Station 3
Blue Jay


Physical Traits

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage. Large crested songbird with broad, rounded tail. Blue Jays are smaller than crows but larger than robins. White or light gray underneath, various shades of blue, black, and white above.

Habitat

Blue Jays are found in all kinds of forests but especially near oak trees; they’re more abundant near forest edges than in deep forest. They’re common in urban and suburban areas, especially where oaks or bird feeders are found.

Diet

Blue Jays glean insects and take nuts and seeds in trees, shrubs, and on the ground; they also eat grains. They also take dead and injured small vertebrates. Blue Jays sometimes raid nests for eggs and nestlings, and sometimes pick up dead or dying adult birds. Stomach contents over the year are about 22 percent insect. Acorns, nuts, fruits, and grains made up almost the entire remainder. Of 530 stomachs examined, traces of bird eggs and nestlings were found in only 6 stomachs, although a search was specially made for every possible trace of bird remains. Blue Jays hold food items in feet while pecking them open. They store food in caches to eat later.

Behavior

Blue Jays communicate with one another both vocally and with “body language,” using their crest. When incubating, feeding nestlings, or associating with mate, family, or flock mates, the crest is held down; the lower the crest, the lower the bird’s aggression level. The higher the crest, the higher the bird’s aggression level; when a Blue Jay squawks, the crest is virtually always held up.

Nest Building Techniques

Blue Jays build their nests in the crotch or thick outer branches of a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Male and female both gather materials and build the nest, but on average male does more gathering and female more building. Twigs used in outer part of nest are usually taken from live trees, and birds often struggle to break them off. Birds may fly great distances to obtain rootlets from recently dug ditches, fresh graves in cemeteries, and newly fallen trees. Jays may abandon their nest after detecting a nearby predator.

Migration and Range

Short Distance Migrant. This is the only New World jay that migrates north and south, and large flocks are observed flying over many hawkwatch spots, along shorelines, and at other migration overlooks, but their migration is very poorly understood. Some individuals remain year-round throughout their entire range, and at least some individuals depart during spring throughout their entire range except peninsular Florida. Migrating flocks can include adults and young birds, and recent analyses of movements of banded jays indicate that there is no age difference between jays that migrate and jays that remain resident. The proportion of jays that migrate is probably less than 20 percent.

Cool Facts

Thousands of Blue Jays migrate in flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coasts, but much about their migration remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. No one has worked out why they migrate when they do.

Blue Jays are known to take and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but we don’t know how common this is. In an extensive study of Blue Jay feeding habits, only 1% of jays had evidence of eggs or birds in their stomachs. Most of their diet was composed of insects and nuts.

The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.

Tool use has never been reported for wild Blue Jays, but captive Blue Jays used strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets from outside their cages.

The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.

The oldest known wild, banded Blue Jay lived to be at least 17 years 6 months old.

Where is the Blue Jay?

Stand looking straight past the numbered station post,
about 20 meters ahead is an Ironwood tree,
it is past and to the right of the large tree slightly to the left,
look up for a branch growing to the left,
the type of tree is a Red Hickory,
about 5 meters up,
the Blue Jay replica is on that limb about a meter out from the trunk.

Want a picture of where to look ??
Want to see the replica ??