25 Brilliant Facts about Blue Jays That You Don’t Want to Miss

25 Brilliant Facts about Blue Jays

The Blue Jay is one of the most easily recognisable birds of all, with its characteristic flash of vivid blue plumage and complex, versatile calls. A common sight throughout the forests and woodlands of North America and Canada where they are endemic, these beautiful, bold, and inquisitive little birds have plenty of fascinating features, from their communicative crests to their optical illusion feathers. Keep reading to find out 25 brilliant facts about Blue Jays… 

25 Amazing Blue Jay Facts

blue jay facts
  1. The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a genus of passerine birds belonging to the Corvidae family, which also includes crows, ravens, and magpies. There are four subspecies of Blue Jay; the Northern, the Coastal, the Interior, and the Florida Blue Jay. 
  2. The genus name Cyanocitta is derived from the Greek kyaneos, meaning ‘blue’, and kitta, meaning ‘chattering’, and the species name is derived from cristata meaning ‘crested’, which translates loosely to ‘crested chattering blue bird’. 
  3. Blue Jays are endemic to North America and parts of Canada, where they like to nest in large, sprawling forests and woodland areas, although they can also live quite comfortably in more urban areas. They have even been known to nest in mailboxes in residential areas where trees are in short supply! 
  4. The Blue Jay was first recorded by the ornithologist and naturalist Mark Catesby almost 300 years ago in 1731. The earliest fossil record of Blue Jay ancestors, however, can be traced back to at least 25 million years ago. 
  5. Blue Jays are somewhat smaller than other Corvidae avians, weighing in at an average of just 60 – 100 grams, and measuring little more than 25cm. What they lack in stature, however, they certainly make up for in style, with their flamboyant, characteristic blue-coloured plumage, often with flashes of black or white feathers on their face, wings, and underbelly, depending on the subspecies.blue jay fact
  6. Both male and female Blue Jays are identical in appearance. This is known as sexual monomorphism and is very rare in birds. Most bird species display different plumages and characteristics depending on sex, which is known as sexual dimorphism. The only way to tell male and female Blue Jays apart is that the males are slightly larger. 
  7. Blue Jays are omnivorous, although their diet mostly consists of berries, nuts, and seeds. They have specialised beaks which are very strong and can be used to crack open nutshells like a hammer, whilst holding the nut steady with their feet. 
  8. Like all members of the Corvidae family, when nuts and berries are in short supply, Blue Jays will feed on insects such as ants and caterpillars, small amphibians like frogs, and even in rare cases, the young other birds. In fact, the Blue Jay has acquired something of a reputation as a ruthless predator. They have been known to decapitate other birds before eating them! 
  9. Blue Jays can be very aggressive, particularly towards other birds who pose a threat to their food supply or territory. They have been observed screeching loudly whilst attacking competitors in a mob-like fashion. 
  10. Blue Jays display some of the most complex and mysterious migratory patterns in the ornithology world. Some Blue Jays never migrate and remain in the same territory year-round. Others will migrate south in some years but remain in the north during others. They usually migrate in flocks, but not every individual in the flock will migrate every year. No one truly knows why the Blue Jay migrates in such an irregular and unpredictable way. 
  11. Blue Jays have a prominent blue crest atop their heads, which serves an important role in communication. They can manoeuvre their crest to signal their emotions or mood. A raised crest indicates the bird is excited, agitated, or angry. A lowered crest indicates that the bird is relaxed and happy, whilst a fanned-out crest indicates that the bird is afraid. facts about blue jays
  12. The bright blue hue of the Blue Jay’s plumage is the result of a clever optical illusion. Blue Jay feathers are actually a dull brown colour, but they appear blue due to a process called light scattering. The brown feathers contain melanin, the same pigment which determines the colour of human skin, and when light hits the feathers, the melanin absorbs every colour except blue, leaving only blue lightwaves visible, so the Blue Jay appears blue. If Blue Jay feathers get wet, they will not be able to refract light effectively, and so will appear brown. 
  13. Blue Jays have a very versatile and diverse repertoire of calls. They are known to mimic the calls of larger predatory birds in order to scare off potential predators and other birds who may compete with them for food supplies. They will also scream loudly if they sense predators are in the area, acting as a warning alarm to other small bird species. 
  14. The Corvidae family of avians, to which Blue Jays belong, are renowned for their exceptional intelligence and inquisitiveness. They will often collect and play with small shiny objects, and, whilst the behaviour has not been observed in the wild, captive Blue Jays have been recorded using pieces of metal and paper as tools to reach food. They have also been observed using their beaks to attempt to break open locks and cage doors. 
  15. Blue Jays are monogamous, meaning that once they find a mate, they will stay together for life. Because of this, Blue Jays are often thought to symbolise faithfulness and fidelity. 
  16. Bonded Blue Jays share an equitable role in breeding and nesting, with both males and females helping to build nests and raise chicks. Whilst the female is incubating eggs, her partner will bring her food. 
  17. The average lifespan of a Blue Jay in the wild is around seven years old. The oldest known wild Blue Jay, however, lived to be just one month shy of his 27th birthday! It had been marked as a fledgling in 1989 and lived until 2016 when it died after becoming caught in fishing gear. facts about blue jay birds
  18. Blue Jays have many predators! The most common cause of death for Blue Jays is being eaten by larger birds like hawks, or animals like raccoons, cats, squirrels, or snakes. The second most common cause of death is crashing into human objects such as car windshields whilst they are in flight. 
  19. Blue Jays engage in an unusual process known as ‘anting’, where they rub ants onto their feathers before eating them. Scientists were puzzled by this behaviour for many years, and after conducting several studies, they realised that the birds were using their plumage to remove foul-tasting formic acid from the ants to make them taste better! Blue Jays clutch the ants incredibly gently during the process, to preserve the entire ant so they receive the maximum nutritional value. 
  20. One of the Blue Jay’s favourite snacks is acorns. They will collect acorns from one location and cache them in another area for safekeeping, ready to eat during the winter when food is scarce. Often, however, the Blue Jays never return to their cache, and so the uneaten acorns develop into oak trees. Blue Jays are thought to have greatly aided the spread of oak tree forests throughout North America after the last glacial period because of all their forgotten caches. 
  21. Blue Jays often carry acorns much further afield and at a much greater volume than squirrels typically would. One study found that a community of just fifty Blue Jays managed to move and cache over 150,000 acorns in just one season! Scientists have also discovered they have a knack for selecting only the most viable acorns which are most likely to germinate successfully. 
  22. When cacheing nuts for safekeeping, Blue Jays take a mental note of natural clues, such as distinctive stones or logs, which they will then use to locate the cache at a later date! bluejay facts
  23. Relative to most other birds, Blue Jays are rather slow fliers, with a normal leisurely speed of around 20–25 miles per hour. Because of this slow flight speed, they are frequent prey for larger, faster birds, such as hawks and owls. 
  24. Blue Jays have an expandable throat, which is known as a crop, that allows them to carry many nuts or berries in their mouths at once. In one study, a Blue Jay was observed cramming over 100 sunflower seeds into his crop! 
  25. Blue Jays have often been observed pecking the white paint from buildings. It is thought that they do this because white paint often contains limestone, which is a good source of calcium, particularly in the winter when food is scarce. The calcium also helps female birds to form strong eggshells to protect their young. 

