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What is a Blue Jay?

B. Schreiber
B. Schreiber

The blue jay, or Cyanocitta cristata, is a common bird found in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and also in southern Canada. Its name is because of its distinctive blue feathers and crest and its common call of "jay!" Blue jays are songbirds of the passerine or perching variety.

The bright coloring of a blue jay includes a blue crest atop its head with a black collar behind it, a black bill and a white throat. It has a blue back, and its wings and tail are blue with white patches. Its underside is white to gray. Blue jays do not exhibit the sexual dimorphism common in other colorful birds, so male and females are the same color as well as the same size. They are rather large for songbirds and can be 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length.


Blues jays are a member of the member of the family Corvus, known as corvids, which includes crows, ravens and magpies. This group is recognized as intelligent, resourceful and adaptive. Like these birds, blue jays have a rough, loud voice and can be noisy.

Another call that blue jays use is "weedle-eedle," but blue jays also mimic the calls of other birds quite well. It also has an alarm call to alert other birds to the presence of hawks or owls, the blue jay’s natural predators. Human activity seems in some cases to help these birds, as they make opportunistic use of refuse. The group also is known for its boldness.

Blue jays are considered to be gregarious, social birds that form flocks. These flocks typically are small during the mating season, but large flocks often are observed during migration. The birds are true omnivores and eat a diet of acorns, seeds, fruits, insects and small mammals or lizards. They also are known for eating the eggs and hatchlings of smaller birds.

The typical blue jay nest resembles a basket of sticks, and blue jays will have one brood of three to six eggs between spring and midsummer. They are monogamous maters and sometimes will remain with a partner for life. They usually live for about seven years but might live longer.

Blue jays are abundant and are not threatened. This seems likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. This is because they have adapted to and even benefited from human activity.

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