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Blue Jay

Overview

The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is part of the crow family, which is a group of larger, aggressive birds. Their bills are large and stout; the feet and legs are heavy, enabling them to spend much time on the ground. Both the wings and the tail are rounded. The family is omnivorous (they eat both plant and animal material) and their songs are loud, raucous calls.

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Description

The blue jay is bright blue on top and white underneath. The wings and tail are heavily streaked with black; the tail has white outer feathers; and the face has prominent black markings. It is also conspicuously crested.

Reproduction

Blue jays build loose nests made of barks, twigs, leaves, and grasses in trees and shrubs. Blue jays are monogamous; females usually incubate the eggs (for 17-18 days) while the male brings food to her. Peak breeding activity occurs March-July, and a typical clutch consists of 3-6 eggs. The young fledge 17-21 days after hatching.

Habitat & Behavior

This handsome bird is a common winter resident, although they can be highly migratory, and we may get many more in the spring and fall. At one time their habitat was primarily oak woods, but they are now common in city parks and wooded suburban areas. Sometimes they are seen chasing smaller birds away from feeders. Blue jays are omnivorous and typically eat nuts, seeds, insects, mice, and frogs. They will also rob other nests for small songbirds and bird eggs. They migrate during the day - one of the few songbirds that do so - in small flocks. The loud screams of the jay act as an effective alarm system, alerting all of the other animals within earshot of the presence of intruders. They can be skilled mimics, often imitating the call of the red-shouldered hawk, in particular. Blue jays are omnivorous, and feed on nuts, seeds, insects, mice, frogs, and songbirds and bird eggs robbed from other nests.