Overview

Brief Summary

The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is among the most familiar, distinctive, and colorful birds in the eastern United States—as well as among the noisiest, producing a variety of loud calls. The Blue Jay is a common year-round resident in suburbs, parks, and woodlands (mainly deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous, especially those with many oak and beech trees) in roughly the eastern two thirds of the United States and adjacent Canada (and a casual fall and winter visitor to the western U.S., especially the Northwest).

Blue Jays are omnivorous, but most of the diet is plant material (up to 75% overall, more in winter). The diet includes acorns, beechnuts, seeds, berries, and similar foods. Blue Jays also eat many insects, as well as spiders, snails, birds' eggs and young, small rodents, frogs, and so on. Harvested acorns may be stashed in holes in the ground.

Courtship may involve aerial chases and the male may feed the female. Around their nest, Blue Jays become quiet and inconspicuous, but if the nest is threatened they will defend it loudly and aggressively. Blue Jays nest in trees, usually 2 to 9 m above the ground, but sometimes higher or lower. The nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky open cup of twigs, grass, weeds, bark strips and moss, sometimes held together with mud. The nest is lined with rootlets and other fine materials, often decorated with paper, rags, string, or other debris. The 4 to 5 eggs (sometimes 3, 6, or 7) are greenish or buff, sometimes pale blue, and spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents (but more by the female) for around 16 to 18 days. Young are fed by both parents and leave the nest 17 to 21 days after hatching.

Northern populations are partly (and variably) migratory, moving by day. Flights to more southern parts of the range in the fall may involve thousands of birds.

The Blue Jay's close relative in western North and Middle America, the Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), is more commonly associated with coniferous forest.

(Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)

  • American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Dunn, J.L. and J. Alderfer. 2011. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.
  • Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
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Distribution

Global Range: Mainly resident from east-central British Columbia to central Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, south to Texas, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, west to longitude of Colorado; northern populations partially migratory. Irregular or casual to western U.S.

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Geographic Range

Blue jays are native to the Nearctic region. They are common in southern Canada and in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. (Sanford 1984)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Geographic Range

Blue jays are native to the Nearctic region. They are common in southern Canada and in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. (Sanford 1984)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Blue jays are bright blue on top and whitish gray on the belly and chin. They have a gray-blue, feather crested head, which they can raise and lower. The feathers on their wings and tails are bright blue with white and black bands. Blue jays also have a collar of black feathers across the throat and continuing around the head. Their bills, legs, feet, and eyes are black. Males are just a little larger, on average, than females. Total body length ranges from 22 to 30 cm. (Reilly 1968)

Range mass: 65 to 109 g.

Range length: 22 to 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Physical Description

Blue jays are bright blue on top and whitish gray on the belly and chin. They have a gray-blue, feather crested head, which they can raise and lower. The feathers on their wings and tails are bright blue with white and black bands. Blue jays also have a collar of black feathers across the throat and continuing around the head. Their bills, legs, feet, and eyes are black. Males are just a little larger, on average, than females. Total body length ranges from 22 to 30 cm. (Reilly 1968)

Range mass: 65 to 109 g.

Range length: 22 to 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Size

Length: 28 cm

Weight: 87 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Primarily deciduous or mixed forest, open woodland, parks, residential areas with trees; less frequently in open situations with scattered trees. Nests commonly in crotch or on branch of tree, bush or vine, often 3-8 m above ground; both sexes build nest; sometimes reuses nest.

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Blue jays prefer mixed woodlands, particularly those with clearings. They are also common in suburban areas and city parks. (Reilly 1968)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Blue jays prefer mixed woodlands, particularly those with clearings. They are also common in suburban areas and city parks. (Reilly 1968)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Northern populations are partially migratory to southern part of breeding range. See Graber et al. (1987) and Carpenter et al. (1990) for information on migrations in Midwest/Great Lakes region. Extent/volume of migration may depend on food supply.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats acorns, nuts, fruits, seeds, various insects and other invertebrates, and small vertebrates (Terres 1980). Individuals make many small food caches (especially of acorns) in the ground.

