Blue JayCyanocitta cristata

Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Fred Truslow/VIREO
immature (1st summer
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO


One of the loudest and most colorful birds of eastern back yards and woodlots, the Blue Jay is unmistakable. Intelligent and adaptable, it may feed on almost anything, and it is quick to take advantage of bird feeders. Besides their raucous jay! jay! calls, Blue Jays make a variety of musical sounds, and they can do a remarkable imitation of the scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk. Not always conspicuous, they slip furtively through the trees when tending their own nest or going to rob the nest of another bird.


Oak and pine woods, suburban gardens, groves, towns. Breeds in deciduous or mixed woods, avoiding purely coniferous forest. May be in fairly low or scrubby forest in southern part of range. Favors habitat with many oak or beech trees. Often common in well-wooded suburbs or city parks.

Feeding Diet

Omnivorous. Most of diet is vegetable matter (up to 75% of diet for year, higher percentage in winter), including acorns, beechnuts, and other nuts, many kinds of seeds, grain, berries, small fruits, sometimes cultivated fruits. Eats many insects, especially caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and others; also eats spiders, snails, birds' eggs, sometimes small rodents, frogs, baby birds, carrion, other items.

Feeding Behavior

Forages in trees and shrubs and on ground. Comes to feeders for seeds or suet. Pounds on hard nuts or seeds with bill to break them open. Will harvest acorns and store them in holes in ground.


Courtship may involve aerial chases; male may feed female. Blue Jays become quiet and inconspicuous around the nest, but will attack with loud calls if the nest is threatened by a predator. Nest site is in tree (either coniferous or deciduous), placed in vertical crotch of trunk or at horizontal fork in limb well out from trunk; usually 8-30' above ground, sometimes 5-50' up. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky open cup made of twigs, grass, weeds, bark strips, moss, sometimes held together with mud. Nest is lined with rootlets and other fine materials, often decorated with paper, rags, string, or other debris. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-7. Greenish or buff, sometimes pale blue, spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents (but female does more), about 16-18 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest 17-21 days after hatching.


4-5, sometimes 3-7. Greenish or buff, sometimes pale blue, spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents (but female does more), about 16-18 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest 17-21 days after hatching.


Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest 17-21 days after hatching.


May have declined initially with clearing of eastern forest, before it adapted to nesting in cities. Now common, expanding range toward northwest.


Present all year in most of range, but variable numbers migrate south in fall; big southward flights in some years, with thousands on the move, although they do not go south of the United States. Migrates by day.


ringing squeaks
jay calls & clicks
jay calls
piping notes #3
nasal notes & jay calls
jay & jay-jay calls
red-shouldered hawk imitation
piping calls of courting group
piping notes #2
various calls of group with rattles
musical twee-dee
piping notes #1
nasal notes, squeaky calls and jay calls

Similar Species


Northern Mockingbird

This bird's famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well). Very common in towns and cities, especially in southern areas, the Mockingbird often seeks insects on open lawns. When running in the open it may stop every few feet and partly spread its wings, flashing the white wing patches. Mockingbirds are bold in defense of their nests, attacking cats and even humans that venture too close.

adult (Interior)

Western Scrub-Jay

In brushy western foothills, pairs of Western Scrub-Jays are often seen swooping across clearings, giving harsh calls, their long tails flopping in flight. Along the Pacific Coast, they are often common around suburban yards or well-wooded city parks. The scrub-jays living in Florida and on Santa Cruz Island, California, are now considered to be two separate species from the widespread form in the west.


Florida Scrub-Jay

This bird is noteworthy on several counts. It lives nowhere in the world except Florida, it has a complicated social system, it has been the subject of very detailed field studies, and it is threatened by loss of habitat. Formerly considered just a race of the scrub-jays found in the west, it is now classified as a full species.

adult, Western

Mexican Jay

Widespread in Mexico, this bird enters the United States in two areas: in much of southeastern Arizona and adjacent New Mexico, and in the Big Bend area of Texas. These two populations are not closely connected in Mexico, and they differ in a number of ways, including egg color, bill color of the young, voice, and aspects of nesting behavior. The nesting habits in Arizona are surprisingly complicated, various members of the flock being more or less involved with several nesting attempts at once.

adult, Pacific NW

Steller's Jay

A common bird of western forests. Steller's Jay is most numerous in dense coniferous woods of the mountains and the northwest coast, where its dark colors blend in well in the shadows. Except when nesting it lives in flocks, and the birds will often fly across a clearing one at a time, in single file, giving their low shook-shook calls as they swoop up to perch in a tall pine.


Green Jay

Unmistakably tropical, the Green Jay enters our area only in southern Texas. There it is common in native woods and mesquite brush. Around some parks and refuges it is very tame, coming to picnic tables for scraps; but at other places it can be elusive, and surprisingly hard to see despite its bright colors. Green Jays live in pairs or social groups at all seasons, communicating with each other with a bizarre variety of different calls.


Pinyon Jay

This odd jay, looking more like a small blue-gray crow, lives mainly in the Great Basin region of the west. Appropriately named, it feeds heavily on the seeds of pinyon pines, and its distribution is tied closely to the range of these trees. Pinyon Jays are sociable at all seasons, traveling in flocks, nesting in colonies. When on the move they fly close together, giving harsh nasal calls.


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