19 Incredible Blue Jay Facts

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are colorful and noisy birds belonging to the crow family, Corvidae. They may look nice, but they are clever hunters that have some fascinating facts that you need to know.

1. Blue Jays Scream like a Hawk

Blue Jays are able to mimic the scream of hawks such as the Red-shouldered Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk to scare away other birds from feeding areas.

Listen to the audio recording of a Blue Jay imitating a hawk and then going back to their usual calls.

Credit: Bobby Wilcox, XC475010. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/475010.

2. Blue Jays ABSOLUTELY Love Acorns!

One of the most famous Fun Facts about Blue Jays is that they absolutely LOVE acorns. They live among oak trees, where their source of food is abundant. With their strong bill, they can crack the hard shells with ease. 

They love acorns so much that they’re known to hoard them and store them for winter.  There have been studies where individual blue jays have hoarded as many as 3,000 acorns each over a period of twenty-eight days. That’s like 100 acorns a day!

 Acorns are not the only seeds they bury.  They also love beech nuts, peanuts, and any hard shell nuts they have access to. 

3. Blue Jays Eat Baby Birds

Blue Jays are omnivores and will raid the nest of smaller bird species and eat their eggs and the baby birds. Studies have shown that they are one of the main culprits of songbird nest predation.

They even destroy more eggs than hawks!

They eat the eggs and young of other birds as an easy and nutritious source of food during the breeding season. This will be a big meal, instead of hunting out lots of little seeds.

Blue Jays have been increasing in population and that may be part of the problem of the decline of songbirds due to the number of eggs and young that they eat.

4. Blue Jays are Monogamous

Another interesting fact about Blue Jays is that they are Monogamous, or they mate for life.  Unlike other birds that gain new partners during breeding seasons, Blue Jays stick with one partner for life. 

Males are loyal and take their role seriously, too.  Most female birds build their nests on their own. However, male Blue Jays help build the nests with their partner.  They both collect the material, and they put the nest together. 

Once the female Blue Jay starts to lay her eggs, the male Blue Jay will feed her and guard their territory. When you have Blue Jays in your backyard, it would be wise to keep a safe distance from them as they can be aggressive and territorial when guarding their family.  

5. Blue Jays Are so Intellegent They Use Tools!

Blue Jay for identification

If you think about it, hoarding nuts for the winter is already a sign of intelligence in Blue Jays. However, there are other indications that Blue Jays are more Intelligent than your regular birds.

For instance, they have been observed to use tools like strips of newspaper to bring their food closer.  They also know how to manipulate locks in cages in order to escape. 

They also developed the virtue of patience, like when they wait for people to finish their food before swooping to eat leftovers or when they wait for farmers to finish planting seeds before they come and pick off ones that are lying about. 

They even select the best nuts to hoard and bury for food. When examined, researchers discovered that of the many nuts that Blue Jays have hidden, only 10% of these are not viable seeds. 

6. Blue Jays Engage in an “Anting” Ritual 

Yes, you read that right, “anting”. It’s a Blue Jay behavior where they capture an ant and rub it against their feathers, hoping that it secretes the formic acid that makes them taste bitter.  Once the formic acid is released, it is thought that it acts as an antiparasitic ointment on a Blue Jay’s feathers. 

Other birds stay away from ants because of their bitter taste, thanks to the formic acid. 

Since the ant no longer contains this formic acid, it only means that it has become a tasty morsel for the Blue Jay. 

Researchers have also found out that when the Blue Jays grab an ant, they do it so carefully that they don’t crush the ant’s stomach, preserving all the good and tasty nutrients in it. This is another example of how intelligent a Blue Jay is!

7. Blue Jays Aren’t BLUE

No, it’s not a joke! The color “blue” that you see on Blue Jays, and on any blue animal for that matter, is an optical illusion. There is No Blue. 

It’s like when you see a Red Cardinal, and you know that its feather is Red because, upon further inspection, the feather has actual red pigments. When you crush a red feather, it will remain red. 

It’s not the case with a Blue Jay’s feather. When you crush it, it will turn brown. It is because of “light scattering”. A Blue Jay’s feathers have air pockets that absorb all colors except blue, and that’s what you see. But when you disrupt these air pockets, only the melanin remains because there is no light to reflect back and no color Blue to display. 

8. Blue Jays are Especially Good Mimics

Blue Jays are notorious for being noisy birds. That’s why maybe they’re referred to as a “party” because they are often in communication with other birds.  

They have many distinctive calls, chirps, screeches depending on the situation. But one special talent that Blue Jays have is their ability to mimic the calls of other birds.  They are known to mimic the sound of hawks, cats, owls. 

They may mimic these animals to warn other Blue Jays of their presence, sort of a danger call or alert, or they do it to fool other birds into thinking that these animals are around and scare these birds off their territory.

