About Blue Jays

December 8, 2010

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!

–R. Brune

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim December 8, 2010 at 11:00 am

I love blue jays. I don’t have many right now in the yard but in the summer I had almost 2 dozen once the young ones started at the feeders. The more the merrier! I have a feeder that the jays ignore for the smaller birds. That and tossing some peanuts on the ground for the initial daily peanut grab solves the problem (for me) of the blue jays scaring off the smaller ones. I think the smaller birds also get used to the jays if they are there regularly and don’t fly off so easily and return immediately if they do.

Thanks for writing about them :)

R. Brune December 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm

You’re welcome, Kim! Glad you enjoyed the article. I love blue jays too!

Carrie December 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm

We moved to our home a year ago and have since been able to attract a wide variety of birds. Blue Jays are my absolute favorite! I put peanuts out on a dish on our porch for them every morning. I can hear them calling in the morning, as if they are letting me know it’s time to eat. They have to beat out the squirrels for the peanut stash and the squirrels often win. I have never seen them by the feeder and it seems they tend to stay away from other birds. So, I guess, my experience is quite opposite from most. I usually get one, maybe two, at a time and they grab a peanut and go quickly. I wish I could get a whole flock of them! That would be a wonderful sight! Great article, thanks :)

Paula December 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Thanks for the information about the Blue Jay. I love feeding all the birds, and my smaller birds seem fine with having Jays around, they seem to take turns and are not as piggy as the squirrels.
I will say that Jays can be very aggressive. I once had to rescue a baby that fell out of it’s nest into the dog’s pen, and I was rewarded by being whacked off the head by the mom or dad while I carried the crying baby to safety. And let me tell you, it hurt!

Kara December 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Thank you for the wonderful article! I love blue jays. They are one of my favorite birds. I think their striking blue color is a delight! I, like many others, have no problems with my jays. I have about 4 that frequent my yard. I provide the squirrels and chipmunks with a wildlife blend to distract them from my feeders and the blue jays use these stations to get the peanuts, sunflower seed, and corn that they love. I will be moving soon and hope that I can attract some blue jays at my new home. If not, I will surely miss them.

Amy December 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

thank you so much for the wonderful article–i learned many things about bluejays. I have several of them year around!!! I do not mind them, they are so pretty!!! thanks again!!

Bonnie December 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I have always loved blue jays. I have known many people who did not understand jays. They thought them to be just noisy raucus troublemakers.
I loved to see the surprise in their eyes as I told them of the wonderful traits the jays possess. They now agree it would be a sad world without them.
One other thing they do is mimic other birds and sounds. They are not experts but do a decent job. There was one that visited my yard for a few years that would sound like a flute.

Jodi December 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

I need some feeding advise on Blue Jays. I have two hanging platform feeders that I fill with a variety of bird seed, including seeds/nuts and fruits. We have birds flying back and forth throughout the day, which include Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, etc. I don’t mind feeding the Blue Jays, but they make a complete mess of the platform feeders, and typically when I fill them the Blue Jays “peck and fling” the seed so that 90% of the feed lands up on the ground, which I do not want!! Is there a certain kind of feed that Duncraft sells that Blue Jays typically will not eat, or a certain bird feeder that they cannot eat from? I’m happy to have a separate feeder for the Blue Jays, and then something that the Chickadees and Cardinals can still eat from. I feel like I’m wasting good money on bird seed that ends up on the ground due to the Blue Jays. Thanks for any advice!!

Duncraft December 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

Hi Jodi,
Try just feeding black oil sunflower in the platform feeder. When birds don’t have a choice of seeds, they don’t flick through to get the ones they want. Then you could try a mixed seed for the smaller birds in one of the Cling a Wing feeders. Blue Jays will have a hard time clinging to that feeder and they’d probably prefer the sunflower seeds on the platform anyway. You can still offer fruit and suet on the platform and they might eat some of that, but you won’t have food on the ground anymore. Hope this helps.

Ann Ruebel December 23, 2010 at 11:29 am

I thought I read that blue jays need UNSALTED whole peanuts, but they seem to prefer SALTED whole peanuts–can one of you please tell me which is the correct food for my beloved blue jays? Thanks, Ann

Lisa Elliott January 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm

One of my favorite times is Bluejay feeding time. If they’re around when I sit on the front steps, they’ll fly to nearby trees and shrubs and I’ll toss peanuts-in-a-shell into the driveway for them. They fly down as I toss the nuts, fitting one or two or three in their beaks, and fly off. They often wait their turn, and there is definitely some sort of “pecking order.” It’s great fun to see them cock their heads as they look; and how they turn down some peanuts for others.

