Blue Jays are one of the most recognizable birds in North America!

 

You don’t need to be an expert to identify these colorful, loud, intelligent birds.

 

But guess what?

 

There is a lot more to know about Blue Jays than blue feathers and a boisterous personality!

 

Today, you are going to learn 15 fun facts about Blue Jays!

 

Before we begin, I wanted to share my LIVE bird feeder cam with you. You may be able to observe a Blue Jay feeding right at this very moment! Their favorite foods at my feeding station are sunflower seeds, peanuts, and corn kernels. *JUST PRESS PLAY.*

 


Interesting Fact #1:  Blue Jay’s aren’t blue!

 

You heard me correctly! And trust me, this blew my mind too! Although Blue Jays, are, well…blue, it is just a trick of the light.

 

For example, a Northern Cardinal is red because its feathers are red pigment. Blue Jays have no such blue pigment. If you crush the wing of a cardinal into a powder, it will be red. If you do the same with a blue jay feather, the powder will be brown.

 

SO WHY DO I SEE BLUE!?

 

Blue Jays (and all blue birds!) use a little trick called light scattering. In a very basic nutshell, when visible light strikes the feathers, all of the colors pass through the feather EXCEPT blue. The blue color is reflected, so your eyes will see BLUE.

 

Don’t believe me?

 

Test it for yourself. Take a Blue Jay feather, get it wet, and it will turn brown. You’re interfering with the mechanism that reflects light, so you will no longer see blue.

 

Confused?

blue jay feathers not blue interesting facts

So am I. I never liked Physics class. And to be honest, I’m not sure if the above picture applies to Blue Jay feathers! 🙂

 


Interesting Fact #2: Male and Female Blue Jays look the same!

 

This is pretty rare in the birding world and is called sexual monomorphism. Most species of birds have males and females that look very different from each other, which is referred to as sexual dimorphism.

 

Regardless, since their plumage is the same, it is challenging to tell sexes apart.

So how will you know?

 

First, Males are usually larger than females.

 

Second, their mating and courting behaviors give them away. Blue jays are often seen in courtship groups (typically three to ten birds). In these groups, a single female blue jay determines the behavior of the surrounding males. For example, if a female begins to fly, the males follow; when the female lands, the group of males also land.

 


Interesting Fact #3: They can live a longggg time!

 

The average age for a wild bird is typically 5-7 years. This number varies wildly based on the individual bird and environment.

 

However, the oldest known wild Blue Jay was at least 26 years, 11 months old!

 

It was first banded in 1989 in the Newfoundland area and found dead in 2016 in fishing gear in the same range!

 

Most Blue Jays die from predators (hawks, raccoons, cats, snakes, squirrels, etc) or flying into a human-made object.

 

However, in recent decades, West Nile Virus has caused several significant local declines. For whatever reason, Blue Jays are one of the most susceptible birds to this disease.

 


Interesting Fact #4: The Blue Jay is the official state bird of…

 

Zilch. Nowhere. Nada.

 

Poor guys. Zero out of Fifty. 🙁

 

Meanwhile, the Northern Cardinal is hogging up seven states.

 

However, that doesn’t mean that jays get no love!

In Canada, they are the provincial bird of Prince Edward Island. Not to mention they are the symbol of the Toronto Blue Jays major league baseball team, along with several other colleges and universities!

 


Interesting Fact #5: Blue Jays are the local alarm system for other birds.

 

One of the main predators for the Blue Jay (along with other birds) is the Red-Shouldered Hawk. Jays are so smart that they can imitate the sound of hawks when they are spotted! This early alert protects many other birds from becoming lunch!

 

 

However, Blue Jays can sometimes use this to their advantage. For example, they will make hawk sounds even when none are present.

 

The outcome? Other birds fly away, leaving the Blue Jay first in line to eat.

 

Not a bad idea! This is like yelling “FIRE” in a crowded restaurant and bypassing the wait! However, I am not endorsing or recommending this strategy.

