The Blue Jay

Blue Jay
(Cyanocitta Cristata)

The Blue Jay measures between 9 to12 inches from bill to tail and weighs 2 to 4 ounces. The top of it's body is a brilliant light and dark blue, with a white bellie and face accented in black around the eyes, sides of its head, and around the throat.

Recognizable also by the crown like crest of feathers on it's head. The position of the crown suggests the birds mood, raised when excited, bristled outward when frightened and flattened to the head when feeding or in a restful state.

Males and females look exactly the same and are hard to tell apart visually.

They are basically forest dwellers, especially when there are evergreens present for nesting and oak trees that produce one of their favorite foods, acorns.

What Do They Eat?

It has a strong beak, able to crack nuts and acorns and good for eating foods like corn, beech mast, seeds, grains, fruits, berries and insects. They are also fond of peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds found in most backyard feeders. Although known to rob nest of eggs and baby birds, this is a very small percentage of their diet.

Mating and Nesting

The mating season begins in mid-march and can extend into July. Many males will group with one female at the top of a tree. The males will begin a display for her, complete with head bobbing. The female will then select a mate after which she will begin her nesting cycle. They generally mate for life until one of them dies.

These birds prefer evergreen trees for nesting. Nests are built in a cup shape high above the ground (10-25 ft) and composed of twigs, moss, bark, and other plant material. They are sometimes known to add occasional white material to the outer portion of their nest which might be a piece of cloth, paper or feather. The male usually provides the materials while the female examines the material before using it to build her nest.

Females will lay up to six blue, green or yellow spotted eggs and incubate the eggs for about 18 days. During this time the male will supply food for his mate and the young birds when they hatch. After 3 weeks the young birds are able to feed themselves, but will remain with their parents for another two months before leaving the nest.

Blue Jay Facts

  1. They despise birds of prey, such as hawks and owls. When they see one, they make a great racket. They are also known to chase these larger birds.
  2. The pigment in their feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.
  3. They mate when they are a year old or earlier.
  4. They are very territorial and often chase cats, dogs and even people who get too close to their nests and feeding areas.
  5. They will shed their feathers during the summer, completely changing their plumage.
  6. Jays are one of the most identifiable birds in New York, but not a favorite among most backyard bird lovers because of their aggresive and domineering behavior.

My Baby Blue Jay by John Berendt

A blue jay building a nest outside his window prompts John Berendt to find his camera and record the familiar, yet always fascinating sequence of events that will unfold, from eggs being laid to chicks emerging and trying to fly.

click here to view and buy the book

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