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Food Habits

Blue jays are omnivorous. They feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, mice, frogs, and will rob other nests for small songbirds and bird eggs. To eat nuts, blue jays hold them with their feet and then crack the shell with their bill. Blue jays in captivity have been known to fashion tools in order to get at foods. Blue jays will also steal foods from other birds by frightening them into dropping what they have. They cache foods, such as seeds, for later use. (Reilly 1968)

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

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Food Habits

Blue jays are omnivorous. They feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, mice, frogs, and will rob other nests for small songbirds and bird eggs. To eat nuts, blue jays hold them with their feet and then crack the shell with their bill. Blue jays in captivity have been known to fashion tools in order to get at foods. Blue jays will also steal foods from other birds by frightening them into dropping what they have. They cache foods, such as seeds, for later use. (Reilly 1968)

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Because they hide seeds and nuts and sometimes forget to find and eat them, these birds probably help plants disperse their seeds.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Blue jays will actively defend their nests against predators. Both parents will attack and chase Accipitridae, Falconidae, Procyon lotor, Felis silvestris, Squamata, Sciuridae, and even humans away from their nests. Adult blue jays are often preyed on by various species of Accipitridae, Strigiformes, and Falconidae. Nestlings are preyed upon by Sciuridae, Felis silvestris, Squamata, Corvus brachyrhynchos, other jays, Procyon lotor, Didelphis virginiana, and birds of prey, such as Accipitridae.

Known Predators:

  • Accipitridae
  • Falconidae
  • Strigiformes

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Ecosystem Roles

Because they hide seeds and nuts and sometimes forget to find and eat them, these birds probably help plants disperse their seeds.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Blue jays will actively defend their nests against predators. Both parents will attack and chase hawks, falcons, raccoons, cats, snakes, squirrels, and even humans away from their nests. Adult blue jays are often preyed on by various species of hawks, owls, and falcons. Nestlings are preyed upon by squirrels, cats, snakes, American crows, other jays, raccoons, opossums, and birds of prey, such as hawks.

Known Predators:

  • hawks
  • falcons
  • owls

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Known prey organisms

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General Ecology

Disperses heavy fruits (e.g., acorns) of forest trees; may influence/enhance reforestation.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Blue jays use bobbing motions when courting and when fighting. A signal of submission may be the "body-fluff" when the bird crouches down and fluffs up its feathers, holding the crest erect.

Blue jays have many calls. The one that is probably most familiar is the "jay" call for which it is named. This probably attracts other jays to join a flock or serves as an alarm call. Another call sounds like a rusty pump handle, and another sounds like a bell. Blue jays also make rattling sounds. In the spring you can hear very soft singing.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

Blue jays use bobbing motions when courting and when fighting. A signal of submission may be the "body-fluff" when the bird crouches down and fluffs up its feathers, holding the crest erect.

Blue jays have many calls. The one that is probably most familiar is the "jay" call for which it is named. This probably attracts other jays to join a flock or serves as an alarm call. Another call sounds like a rusty pump handle, and another sounds like a bell. Blue jays also make rattling sounds. In the spring you can hear very soft singing.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest blue jay studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 years and 6 months old, most blue jays live to about 7 years old. One captive female lived for 26 years and 3 months.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
17.5 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
26.25 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
7 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
210 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest blue jay studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 years and 6 months old, most blue jays live to about 7 years old. One captive female lived for 26 years and 3 months.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
17.5 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
26.25 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
7 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
210 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 26.2 years (captivity) Observations: Record longevity in the wild is 18.3 years (Clapp et al. 1983). One captive female lived 26.2 years (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/).
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Reproduction

Clutch size is 3-6 (usually 4-5). Incubation, mostly or only by female, lasts 16-18 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 17-21 days. Sometimes produces 2-3 broods annually in south.

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Blue jays form long-lasting, monogamous pair bonds. These bonds usually last until one of the pair dies.

Mating System: monogamous

Blue jays build loose and untidy nests of barks, twigs, leaves, and grasses in trees and shrubs. The female lays three to six eggs at a time. These can be blue, green, or yellow, with brown or grey spots. The eggs must be incubated for 17 to 18 days. This is usually done by female, but in some cases males share in the incubation. Males provide food for females during incubation. Young fledge after 17 to 21 days and leave their natal range about 2 months after fledging. Blue jays may breed in their first year after hatching. (Zims 1956, Reilly 1968)

Breeding interval: In the north, only one brood per year may be produced. In southern regions, however, Blue Jays may raise two broods each year.