 


Interesting Fact #6: Blue Jays can be bullies.

 

Some say that Blue Jays have a pack mentality. They are very cooperative with their species, and a group of jays will often drive off other birds that are using “their” feeders.

 

Some backyard birders dislike them for this behavior.

 

However, I’m not one of them.

 

The advantage to the pack mentality is that a “band” of jays can drive off a hawk, cat, squirrel, raccoon, or other animals that threaten their habitat when they have enough members present.

 

The key is to have small feeders that don’t accommodate big birds so finches, sparrows, and others can still have a place for lunch. Separate feeders for bigger birds will make the jays, cardinals, and other large birds feel welcome to visit, too.

 

Here is my favorite bird feeder for Blue Jays!

Jays like having a large, open space to feed. And this tray feeder can be hung in the air, mounted on a pole, or placed on the ground (as seen below).

Woodlink 3 in 1 Platform Bird Feeder View Today's Price 

 


Interesting Fact #7: Blue Jays are noisy and loud.

 

Originally a jay was a talkative, impertinent, chatterbox of a person who tended to dominate conversations. Blue Jays were so named because they tend to be loud, lively, and energetic.

 

The range of their vocalizations is extensive. Some sounds are delightful, while others can be loud and annoying. Hear some of their common sounds in this video:

However, there’s more to blue jay squawking than meets the ear.

 

The complex vocalizations warn of predators, people, and even alert other Blue Jays to more food!

 


Interesting Fact #8: Blue Jays fly slow.

 

You would think for being a large, aggressive bird that Blue Jays would fly fast!

 

Not the case.

 

Although they seem to fly effortlessly with only the occasional wing flap, they are doing so quite leisurely.

 

Blue Jays typically fly around 20-25 mph. For reference, ducks can fly 60 mph, and falcons can reach speeds of 200 mph! Due to this, they make easy prey for hawks, owls, and falcons. Blue Jays are typically highly aware of other birds in their vicinity and can explain why they have a hawk alarm system!

 

I guess elegance can be quite costly.

 


Interesting Fact #9: Blue Jays are very intelligent.

 

Blue Jays are smart.

 

Seriously smart.

blue jay facts - they are intelligent and smart

They are a member of the Corvidae family, which includes ravens and crows, and consequentially, they are extremely intelligent. In fact, many scientists consider this Corvid family of birds to be the smartest animals on Earth.

 

Here are a few examples to demonstrate their brainy behaviors:

 

  • Brown-headed cowbirds are commonly known to sneak into other birds’ nests and lay eggs, abandoning their young to foster parent birds! However, Blue Jays are too intelligent for this. Instead, the Jays look at it as hot delivery food and have lunch.

 

  • Blue Jays in captivity have been observed using tools to obtain food, such as dragging strips of newspaper to bring food close enough to reach, or manipulating locks on cages to escape.

 

  • Jays are smart enough to understand the principle of waiting. They are known to sit back and wait while humans are having lunch and then swoop down and finish scraps when they are finished. On top of this, many farmers observe them waiting until they are done planting to help themselves to a leisurely feast of seeds!

 


Interesting Fact #10: Blue Jays like acorns.

 

So why is that interesting?

 

Well, Blue Jays store lots of nuts (particularly acorns) as a winter food source.

 

Many acorns that are stored are never recovered from where they were buried or hidden. These acorns that are lost have the potential to grow into oak trees and create new forests. Their affection for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period!

interesting facts about blue jays - help plant oak trees

Blue Jays and oak trees have a productive symbiotic relationship with each other. Blue Jays get acorns to eat, and in return, help spread and plant more trees to grow!

 


Interesting Fact#11: Blue Jays often store light-colored flakes of paint.

 

No, they’re not redecorating their nests.

 

Paint flakes contain calcium, which they need in their diet (particularly females for making strong eggshells for their young).