These relatively small birds have had a colossal impact on the landscape and ecosystems of North America by aiding the spread of mighty oak forests with their cacheing behaviours. They are fiercely loyal to their loved ones, and not afraid to show aggression towards predators. Their exceptional intelligence and stunning appearance make them one of the most fascinating and well-loved birds of all. As the great writer Mark Twain said, “there is more to a Bluejay than any other animal”, and we certainly agree! 

Sources

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_jay
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvidae
  • https://animals.net/blue-jay/
  • https://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/blue-jay.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_jay
  • http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-blue-jays/
  • https://birdwatchinghq.com/blue-jay-facts/
  • https://birdfeederhub.com/facts-about-blue-jays/
  • https://lucec.loyno.edu/natural-history-writings/blue-jay-acorn-planters
  • https://www.pedaldrivenprogramming.com/2008/04/bluejays-are-carnivores/
  • https://www.ranker.com/list/mean-blue-jay-facts/erin-mccann
  • https://naturecanada.ca/news/blog/5-weird-facts-about-blue-jays/
  • https://naturecanada.ca/news/blog/5-weird-facts-about-blue-jays/
  • https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/spirit-totem-power-animal-meanings/birds/bluejay-symbolism-meaning/
  • https://birdwatchinghq.com/blue-jay-facts/
  • https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/overview
  • https://eu.fosters.com/story/lifestyle/2017/01/07/nature-news-blue-jays-are-oaks-best-friend/22768273007/
  • https://wildbirdsunlimited.typepad.com/the_zen_birdfeeder/2012/04/faq-why-do-blue-jays-stuff-their-mouths-with-seed.html
  • https://feederwatch.org/learn/articles/blue-jays-eating-house-paint/

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