The bright-colored Blue Jay is an easily recognizable bird. You’ve likely seen or heard one of these noisy songbirds in your backyard.
Birds are fascinating creatures to observe, from the humble chicken to the magnificent bald eagle. If you’re ready to expand your knowledge on another bird species, read on for some interesting facts about Blue Jays.
29 Interesting Facts about Blue Jays
Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply curious about this bird that showed up in your garden, you’re bound to find some surprising facts about the spunky Blue Jay in this list.
1. Blue Jays Aren’t Really Blue
When you look at a Blue Jay, you’ll see a bird with a beautiful blue crest, wings, and tail. However, the pigment in their feathers isn’t actually blue.
They have melanin in their feathers—the same brown pigment found in human skin and hair. The way that light is refracted when it hits the special surface structure of their feathers causes them to appear blue.
2. Blue Jays Are Large Songbirds
The average Blue Jay is about 9-12 inches long and weighs about 2.5-3.5 ounces. This makes them around one-third to half the size of an American crow. The Blue Jay’s wingspan can measure between 13 to 17 inches across.
3. Male and Female Blue Jays Look the Same
In most bird species, the males and females look quite different—you’ll often see a dull-brown female and a brightly colored male of the same species. However, Blue Jay males and females have the same coloring. This is a rare characteristic in the bird world that is known as sexual monomorphism.
If you want to tell the sexes apart, male Blue Jays are slightly larger than females.
4. Blue Jays Live in the US and Canada
These birds are only found on the North American continent. They mostly live in the eastern and central parts of the United States, and in the southern areas of Canada. Blue Jays have started expanding their habitat to the northwestern parts of the United States as well.
5. Their Preferred Habitat is Forests
Blue Jays live in a variety of forest-like habitats. They prefer mixed woodlands to very dense forests. If there are tall oak trees in your neighborhood or nearby park, chances are good that you’ll spot a few Blue Jays around.
6. Blue Jays Have Strange Migration Habits
Most birds have predictable migration patterns—but not Blue Jays. While these birds do migrate in their thousands, not all of them do so every year. Some Blue Jays may remain in the colder areas one winter, and then decide to migrate south to warm weather the next.
It appears that young Jays migrate more frequently than older ones. But other than that fact, no one has really figured out why they migrate the way they do.
7. Blue Jays Are Social Birds
Blue Jays generally live together in small families or social groups. Their day-to-day behavior is quite social—they will forage together in these family units. It is common to see them in small groups at a backyard bird feeder. During migration, they will fly together in larger flocks.
8. Blue Jays Mate for Life
The mating season for Blue Jays starts around mid-March and ends in July. A group of males will cluster around a single female and try to impress her. Once the female chooses her mate, they exchange gifts of food or nesting materials.
These two birds are then paired for life. They will work together to build a nest. While the female sits on the eggs, the male will bring her food and protect her.
9. Blue Jays Prefer Building Nests in Evergreen Trees
Although you can find Blue Jay nests in various trees and shrubs, they prefer to build their nests in evergreen trees. They also like to build nests high up—usually 10 to 30 feet above the ground. Blue Jay nests are cup-shaped and built from a combination of twigs, roots, bark, and other materials from nature.
10. Baby Blue Jays Aren’t Blue at First
The female Blue Jay typically lays 2-7 eggs that are brownish or bluish in color. When the babies hatch, they are blind for the first few days. They are also covered in gray feathers. Around day 14 the nestlings start getting their first blue feathers.
Their iconic blue plumage will continue to develop for another few months. Until then, the cute young Blue Jays are easy to spot with their fluffy gray bodies and tiny blue wing feathers.
11. Blue Jay Babies Leave the Nest Early
Around 17-21 days after hatching, baby Blue Jays are considered fledglings and can leave the nest. Even though they don’t live with their parents, the young Blue Jays will stay close to the nest for another 2-3 weeks. They forage with their family unit for another 2-3 months, then they fly off and find their own territories.
12. Blue Jays Have Good Mimicking Skills
These birds are very good at mimicking the calls of hawks and other winged predators. When a Blue Jay spots a hawk nearby, it will mimic this call in order to warn other birds of the danger.
However, these sneaky birds also sometimes use their skill to trick other birds into thinking there’s a predator around. When the others fly off, they get the feeding grounds all to themselves.
