The Blue Jay is a large songbird familiar to many people with its perky crest, blue, white, and black plumage, and noisy calls.
These birds are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.
Blue Jays symbolize noise, loudness, mimicry, mischief, and changeability. They are most known for harsh, jeering jay-jay calls and annoying other birds around them with their loud shrill cries. But regardless of their antics, we love these birds.
Blue Jays (Big Blue is our pet name for them) are one of the smartest birds you’ll see in your backyard. They are members of the corvid family, which includes other jay species such as Steller’s Jays, ravens, crows, and magpies. Blue Jays are masterful at mimicking the sounds in their environment. Sometimes they sound like R2D2 with their sci-fi calls. Other times they impersonate Red-shouldered Hawks.
There are two theories to explain why jays mimic hawks. First, jays are warning other songbirds that a predator is near. Our backyard Blue Jays have saved many songbirds from birds of prey. And, of course, the jays use their hawk calls to drive other birds off the feeder, so they have it all to themselves. Got to love those Jays!
We have a Blue Jay we call the Hawk Jay because it perfectly mimics a Red-shouldered Hawk’s call. We often think we have a hawk visiting our yard, and it’s one of our jays. So we look every time we hear the call and see no other birds at the feeders, but the tray feeder is swaying back and forth, alerting us a jay just pilfered some nuts.
Those silly jays. We play their game and let them think they are tricking us. But if we didn’t want them to visit, we wouldn’t use large tray feeders in the first place.
Jays are so intelligent, and like crows, they train us. Many mornings we wake up to find them knocking on the windows because they’re hungry and demanding food.
Sometimes the feeders are empty in the early morning because the songbirds binge eat the night before. Other times, Knut, our backyard black bear, levels the feeders, eats all the seed, and runs off with the tube feeders. We eventually recover the feeders in the woods, where Knut tosses things he takes. He’s like a tornado that blows in, leaving a path of destruction behind.
Blue Jays are Entertaining
Outside our front window sits three pear trees. Or rather, trees that would bare fruit if the squirrels didn’t pick the pear blossoms off the trees every spring.
One beautiful sunny day, I noticed a Blue Jay perched in the barren fruit tree. The minute I picked up my camera to take a photograph, he looked right at me as if to say, “Let the games begin.”
He hopped on the ground. Then, he flew up to the branch just as I adjusted my focus. Then he darted across the yard and ducked into a pine tree. He repeated the process twice over.
This bird was toying with me. But, unfortunately, the jay wouldn’t let me get a good look at him and was testing my fortitude.
The game of cat and mouse persisted for quite some time. Up, down, and around. The jay managed to fight with the squirrel and drive him out of his territory.
This Blue Jay has a lot of spunk.
Then finally, as if to reward me, the jay posed on the branch. It was as if the bird was saying, “Here’s your reward. Fire away.” And I did. I wanted to capture the essence of this beautiful, clever, and exciting bird in all its glory.
Though jays are pretty loud and noisy, we love having Big Blue and his flock in our backyard.
Five Interesting Facts About Blue Jays
-A Blue Jay isn’t blue at all.
In fact, the pigment in their feathers is brown, and the scattering light in the structural parts of the feathers causes us to see the blue coloration.
-Blue Jays are omnivores.
They mainly stick to vegetation, berries, acorns, fruit on trees, fat, juicy worms, insects, and caterpillars. If you provide an ample diet the jays need, they will make your backyard their home.
-Blue Jays are very aggressive and territorial.
But jays have been bullied by squirrels, grackles, and other jays at some feeders.
-Blue Jays form monogamous relationships with their mates that can last multiple breeding cycles.
A pair will usually stay together until one of them dies.
-Blue Jays love peanuts.
And jays enjoy pilfering nuts from the squirrels. Watch Blue Jays when they find a peanut stash; you’ll notice they want the biggest reward first. So they’re picking up each peanut and looking for the heaviest one. Once they have a heavy peanut in their beak, they fly off to consume it or hide it as a snack for later. Then they return to find the next heaviest nut, and so on.
-The secret weapon for attracting Black Jays is peanuts.
Peanuts are a magic wand for attracting Blue Jays to your backyard. Stock open tray feeders with peanuts, but be prepared for squirrels to drop by too. You put them out, and POOF, the birds, and squirrels magically appear. Blue Jays have this incredible ability to sense whenever peanuts are within a 5-mile radius.
Our secret weapon for attracting many jays is “The Ring of Fire.” It’s a metal ring wreath that holds lots of whole peanuts and provides hours of backyard entertainment as the jays plot how to remove the nuts. The chickadees and titmice often prevail over the jays by pecking wholes into the shells removing them one by one.
Blue Jays also love eating fresh mealworms, suet cakes, peanut suet nuggets, or suet butter, black sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, and cracked corn.
Whether you see Blue Jays as backyard friends or foes, there’s no denying their beauty and their clever antics will bring excitement to your yard.
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