Breeding season: Blue Jays breed from March through July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 6.

Average time to hatching: 17 days.

Range fledging age: 17 to 21 days.

Average time to independence: 3 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 17 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Both males and females feed their nestlings. Young are able to feed themselves three weeks after they leave the nest, but stay with their parents for around two months after fledging.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Blue jays form long-lasting, monogamous pair bonds. These bonds usually last until one of the pair dies.

Mating System: monogamous

Blue jays build loose and untidy nests of barks, twigs, leaves, and grasses in trees and shrubs. The female lays three to six eggs at a time. These can be blue, green, or yellow, with brown or grey spots. The eggs must be incubated for 17 to 18 days. This is usually done by female, but in some cases males share in the incubation. Males provide food for females during incubation. Young fledge after 17 to 21 days and leave their natal range about 2 months after fledging. Blue jays may breed in their first year after hatching. (Zims 1956, Reilly 1968)

Breeding interval: In the north, only one brood per year may be produced. In southern regions, however, Blue Jays may raise two broods each year.

Breeding season: Blue Jays breed from March through July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 6.

Average time to hatching: 17 days.

Range fledging age: 17 to 21 days.

Average time to independence: 3 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 17 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Both males and females feed their nestlings. Young are able to feed themselves three weeks after they leave the nest, but stay with their parents for around two months after fledging.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cyanocitta cristata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 9 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGCATGAGCCGGAATAGTAGGTACCGCCCTTAGTCTCCTCATCCGAGCCGAACTAGGTCAGCCTGGTTCCCTACTAGGAGACGACCAGATCTACAATGTAATCGTTACAGCCCACGCTTTTGTCATAATCTTCTTTATAGTGATGCCCATCATAATTGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGACTGGTTCCTCTAATAATCGGTGCTCCAGATATGGCATTCCCACGGATAAACAACATAAGCTTTTGACTTCTTCCCCCCTCATTCCTTCTCCTCCTAGCCTCTTCAACGGTAGAAGCAGGGGTAGGAACAGGATGAACTGTATACCCCCCACTAGCTGGTAATCTAGCCCACGCTGGAGCTTCAGTTGACCTAGCCATCTTCTCGCTACACCTAGCAGGTATTTCCTCCATCCTAGGGGCCATCAACTTCATTACCACAGCAATTAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTATCACAATATCAAACTCCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTACTAATTACTGCAGTACTGCTTCTTCTTTCCCTCCCAGTCCTAGCTGCTGGTATCACTATGCTCCTAACAGACCGCAACCTAAACACTACGTTCTTCGATCCTGCAGGAGGAGGGGACCCAGTACTATATCAACACCTATTCTGATTTTTTGGACATCCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cyanocitta cristata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N5N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Blue jay populations are on the rise, and they are often very common where they occur. The range is expanding westward. Populations may have suffered somewhat in previous centuries as their wooded habitats were cleared and may suffer where epidemics of West Nile virus affect bird populations. Blue jays are Corvidae, which seem particularly susceptible to this virus. (Reilly 1968)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Blue jay populations are on the rise, and they are often very common where they occur. The range is expanding westward. Populations may have suffered somewhat in previous centuries as their wooded habitats were cleared and may suffer where epidemics of West Nile virus affect bird populations. Blue jays are corvids, which seem particularly susceptible to this virus. (Reilly 1968)

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Stable
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no direct negative effects of blue jays on humans, although they may act as a reservoir for West Nile virus.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blue jays are active and bold birds, making it easy to observe their fascinating behaviors.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no direct negative effects of blue jays on humans, although they may act as a reservoir for West Nile virus.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blue jays are active and bold birds, making it easy to observe their fascinating behaviors.

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Wikipedia

Blue jay

For other uses, see Blue jay (disambiguation).

The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae, native to North America. It is resident through most of eastern and central United States and southern Canada, although western populations may be migratory. It breeds in both deciduous and coniferous forests, and is common near and in residential areas. It is predominantly blue with a white chest and underparts, and a blue crest. It has a black, U-shaped collar around its neck and a black border behind the crest. Sexes are similar in size and plumage, and plumage does not vary throughout the year. Four subspecies of the blue jay are recognized.

