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Species Description

Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae

Description

Upper parts blue; white wing bar; black barring on the wings and tail; white on the tips of the outer tail feathers; white to gray underparts with a black band below its neck. 28 cm (11 in) in length. The Blue Jay has a crested head. Like many other jays, the Blue Jay can mimic the calls of many other birds, including the Red-shouldered Hawk, causing even an experienced birder to give it a second listen.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-March, peaks in mid-April to May, and extends into July. The adults build a cup-shaped nest approximately 1.5-6 m (5-20 feet) high, preferably in an evergreen tree. The nest is built of twigs, small roots, bark strips, moss, other plant material, cloth, paper, and feathers, with occasional mud added to the cup. The female lays 3-7 (usually 4-5) eggs that she incubates for 16-18 days. The male feeds the female while she is incubating. The young are altricial and fledge 17-21 days after hatching. After the juveniles fledge, the family travels and forages together until early fall.

Natural History

Habitat preferences for this species includes a variety of forested situations from mature forest to more urban or open wooded areas. The diet of the Blue Jay is also highly variable, including fruits, acorns, nuts, seeds, insects, small vertebrates, carrion, bird eggs, and bird nestlings. The Blue Jay is a common bird at bird feeders, and frequents urban areas.

Range

Blue Jay Region Map The Blue Jay occurs throughout most of the eastern United States all year. Most populations are non-migratory except those in the extreme northern populations that migrate south, but still remain within the United States. It is common throughout the Southeast, except in the upper elevations where it is fairly common. In Georgia, it is common to abundant through most of the state, except in the mountains. Wintering populations are smaller than the breeding populations within the state.

Conservation Status

Increasing fragmentation of forests gives the Blue Jay increasing opportunity to find other birds nests. Although it isn't thought to be a primary cause of eastern songbird decline, its attack on smaller birds' nests add to the plight of those species. This species is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of its southeastern range.

Similar Species

In the Southeast, the Blue Jay is the only crested jay. The most similar species is the Florida Scrub Jay. The Florida Scrub Jay is mostly blue in color, but lacks the crest of the Blue Jay. The Florida Scrub Jay lacks the distinctive white barring on the wings and tail and has a very limited population in peninsular Florida.