 

If Blue Jays are behaving like woodpeckers and stealing paint from your house, try putting out a supply of empty eggshells instead, and they’ll love you for it.

 


Fun Fact #12: Blue Jays take “baths” in ants

 

At least it looks like they do.

 

Blue Jays engage in something called “anting.” This behavior entails spreading their wings, tucking their tail down, and proceeding to crush and rub ants on their feathers before eating them.

 

Although not a Blue Jay, this bird is demonstrating the same “anting” behavior.

Weird, right?

 

Believe it or not, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this behavior.

 

Ants use formic acid as a weapon against predators such as Blue Jays. Formic acid makes ants bitter tasting and birds don’t like that!

 

When a jay rubs an ant onto its feathers, it is purposely getting the formic acid on itself. The formic acid helps keep away bacteria, fungus, mites, and other small insects.

 

And as a bonus, once the formic acid is removed, Blue Jays are then able to eat and enjoy the ants. 🙂

 


Fun Fact #13: Blue Jays form monogamous bonds.

 

fun facts about blue jays - monogomous

 

Once the female Blue Jay chooses her mate, they typically become monogamous mates for life.

 

Furthermore, Blue Jay dads aren’t deadbeats!

 

Both male and females build the nest and rear the young. While the female is sitting on her eggs, the male will feed and take care of her!

 

The tight family bond doesn’t end there. The entire family will leave the nest and travel together once the young are around 17-21 days old.

 


Fun Fact #14: Their migration patterns are…weird.

 

Unlike other birds, Blue Jays do not have a predictable migration pattern. Often, Blue Jays will stay in a habitat year-round. Then, out of the blue, they will decide to migrate and head south!

 

Why stay for years on end and then suddenly pick up and leave for no apparent reason, only to return the next spring?

 

To be honest, no one is 100% sure.

 

The best explanation for this odd behavior is that it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are in the area.

 


Fun Fact #15: Blue Jays like to party!

 

As we have mentioned, jays are loud, boisterous birds that typically make a big entrance.

 

So we shouldn’t be surprised that a group of Blue Jays is often referred to as a “party” or a “band”.

 


The Takeaway

Best Blue Jay Feeders

 

Love them or hate them, these birds are survivors, spurred on by their phenomenal intelligence.

 

They can be loud and they can be bullies, but they are also beautiful creatures that deserve our respect and admiration.

 

Given the appropriate feeders, food, and preparation, they will make a beautiful addition to your backyard!

10 responses to “15 FUN & INTERESTING Facts about Blue Jays! [2020]”

  1. […] bird nerd fact! According to this psychopath, if you crush the wing of a Blue Jay the resulting powder (powder?!) will be brown. They are not […]

  2. Bill Eyl says:

    Hi Scott, Thank you for your informative page. You answer a question I had before I knew what to ask with your explaination of “anting” by Blue Jays. I put out approximately eight to ten feeders and we attract quite a few migrating and semi-resident species. The last two weeks have been especially busy we’ve been visited by Western Tanagers, Bullocks Orioles, Mountain Blueebirds, Black-headed Grosbeaks and American Gold-
    finches inaddition to House finches, Western Meadowlarks, Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, Ringed-neck Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, White Crowned Sparrows, Common sparrows, Black-billed Magpies and the not so popular ( at least with the bird,) Sharp-shinned Hawk, plus a few species I’m forgetting. Our backyard also has a warm weather water feature that the birds love. We’ve
    seen both a Robins and.Blue Jays so soaking wet they can’t get off the ground.

    Bill
    Berthoud, CO

  3. Connie Adams says:

    Hi Scott,
    I had several pair of Blue Jays at my feeder in April. I love in Central New York State. Over the past few weeks I have not seen them at all. There is plenty of food and I haven’t changed anything. Do you have any ideas where they went and how I can get them back? Thanks so much for your help!
    Connie

  4. Angelina Conway says:

    Love this story! Hope Beaches stays safe. As to being chased, this is nesting season and unfortunately, blue jays are known to raid eggs and/or baby birds from nests so was probably a parent trying to protect the nest. Hopefully, before and not after any best robbing crimes were committed.