The blue jay mainly feeds on nuts and seeds such as acorns, soft fruits, arthropods, and occasionally small vertebrates. It typically gleans food from trees, shrubs, and the ground, though it sometimes hawks insects from the air. Like squirrels, blue jays are known to hide nuts for later consumption.[2] It builds an open cup nest in the branches of a tree, which both sexes participate in constructing. The clutch can contain two to seven eggs, which are blueish or light brown with brown spots. Young are altricial, and are brooded by the female for 8–12 days after hatching. They may remain with their parents for one to two months.

The bird's name derives from its noisy, garrulous nature.[3] It is sometimes called a "jaybird".[4]

Description[edit]

The blue jay measures 22–30 cm (9–12 in) from bill to tail and weighs 70–100 g (2.5–3.5 oz), with a wingspan of 34–43 cm (13–17 in).[5][6] Jays from Connecticut averaged 92.4 g (3.26 oz) in mass, while jays from southern Florida averaged 73.7 g (2.60 oz).[7][8] There is a pronounced crest on the head, a crown of feathers, which may be raised or lowered according to the bird's mood. When excited or aggressive, the crest may be fully raised. When frightened, the crest bristles outwards, brushlike. When the bird is feeding among other jays or resting, the crest is flattened to the head.[9]

Its plumage is lavender-blue to mid-blue in the crest, back, wings, and tail, and its face is white. The underside is off-white and the neck is collared with black which extends to the sides of the head. The wing primaries and tail are strongly barred with black, sky-blue and white. The bill, legs, and eyes are all black. Males and females are nearly identical, but the male is a little larger.[6][10]

As with most other blue-hued birds, the blue jay's colouration is not derived from pigments but is the result of light interference due to the internal structure of the feathers;[11] if a blue feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed.[5] This is referred to as structural colouration.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The blue jay occurs from southern Canada through the eastern and central USA south to Florida and northeastern Texas. The western edge of the range stops where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller's jay (C. stelleri) begins. Recently, the range of the blue jay has extended northwestwards so that it is now a rare but regularly seen winter visitor along the northern US and southern Canadian Pacific Coast.[5] As the two species' ranges now overlap, C. cristata may sometimes hybridize with Steller's jay.[12]

The northernmost subspecies C. c. bromia is migratory, subject to necessity. It may withdraw several hundred kilometres south in the northernmost parts of its range. Thousands of blue jays have been observed to migrate in flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coasts. It migrates during the daytime, in loose flocks of 5 to 250 birds. Much about their migratory behavior remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. To date, no one has concretely worked out why they migrate when they do. Likely, it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are, which can determine whether other northern birds will move south.[13]

The blue jay occupies a variety of habitats within its large range, from the pine woods of Florida to the spruce-fir forests of northern Ontario. It is less abundant in denser forests, preferring mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches.[9] It has expertly adapted to human activity, occurring in parks and residential areas, and can adapt to wholesale deforestation with relative ease if human activity creates other means for the jays to get by.[14]

Subspecies[edit]

Four subspecies are generally accepted, though the variation within this species is rather subtle and essentially clinal. No firm boundaries can be drawn between the inland subspecies. The ranges of the coastal races are better delimited.[10]

Canada and northern USA. The largest subspecies, with fairly dull plumage. Blue is rather pale.
Coastal USA from North Carolina to Texas, except southern Florida. Mid-sized and vivid blue.
Inland USA, intergrading with C. c. bromia to the north. Mid-sized, quite dark blue on mantle contrasting cleanly with very white underside.
Southern Florida. The smallest subspecies, much like C. c. bromia in colour.

Behavior[edit]

Merlin chasing a blue jay

The blue jay is a noisy, bold and aggressive passerine. It is a moderately slow flier (roughly 32–40 km/h (20–25 mph)) when unprovoked.[15] It flies with body and tail held level, with slow wing beats. Due to its slow flying speeds, this species makes easy prey for hawks and owls when flying in open areas. Virtually all the raptorial birds sympatric in distribution with the blue jay may predate it, especially swift bird-hunting specialists such as the Accipiter hawks. Diverse predators may predate jay eggs and young up to their fledging stage, including tree squirrels, snakes, cats, crows, raccoons, opossums, other jays and possibly many of the same birds of prey who attack adults.[16]

