Birding…Blue Jay

by Larry Czajkoski

Blue Jays are smart, adaptable, and noisy birds.  No other eastern bird is blue and crested, making the blue jay almost unmistakable.  Males and females are similar showing a crest with black barring and white patches on blue wings and tail, and a black necklace on white under parts.  

Besides the standard jay jay jay or jeer jeer call often used as a scold, blue jays also emit a variety of squeaks, rattles, croaks, and a musical weedle-eedle, in addition to mimicking other birds’ calls.  In fact, they will often mimic the call of a red-tailed or red-shouldered hawk as they approach a bird feeder; an apparent attempt to scare other birds away from the food.  Blue jays are a common feeder visitor attracted to suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.  A source of water is highly attractive to them, too.

As is evident by the large numbers of blue jays in our area, like this one I photographed near Apple Valley, blue jays are common in wooded habitats, especially those with oaks.  Indeed the blue jay has a special relationship with oaks, burying as many as a few thousand acorns in fall caches for future consumption.  Blue jays will carry as many as five acorns at a time in their throat and bill to the cache site, drop them in a pile, and bury them one at a time.  Many of these acorns are never retrieved, so jays are credited with helping with forest generation.  If you hear a sound in the woods that is loud and bold, chances are good that it’s coming from a blue jay….You will almost always hear one, and then see it.

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