Let's Talk About Birds: Blue jays

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This is one of a series presented by the National Aviary. The National Aviary works to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.

During the winter months, one of the more colorful birds to be found at backyard bird feeders is the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata). Found throughout most of eastern and central United States and southern Canada, the blue jay is found in both deciduous and coniferous forests and is common near residential areas. Predominately blue with a white breast and underparts and a blue crest, it is easily one of the more recognizable of backyard birds.

Blue jays feed mainly on nuts and seeds, fruit, insects and occasionally bird's eggs and nestlings. As very territorial birds, blue jays may chase other birds from a feeder but at the same time provide security for smaller birds from predatory birds such as hawks and owls. They will scream when a predator is seen within their territory, providing plenty of warning to smaller birds in the area. In addition to dominating bird feeders, blue jays may stuff food into their throats and carry off the food, most often nuts, to stockpile for winter.

Blue jays are highly curious and are considered intelligent birds. Young blue jays are known to carry brightly colored or reflective objects and have been observed attempting to open cage doors in captivity.

They are not particular about nesting locations and have been known to use large mailboxes, hanging plants on porches and even the nests of other birds. Forming monogamous pairs for life, both sexes help build the nest and rear the young, though only the female broods them. Clutches usually include four to five eggs laid and incubated over 16 to 18 days over the spring and early summer. The family stays together until early fall, when the young disperse to avoid competition for food over the winter.

First Published February 22, 2012 5:00 AM


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