Blue Jay

Common Name: Blue Jay.

Scientific Name: Cyanocitta Cristata.

What to look for?  As their name suggests, Blue Jays are blue. They have blue above and white below with prominent crest and bold black necklace. The wings and tail are barred with black and it has a bold white wingbar. And they have large white tail corners.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find Blue Jays around here most of the year. You will see them perch in trees. They may show up at bird feeders – especially during the winter.

How big are they? The Blue Jay averages just over 11 inches in length. And their wingspan is nearly 15 inches. They weigh in at around three ounces.

What are their flight patterns? Blue Jays can be recognized by their direct flight paths with steady wing beats.

How else do they behave? You may often detect Blue Jays by their noisy calls. They are raucous and loud. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence. They have complex social systems and form tight family bonds. The Blue Jay is also very aggressive and territorial. Groups of blue jays often attack intruders and predators. They will drive other birds away from bird feeders. Another unique behavior is how Blue Jays communicate with one another both vocally and with “body language” using their crest. The lower the crest, the lower the bird’s aggression level. The higher the crest, the higher the bird’s aggression level.

What’s for dinner? Blue Jays eat insects, nuts, seeds and grains.

Where do they take up residence? Blue Jays reside in the U.S. generally east of the Rockies and in southern Canada. They tend to reside on the edges of forests and are often found near oaks. Blue Jays have adapted to and are very common in urban and suburban areas, especially where oaks or bird feeders are found.

When and where do they breed and nest? Blue Jays often mate for life, remaining with their social mate throughout the year. Courtship begins in February. The breeding season is from March to July. Blue Jays build their nests in the crotch or thick outer branches of a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Only the female incubates her eggs while her mate provides all her food during incubation.

Where do they migrate? Blue Jays do not characteristically migrate except in the most northern reaches of their North American range (southern Canada). The proportion of jays that migrate is estimated to be less than 20 percent. Most Blue Jays remain year-round throughout their entire range.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Blue Jay has seen slight decreases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 17 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Blue Jays make a large variety of calls. The most often heard are a loud “jeer” and “Jay! Jay!”. Also, they also make clear whistled notes and gurgling sounds.  Here is a link to the sounds of the Blue Jay.

Interesting Facts About the Blue Jay:

  • Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

  • Thousands of Blue Jays migrate in flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coasts, but much about their migration remains a mystery.

  • Blue Jays are known to take and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but we don’t know how common this is.

  • Blue Jays are also excellent mimics and frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk.

  • Blue Jays lower their crests when they are feeding peacefully with family and flock members or tending to nestlings.

  • The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.

  • The oldest known wild, banded Blue Jay was 27 years old.

For more information on the Blue Jay and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!