  5. Fur baby lady jane says:

    My Blue Jays name is Beaches. She has been my friend for about seven years now. She gets three shelled peanuts about three or four times a week.She has a special call that I think is my name “more peanuts” . She sits on a branch and looks in the window of my living room straight at me where I’m sitting watching TV and yells my name. She’s the biggest Bluejay I’ve ever seen. Her chest is pure white, she’s fat, she’s a brilliant blue shiny feathers from the peanuts over the past 7 years, with a large blue crest on her head. When I go around the block for a walk with the dogs she comes with me going from tree to tree and yelling my name. that is how I first really noticed how good friends we were. About three years ago when I was coming out of church she was in a tree across the street yelling my name which I started to recognize a little bit different to other things Blue Jays say. Also that she would follow me home and I come in and sit down in my living room chair and she’d be on the branch outside the window yelling my name- more peanuts. This winter in particular we’ve become very close, she will sit as close is 3 m away from me.
    She will follow me around this wee town in my jeep or when I’m walking.
    One morning when I was cleaning the dog pen she went swooping by gliding and turning left to right while a little brown bird flapping his wings as fast as It bloody well could after her. the little bugger, I saw her look over her shoulder and stare right at me, glide sideways, and then nose dive into some trees leisurely. I swear she thought this was pretty funny I don’t know what she did to get that little bird so angry.
    My question for you is something extremely strange happened a couple of weeks ago. I was getting some things out of the jeep and she was sitting a couple of metres on a branch above me. I was talking to her and she did this extremely strange sound. She kind of fluffed her upper chest feathers around a little bit and nodded her head left and right which is unusual they usually up and down, gave me that sideways one eyed bird look, put her beak up and made this guttural gurgling sound. The closest thing I’ve ever heard like that is a cat purring. My jaw hit my chest! Now I’ve been a baby mammal person all my life worked with foals, kittens and puppies for 45 years. So I speak horse cat dog and understand animal gestures and mannerisms better than your usual person. it made me wanna hug her ; I swear my bird said I love you. Maybe she has babies right now?

    Lately, I get a little worried if she’s not around for three or four days because there’s been a raven bothering her. Also she seems to be having a hard time getting here for her peanuts without being followed by two or three other birds. I can tell them apart I know my beaches, I don’t put peanuts out for the other Blue Jays the one with gray on its chest or the little skinny one. last week I started a special whistle for when I put the peanuts out, let’s see if she learns my call.
    I’m living alone in the near north of Ontario and I’m so very glad that Beaches is my friend.
    People around town are starting to notice that I have a Bluejay flying around above my head LOL

    Fur baby lady Jane

  6. chuck, ohio watcher says:

    we have a jay with a white head that hand around the house. seems to get bullied by the others and will respond in a one on one fashion. when the feeding group disperses, he evens up with one of his tormentors.

  7. gary wellendorf says:

    morning scott, I have a red bellied woodpecker thats been around for a couple months. The thing about this red belly is,he has no red on his head! In fact without the red his head looks small almost like a soldier who just got his head buzz cut! lol Have you ever seen or heard of this? I’m assuming it’s a birth defect, he’s a welcome addition to my flock I’m just curious.

  8. Martina Derrer says:

    I have a family of jays that hangs out around my house. At first I thought it was just a big flock of 9 birds, but then I noticed the young ones were practicing flying. They can be noisy and bullies, but they are an absolute blast to watch.

  9. Mami says:

    Hi Scott, I am one of your fans, “Mami” and just proofed your sister’s article “15 Fun and Interesting Facts about Blue Jays!” I found a few things that might be helpful. I used to do this for a living. It’s a small text file, so how do I get it to you? I’d be glad to read anything else if you want.

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