The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a North American jay, a handsome bird with predominantly lavender-blue to mid-blue feathering from the top of the head to midway down the back.
There is a pronounced crest on the head. The colour changes to black, sky-blue and white barring on the wing primaries (longest wing feathers) and the tail.
The bird has an off-white underside, with a black collar around the neck and sides of the head and a white face.
Distribution / Habitat:
Blue Jays reside over a very large area of the eastern side of North America from Newfoundland in the northeast to Florida in the southeast and westward to Texas and the mid-west and eastern Colorado in the north.
It is mainly a bird of mixed woodland, including American beech and various oak species, but also of parks and gardens in some towns and cities. West of the Rockies, it is replaced by the closely related Steller's Jay.
Its food is sought both on the ground and in trees and includes virtually all known types of plant and animal sources, such as acorns and beech mast, weed seeds, grain, fruits and other berries, peanuts, bread, meat, eggs and nestlings, small invertebrates (= animals without internal skeleton, such as insects, larvae, earthworms, millipedes, snails, spiders) of many types, scraps in town parks and bird-table food.
Its occasionally aggressive behavior at feeding stations, plus a reputation for occasionally destroying the nests and eggs of other birds, has made the Blue Jay unwelcome at some bird feeders. However, these are clever and adaptable birds who are good survivors and have adapted well to human presence. They are particularly fond of peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Avianweb Note: Peanuts are a valuable source of protein -- however, peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungal toxin. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and causes liver damage in birds and other animals. Roasting reduces aflatoxin but does not eliminate it entirely. North American peanut producers are currently working on eliminating contaminated peanuts from their products. Caution is advised when feeding peanuts.
Nesting / Breeding:
Any suitable tree or large bush may be used for nesting and both sexes build the nest and rear the young, though only the female broods them. There are usually 4–5 eggs laid and incubated over 16–18 days. The young are fledged usually between 17–21 days. Blue Jays typically form monogamous pair bonds for life.
Although this bird is generally found year round through most of its range, some northern birds do move into the southern parts of the range. These birds migrate in the daytime.
Voice / Call:
The voice is typical of most jays in being varied, but the most commonly recognized sound is the alarm call, which is a loud, almost gull-like scream.
There is also a high-pitched jayer-jayer call that increases in speed as the bird becomes more agitated. Blue Jays will use these calls to band together to drive a predator such as a hawk away from their nest.
Blue Jays also have a quiet, almost subliminal call which they use among themselves in close proximity. In fact, they can make a large variety of sounds, and individuals may vary perceptibly in their calling style.
As with other blue-hued birds, the Blue Jay's coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a Blue Jay feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed. This is referred to as structural coloration.
The Blue Jay is the provincial bird of Prince Edward Island and gave its name to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.
Blue Jays in captivity are generally aggressive toward other birds. They tend to bond to one or two people and attack all others.
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