Lisa January 5, 2011 at 1:06 pm

This summer, we had a wonderful experience with three fledging Blue Jays and their mom. Too long to re-tell here, but we got up close and personall with the mom and her little ones for almost a week.

To see them during the winter, I got a peanut feeder and loaded it up in the late fall in a back yard tree. To our delight three Blue Jays enjoyed the out-of-the-shell peanuts and I was out of peanuts in a week! We like to think they are “our” Jays.

I re-stocked the feeder and the Jays have not eaten since. I feed sunflower, black oil and thistle away from this tree. One day, one Jay came back sitting hight on an outtermost branch and watched the other feeders for almost a half hour but did not eat. I hoped she would return with her little ones but she did not. Two Jays came back later, watching but not eating.

Any ideas what is happening? We are in the rural countryside in NW NJ and do have tremendous wildlife outside our door, including hawks.

Thanks for any thoughts.

Carolyn Hoff January 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I live in Corpus Christi, Texas and have naver seen a Blue Jay here. Do they live this far south? Is there any way to entice them to my yard? Thanks

Joe January 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Bluejays have always been a favorite of mine, and have been abundant…until this year. they have virtually disapeared from my feeding stations..I offer a wide variety of seeds…very large quantities of sunflower seeds and suet, and fresh water every day, but i doubt that more than one or two jays a week come. I live near water…the Long Island sound area. I am just wondering if some natural predator has moved in of late…any advise?
Joe

R. Brune January 27, 2011 at 8:58 am

Hi Joe,
Not sure what the problem might be with your blue jays, but I do notice that mine seem to come and go as well. Sometimes I’ll have a bunch and other times they don’t show up for months. I guess just be patient is the answer.

Fred February 5, 2011 at 11:55 am

I have tons of pictures of everyone favorite Bluejays, thier awesome birds, I have seen them steal Salted peanuts from the Squirrel’s form my back yard. Just so much fun too watch.

Charlie February 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I have way Too Many Blue Jays and they are eating me and the smaller birds out of house & home.
Is there a way to ward them off so the little guys can feast and I can save some $$$$$$$?

Oksana February 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

I love feeding blue jays. We toss peanuts onto the table on our deck in the morning while we have our coffee and then wait for the show to begin. The jays come from all directions pining for the nuts and we get to watch a wonderful display of dominance and behavior. I have watched as some jays swallow an entire peanut (with shell) and then take another one. They are beautiful birds and lots of fun to watch.

Nicole Romano February 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm

We have several birds at our feeders throughout the year but the blue jays and crows are two of my favorite. With the crows around, they tend to scare off the hawks and make it a safe haven for the smaller birds. I throw out a handful of raw peanuts in the shell every morning and believe me, the mornings that I am late in doing so, I very loudly hear about it! I have observed a comical occurance with the jays and the peanuts. Frequently, they will pick up one peanut and put it down until they find the right one. They sometimes go through three or four before they find the best one and then fly off (burying several in my boxwood hedges). Has anyone else seen this behavior? Is there a particular reason for these antics?

Nancy February 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I was at my cabin in the Smokies of Tennessee 2 weeks ago, and one morning as I made coffee, I heard the familiar squawk of some blue jays. It didn’t strike me at first, but the more I heard them, I went to the window to find a huge flock of them scouring, just outside the window, for little acorns on the ground. There were a couple of crows flying around and lots of jay squawking going on but I didn’t realize that the crows and jays don’t get along. I wonder if they were trying to deter the crows who probably wanted some of the acorns too? The blue jays must have numbered around 100 or so in the flock. This is only the second time in my life I have see such a big flock in the winter like this. It is just mesmerizing to me. A long cardinal was there with them and his color stood out so much more with the blue and white! What a treat, I had that day!

Sedaray May 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Don’t feed RAW peanuts to squirrels and other animals because it can seriously hurt them. Raw peanuts and other legumes contain a trypsin inhibitor or substance that inhibits or prevents the pancreas from producing trypsin, an enzyme essential for the absorption of protein by the intestine. Squirrels fed a steady diet of raw peanuts, soybeans. other legumes, and sweet potatoes could easily develop severe malnutrition. According to the Washington State Cooperative Extension Service, roasting hulled raw peanuts for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring them frequently, will destroy the trypsin inhibitor and render them suitable for feed. If that sounds like a lot of work, buy roasted peanuts but be sure they aren’t salted.
http://www.beautyofbirds.com/feedingwildbirds.html

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