baby birds of others’ nests, but when the Blue Jay’s stomach’s are actually examined during research, only 1% of the birds had any such remnants of eggs or baby birds in their system. Most of their diet was shown to be seeds and nuts, much like other birds.

Blue Jay perched on an evergreen branch. | Paul Reeves Photography

Another interesting and strange fact about the Blue Jay is some Blue Jays migrate and others do not. A Blue Jay may migrate one year and then the next year may not migrate. Or one group of Blue Jays in your neighborhood may migrate and another may not. Science does not have an explanation for this.  

The Blue Jays call sounds a lot like the call of the Red-shouldered hawk. It also has a more musical call, but mimics the sounds of the hawk to sometimes warn others that a hawk may be nearby. Blue Jays make their nests in trees and like to build them at least 25 to 30 feet above the ground. The Blue Jays like to decorate their nests with paper, rags, string, and other debris they find.

Blue Jays | Michael Cummings

When Blue Jays lay their eggs, they usually lay 4-5 eggs at a time and may lay as many as 7. Blue Jays eat insects, grasshoppers, berries, seed, bird seed from feeders, and beetles. They love to fly down to bird feeders and take over the feeder from other smaller birds.

So how do we keep the Blue Jays out of feeders so the smaller birds can eat the seeds. Well, it is a little tricky. Rather than keeping them away from feeders, it is far better to try and work with the Blue Jays rather than work against them. Try placing a larger try under your feeder to catch the “mess” the Blue Jays leave behind. They are very messy eaters, so they actually leave a lot of seeds behind when they eat and drop a lot of broken seeds from the feeders from which they are eating. A tray below will catch the seeds for the smaller birds to continue to eat, while the Blue Jays make a mess above.

Nest of blue jay eggs | David Tran Photo

The other option when dealing with Blue Jays is to consider the positive features. Blue Jays are loud and bigger than other backyard birds. They will warn the other birds of predators and will also scare some of those potential predators away. Blue Jays are fun to watch. Really watch them. They are crafty and smart. So maybe not everyone loves the Blue Jay, but perhaps we can find a few reasons to like them, even if its just because they are blue and their second name is Jay, which was named because of their gregarious, noisy nature. Whatever the case, the Blue Jay is here to stay. Try to have fun watching this smart bird.