The blue jay can be beneficial to other bird species, as it may chase predatory birds, such as hawks and owls, and will scream if it sees a predator within its territory. It has also been known to sound an alarm call when hawks or other dangers are near, and smaller birds often recognize this call and hide themselves away accordingly. It may occasionally impersonate the calls of raptors, especially those of the red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, possibly to test if a hawk is in the vicinity, though also possibly to scare off other birds that may compete for food sources.[13] It may also be aggressive towards humans who come close to its nest, and if an owl roosts near the nest during the daytime the blue jay mobs it until it takes a new roost. However, blue jays have also been known to attack or kill other smaller birds and sleeping, foliage-roosting bat species such as Lasiurus borealis.[17] Jays are very territorial birds, and they will chase others from a feeder for an easier meal. Additionally, the blue jay may raid other birds' nests, stealing eggs, chicks, and nests. However, this may not be as common as is typically thought, as only 1% of food matter in one study was compromised by birds.[13] Despite this, other passerines may still mob jays who come within their breeding territories.

Blue jays, like other corvids, are highly curious and are considered intelligent birds. Young individuals playfully snatch brightly coloured or reflective objects, such as bottle caps or pieces of aluminum foil, and carry them around until they lose interest.[17] While not confirmed to have engaged in tool use in the wild, blue jays in captivity have been observed using strips of newspaper as tools to obtain food,[13][18] while captive fledglings have been observed attempting to open the door to their cages [19]

Diet[edit]

Whole peanuts and other shelled food items are carried off in the beak to be dealt with at leisure.
Blue jay cracking nuts

Blue jays have strong black bills which they use for cracking nuts and acorns, usually while holding them with their feet, and for eating corn, grains and seeds. Its food is sought both on the ground and in trees and includes virtually all known types of plant and animal sources, such as acorns and beech mast, weed seeds, grain, fruits and other berries, peanuts, bread, meat, small invertebrates of many types, scraps in town parks, bird-table food and rarely eggs and nestlings.[13] Blue jays will sometimes cache food, though to what extent differs widely among individuals.[20] Although seemingly contentious in their general behavior, Blue jays are frequently subservient to other medium-sized birds who visit bird-feeders. In Florida, Blue jays were dominated at feeders by Eastern gray squirrels, Florida scrub-jays, common grackles and red-headed woodpeckers, all of which were occasionally observed to aggressively prevent the jays from feeding.[13]

Reproduction[edit]

Nest in the top of a little pine

The mating season begins in mid-March, peaks in mid-April to May, and extends into July. Any suitable tree or large bush may be used for nesting, though an evergreen is preferred. The nest is preferentially built at a height in the trees of 3 to 10 m (9.8 to 32.8 ft). It is cup-shaped and composed of twigs, small roots, bark strips, moss, other plant material, cloth, paper, and feathers, with occasional mud added to the cup.

Blue jays are not very picky about nesting locations. If no better place is available – e.g. in a heavily deforested area – they will even use places like the large mailboxes typical of the rural United States.[14] They also appropriate nests of other mid-sized songbirds as long as these are placed in suitable spots; American robin nests are commonly used by blue jays, for example.

Fledgling in mid-June
Fledgling head

Blue jays typically form monogamous pair bonds for life. Both sexes build the nest and rear the young, though only the female broods them. The male feeds the female while she is brooding the eggs. There are usually between 3 and 6 (averaging 4 or 5) eggs laid and incubated over 16–18 days. The young fledge usually between 17–21 days after hatching.[17]

After the juveniles fledge, the family travels and forages together until early fall, when the young birds disperse to avoid competition for food during the winter. Sexual maturity is reached after one year of age. Blue jays have been recorded to live for more than 26 years in captivity and one wild jay was found to have been around 17 and a half years old.[21] A more common lifespan for wild birds that survive to adulthood is around 7 years.[citation needed] Beyond predation and the occasional collision with man-made objects, a common cause of mortality in recent decades has been the West Nile Virus, which corvids as a whole seem especially susceptible to. However, despite several major local declines, overall blue jays have not seemed to have been depleted by the disease.[16]

Vocalizations[edit]

Blue jays can make a large variety of sounds, and individuals may vary perceptibly in their calling style. Like other corvids, they may learn to mimic human speech. Blue jays can also copy the cries of local hawks so well that it is sometimes difficult to tell which it is.[22] Their voice is typical of most jays in being varied, but the most commonly recognized sound is the alarm call, which is a loud, almost gull-like scream. There is also a high-pitched jayer-jayer call that increases in speed as the bird becomes more agitated. This particular call can be easily confused with the chickadee's song because of the slow starting chick-ah-dee-ee. Blue jays will use these calls to band together to mob potential predators such as hawks and drive them away from the jays' nests.