9. Blue Jays Fly Slow

Blue Jays have a wingspan of 16 in (41 cm).  Its known flight speed is only between 20 to 25 mph. That’s really slow compared to a duck’s speed of 60 mph. 

Granted that most other birds of the same class as Blue Jays have the same average speed, Blue Jays are slower than hawks, their main predator.  They are at a disadvantage when faced with this adversary.

Maybe that’s why they have learned to mimic a hawk’s voice to warn others so they don’t need to outrun it, and they only have to hide from it. 

10. Male and Female Blue Jays Look the Same

If you have noticed, many male birds are bright, colorful, and often have shiny feathers, and the females are a bit drab and dull compared to their counterparts.

With Blue Jays, you can hardly distinguish males from females because they look alike.  This is called “sexual monomorphism”.  It’s hard to tell them apart unless you observe their behavior.

During courting, groups of males will imitate a female’s actions. When she flies, they follow.  When she lands, they do, too. During nesting, it’s the female who incubates the eggs and not the males. Knowing these traits will help you distinguish between Male and Female Blue Jays.

11. Blue Jays Shake Peanuts to Weigh Them

blue jay

Peanuts are a favorite snack for Blue Jays, but they only want the best!

So they shake the peanuts in their shells to listen to the sound and feel the weight of the nut to check it is ripe and good for eating.

They also choose the heaviest nut and often fly away with it and add it to their cache for eating later.

12. Blue Jays are Territorial and Aggressive

Blue Jays have a tendency to be territorial and aggressive. They become aggressive in self-defense when they’re being attacked by predators, like hawks and eagles. Who wouldn’t be if it meant you have to protect yourself from certain death.

They will also fight to defend their family. Whether it’s from predators or from other birds “stealing” their food at the feeders, they will attack and stake their territory to protect what they perceive to be theirs. If they think that other birds are trying to take food that’s meant for their young or even for themselves, they will chase these birds away. 

Humans who may stay too close at the bird feeders or who they perceive to be looking at their nests too closely may also find themselves being subjected to territorial aggression.

Pay attention to their vocal warnings, so you don’t aggravate the situation. 

13. Blue Jays are a Good Omen

Blue Jays are often viewed as a symbol of loyalty and fidelity. Maybe it’s because they mate for life. People see the loyalty in Blue Jays and maybe want to emulate their behavior or wish that it will be the same in their lives.

Also, finding a Blue Jays feather means something good will happen in your life. It sometimes represents healing and self-care. 

14. Blue Jays Get Scared

While some people view Blue Jays as the aggressors, Blue Jays do actually get scared.

Of what?

Well, of bigger and faster predators.  For instance, bigger and faster birds, like owls and hawks, are a definite fearsome presence to Blue Jays. Their alarm call when predators are about loud and show their fear.

Cats are also natural predators, so if you want Blue Jays to leave your backyard, feel free to let your cat loose. 

15. Blue Jays are Omnivores

We mentioned that Blue Jays love acorns, but that’s not their only food. They also eat seeds, fruits, and grains. What’s more, they eat animals, too! They favor mice and frogs and are known to steal and eat other birds’ eggs and young. 

16. Blue Jays and Ravens are Related

Although they may not look alike Blue Jays and Ravens are both members of the ‘crow’ family.

Whilst most crows are black, Blue Jays are their bright cousins. They may look more similar to magpies, which are also in the same family but the large raven is something of a surprise.

17. They are the Mascot of the Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays have been the mascot for the Toronto Blue Jays, a major baseball league team since 1976.  The name was chosen as part of a “Name the Team” contest from among thousands of suggestions.

Apparently, the story goes that it was the tradition that the team has a “Blue” color in its name. Also, with other baseball teams named after birds, it sort of made sense to go with the flow, hence “Blue Jays.

18. Blue Jays Repopulate Oak Trees in Forests

Can you just imagine the amount of acorn nuts that Blue Jays hoard and bury in woodland forests?  Can you imagine just how many of those they actually retrieve to eat and how many are left behind, undisturbed?

That is the main reason why several woodland forests have been brought back to life. They have a symbiotic relationship with oak trees. 

Acorn nuts that remain buried slowly and over time grow to be new oak trees! Barren forests have been given new life because Blue Jays have stored their acorn nuts in the ground. Blue Jays eat acorns and bury them to give birth to new Oak Trees. Isn’t that great?

19. Blue Jays Migrate in Their Thousands But Only Sometimes – Confused so is Everyone!

Blue Jays like to keep their migration a mystery, and people have been trying to work it out for years without success. Some years thousands of them migrate from around the Great Lakes, and some years they don’t.

It is not clear what causes them to migrate as they may migrate one year and not the next, and adults or young may migrate. It keeps changing, but one day scientists will hopefully work it out.