The beautiful Blue Jay is found in the central and eastern states and is a common bird at bird feeders—but just how common is the Blue Jay?
An easily recognized bird with its gorgeous blue, black and white plumage and distinct crest, many times the Blue Jay is accused of being a seed hog at feeders because of the way it can gobble up loads of sunflower seeds and carry them off in its gullet. Blue Jays are well-known for caching large quantities of seeds, acorns, beechnuts and hickory nuts. They cache their store in the ground, but unlike squirrels who cache acorns near the tree they fell from, Blue Jays take their food back to their breeding territory, sometimes as much as a mile from the source. Because of this, these birds are key to sustaining oaks and other trees, spreading acorns and nuts to distant areas where they germinate and grow. They are especially important for reforestation in cleared and burned areas.
Blue Jays do tend to dominate bird feeders when they arrive, causing other birds to scatter. But Blue Jays are also known to be extremely vocal. They will imitate a hawk’s cry to warn others in the flock of the predator’s presence, and this in turn warns smaller birds to watch out! And when a cat, owl or other predator is spotted, the entire flock will join in the alarm calls, making it perfectly clear to other birds that danger is near.
Another benefit that Blue Jays offer is their willingness to eat a wide variety of foods. They are mostly seed and nut eaters, but in spring when protein is important, they will often eat hairy caterpillars, and tent and gypsy moth caterpillars that other birds won’t touch. For anyone who’s experienced a gypsy moth infestation in their area, this one trait is enough to make the Blue Jay a very desired bird in their yard!
Blue Jays are very flock-oriented much of the year and they will tolerate other Blue Jays near their nesting sites. Even their courtship is a group affair. One female will be pursued by several males, then one by one the less aggressive males will drop out of the courting ritual until the mating pair is left. During courtship, the male will offer seeds to the female, a trait that many people find so endearing about cardinals. And although they are sometimes disliked because they raid other bird’s nests, the Blue Jay is not without enemies. Their nests are frequently raided by crows. But when a pair is attacked, the flock will join together and attempt to scare off the predator with screams and alarm calls. Blue Jays are very supportive of each other, all contributing to the health and well-being of the flock.
So the next time you have a little flock of Blue Jays descend on your feeder, be glad they’re there. The Blue Jay is an important bird that holds an important place in wildlife habitats! To attract them to your yard, offer peanuts, or seed blends and mixes that contain peanuts and tree nuts such as walnuts, pecans and almonds. Blue Jays are also fond of sunflower seeds and cracked corn. We suggest Duncraft’s Chickadee Blend or Gourmet Blend and shelled or whole peanuts. Enjoy the Blue Jays in your yard!