Blue Jay – Description
Its plumage is lavender-blue to mid-blue in the crest, back, wings, and tail, and its face is white. A collar of black is often found around the throat and head, and bills, legs, feet and eyes are also black. The underside is off-white and the neck is collared with black which extends to the sides of the head.
There is a pronounced crest on the head, a crown of feathers, which may be raised or lowered according to the bird’s mood. When excited or aggressive, the crest will be fully raised. When frightened, the crest bristles outwards, brushlike. When the bird is feeding among other jays or resting, the crest is flattened on the head.
The blue jay measures 22–30 cm from bill to tail and weighs 70–100 g, with a wingspan of 34–43 cm. Males and females are almost identical, but the male is slightly larger.
Blue Jay – Diet
Blue Jays are largely vegetarian birds which mainly feeds on nuts and seeds such as acorns, soft fruits, arthropods, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are also known to eat eggs or nestlings.
Blue Jays glean insects and take nuts and seeds in trees, shrubs, and on the ground; they also eat grains. Blue Jays hold food items in feet while pecking them open. Like squirrels, they’re known to hide food in caches to eat later.
Blue Jay – Behaviour
Blue Jays typically form monogamous pair bonds for life. They build an open cup nest in the branches of a tree, which both sexes participate in constructing. The clutch can contain two to seven eggs, which are blueish or light brown with brown spots. Young are hatched or born in an undeveloped state and require care and feeding by the parents. The young are brooded by the female for 8–12 days after hatching and may remain with their parents for one to two months.
The blue jay occupies a variety of habitats within its large range, from the pine woods of Florida to the spruce-fir forests of northern Ontario. It is less abundant in denser forests, preferring mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches. It has expertly adapted to human activity, occurring in parks and residential areas, and can adapt to wholesale deforestation with relative ease if human activity creates other means for the jays to get by.
Diverse predators may predate jay eggs and young up to their fledging stage, including tree squirrels, snakes, cats, crows, raccoons, opossums, other jays and possibly many of the same birds of prey who attack adults.
The Blue Jay can be beneficial to other bird species, as it may chase predatory birds, such as hawks and owls, and will scream if it sees a predator within its territory. It has also been known to sound an alarm call when hawks or other dangers are near, and smaller birds often recognize this call and hide themselves away accordingly.