13. Blue Jays Can Make a Wide Range of Sounds
Besides their excellent mimicking sounds, Blue Jays make a variety of other noises. These range from harsh and loud cries that warn of danger, all the way to beautiful chirping sounds. Blue Jays are clever songbirds and can learn new sounds too.
14. Blue Jays Are Noisier in Fall Than in Spring
Although you might expect these songbirds to be singing out cheerfully in springtime, they are mostly quiet. This is because spring and summer are nesting seasons and Blue Jays want to remain secretive. However, come fall, these birds will loudly make themselves heard as they forage for food.
15. Blue Jays Can Lower Their Crest
The bright blue crest on their head is an iconic part of the Blue Jay’s look. However, they can lower and raise these crests at will. When Blue Jays are feeding peacefully with their family, you will notice that their crest is lowered.
16. Blue Jays Can Live Very Long
The average Blue Jay lives to be about 7 years old. Nevertheless, there have been many instances recorded of Blue Jays living much longer than this. The oldest known wild Blue Jay lived 26 years and 11 months.
17. Blue Jays Fly Slowly
Compared to other birds, Blue Jays don’t fly very fast. Their normal flight speed is about 20-25 mph. This makes them easy prey for birds like hawks, which is why their mimicking alarm sounds are so important.
18. Blue Jays Are Omnivores
These birds mostly eat grains, nuts and fruit, but they don’t mind munching on the odd insect too. If you’re trying to lure Blue Jays to your backyard, try putting peanuts and sunflower seeds on a tray feeder.
19. Blue Jays Rub Ants on Their Feathers
This practice is known as “anting” and it may look like the Blue Jay is taking a bath in ants. What the bird is actually doing is rubbing the ants to get rid of their bitter-tasting formic acid. Afterward, it tastes much better for the Blue Jay to gobble up its meal of ants.
20. Blue Jays Love Acorns
Acorns are one of Blue Jays’ favorite foods. This is why you’ll often see them in oak trees. Blue Jays also store acorns as food for winter. However, many of these nuts are never eaten, and so Blue Jays unknowingly help the oak forests to spread.
21. Blue Jays Collect Paint Chips
Blue Jays will sometimes collect paint chips and store them in their nests. The female eats this in springtime as a source of calcium—to help her make strong eggshells when she lays eggs. If you see Blue Jays actively chipping paint off your house, you can put out crushed eggshells for them to eat as an alternative source of calcium.
22. Blue Jays Are Related to Crows
Although they may not look like it, Blue Jays belong to the same family as crows, namely Corvidae. This bird family also includes ravens, magpies, and jackdaws. All the birds in this family are highly intelligent.
23. Blue Jays Are Not Endangered
There are about 13 million Blue Jays in the world, of which 87% live in the US. Even though their numbers have decreased in the last 50 years, their population is still very stable. The conservation status of Blue Jays is noted as ‘least concern’.
24. Blue Jays Are Diurnal
The term ‘diurnal’ means that Blue Jays are active during the day. In contrast, some other birds are active during the nighttime and are known as ‘nocturnal’ birds.
25. Blue Jays Are Very Intelligent Birds
Blue Jays are curious and intelligent birds. They are smart enough to do things like wait for a farmer to finish planting, and then they’ll swoop down to eat their fill of seeds.
Although no one has yet seen them use tools in the wild, they have been observed to do so in captivity. A Blue Jay in a cage will fiddle with the lock to try and open the cage door.
26. Blue Jays Work Together
Some say that Blue Jays are bullies because of their pack mentality. A group of Blue Jays will often work together to drive off other birds on their feeding grounds.
Nevertheless, this group mentality is also important for their survival. A large group of Blue Jays who work together in this way can drive off a squirrel, raccoon, or cat that is threatening them.
27. The Blue Jay is the Provincial Bird of Prince Edward Island
Even though these birds are widely seen across the US, no state has adopted the Blue Jay as its official state bird. However, the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island has chosen the Blue Jay as its official provincial bird.
28. The Blue Jay is a Popular Mascot
Despite being left out as a state bird, the Blue Jay is the official mascot of a few institutions. This bird is the team symbol and mascot of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. The Blue Jay is also the mascot of Johns Hopkins University.
29. Seeing a Blue Jay is a Good Sign
Many people attach a positive symbolic meaning to seeing a Blue Jay. The interpretation differs widely—this bird can be a symbol of loyalty, a sign that you need to speak up more, or simply an indication that good things are coming your way.