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Blue jays also have quiet, almost subliminal calls which they use among themselves in proximity. One of the most distinctive calls of this type is often referred to as the "rusty pump" owing to its squeaky resemblance to the sound of an old hand-operated water pump. The blue jay (and other corvids) are distinct from most other songbirds for using their call as a song.

Cultural depiction and interpretation[edit]

In old African American folklore of the southern United States the blue jay was held to be a servant of the Devil, and "was not encountered on a Friday as he was fetching sticks down to Hell; furthermore, he was so happy and chirpy on a Saturday as he was relieved to return from Hell".[23]

The blue jay was adopted as the team symbol of the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball team, as well as some of their minor-league affiliates. Their mascot is Ace, also a blue jay.

Mordecai, an anthropomorphic blue jay, is one of the main characters of the cartoon series Regular Show.

The blue jay is featured in Mark Twain's "A Tramp Abroad", Chapter 3 "Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn".

Provincial bird[edit]

The blue jay is the provincial bird of the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Cyanocitta cristata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/seriouslyscience/2014/05/07/blue-jays-coming-hide-kids-hide-nuts/#.U21vP4FdU6U
  3. ^ Coues, Elliot (1890). Key to North American birds (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat. p. 326. OCLC 469020022. 
  4. ^ "jaybird – definition of jaybird by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved April 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Cornell Lab of Ornithology (1999). Bird Guide – Blue Jay. Retrieved 2007-MAY-29.
  6. ^ a b Frysinger, J. (2001). Animal Diversity Web: Cyanocitta cristata. Retrieved 2007-JUN-18.
  7. ^ Jewell, S. D. (1986). Weights and wing lengths in Connecticut Blue Jays. Connecticut Warbler 6:47-49.
  8. ^ Fisk, E.J. (1979). Fall and winter birds near Homestead, Florida. Bird-Banding 50:224-303.
  9. ^ a b Nero, Robert W. (1991). Bird Fact Sheet – Blue Jay. Retrieved 2007-MAY-29.
  10. ^ a b Madge, Steve & Burn, Hilary (1994). Crows and jays: a guide to the crows, jays and magpies of the world. A&C Black, London. ISBN 978-0-7136-3999-5
  11. ^ Carpenter, Anita (February 2003). "What Color is a Bluejay?". Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine. 
  12. ^ Rhymer, Judith M. & Simberloff, Daniel (1996). "Extinction by hybridization and introgression". Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 27: 83–109. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.27.1.83. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Blue Jay. birds.cornell.edu
  14. ^ a b Henninger, W.F. (1906). "A preliminary list of the birds of Seneca County, Ohio". Wilson Bulletin 18 (2): 47–60. 
  15. ^ Texas Parks & Wildlife. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  16. ^ a b ADW: Cyanocitta cristata: INFORMATION
  17. ^ a b c Oiseaux.net (2008). Blue Jay. Version of 2008-FEB-13. Retrieved 2008-FEB-14.
  18. ^ Jones, Thony B. & Kamil, Alan C. (1973). "Tool-Making and Tool-Using in the Northern Blue Jay". Science 180 (4090): 1076–1078. doi:10.1126/science.180.4090.1076. 
  19. ^ American Rivers. tumblr.com
  20. ^ AllAboutBirds.org – Blue Jay The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  21. ^ "Longevity Records Of North American Birds". U. S. Geological Survey: Bird Banding Laboratory. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  22. ^ George, Philip Brandt. (2003). In: Baughman, Mel M. (ed.) Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., p. 279, ISBN 978-0-7922-3373-2
  23. ^ Ingersoll, Ernest (1923). Birds in legend, fable and folklore. New York: Longmans, Green and co. pp. 166–167. Retrieved 2009-08-08. 

Further reading[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Hybridizes infrequently with C. STELLERI in eastern Colorado and may constitute a superspecies with it (AOU 1998).

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