Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

Copyright, Brian Small

Blue Jays are one of our most easily recognized birds. They are bright blue with black and white markings. They grow to about 12 inches long. Blue Jays have a crest (pointy feathers on their head).

Blue Jays can be seen in forests, parks, and yards. Basically, you see them anywhere there are oak trees, since acorns are their favorite food.

Blue Jays migrate for the Winter, but we see them year-round in Virginia. Even though our Summer Blue Jays fly south, new ones from the North come in. The opposite is true in the Spring.

Copyright, Dan DesJardin

Washtenaw Audubon Society

Blue Jays build a nest in a tree out of sticks, grass, lichens, moss, rootlets, and paper. They seem to prefer nesting in pine trees. Females lay four to six greenish eggs with brown spots.

The male Blue Jay feeds the female while she sits on the eggs. When young Blue Jays hatch, both parents feed them.

Blue Jays fledge (leave the nest) after about three weeks.

Copyright, R. W. Scott, Birds in Flight

Blue Jays are omnivorous, which means they eat plants and animals. Their favorite food is acorns from oak trees, but some other things they eat are fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, mice, frogs, small birds, eggs, beechnuts, and caterpillars.

To eat a nut, a Blue Jay holds it with its feet while it cracks it open with its bill.

Blue Jays do not like to share. They will chase other birds away from food sources, and they will carry food off and hide it. Many times they do not find their food again later, and this helps new plants grow from the nuts and seeds they lost.

Copyright, Dan Sudia

Blue Jays have an interesting behavior called "anting." When they molt (birds lose feathers as they grow new ones), Blue Jays will pick up ants and rub them on their bodies. We do not know for sure why they do this, but our best guess is that something in the ants soothes their skin as the new feathers come in. Sometimes Blue Jays "ant" with other items, such as rotten fruit.

Blue Jays despise birds of prey, such as hawks and owls. When they see one, they make a great racket. They are also known to chase these larger birds.

Additional Media

Blue Jay Eating Dead Mouse (not for the squeamish) Very Long (32mb)
Video (32mb)
Margaret Kerr
Blue Jay Call
John R. Sauer
Blue Jay Song
John R. Sauer
Blue Jay Coloring Page
Link to Printable Page

Relationships in Nature:


Black Oak

Barred Owl

Eastern White Pine

Black Carpenter Ant

White Oak

Great Horned Owl

Virginia Pine

Evergreen Blackberry D

Willow Oak

Red-tailed Hawk

Loblolly Pine

Black Oak D

American Beech

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Yellow Poplar

White Oak D

Meadow Vole

Black Rat Snake

American Sycamore

American Beech D

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

American Elm

Willow Oak D

Differential Grasshopper

White Oak

Wild Grape D

Common Black Ground Beetle

Black Oak

Highbush Blueberry D

Wild Grape

Black Cherry D

Highbush Blueberry

Black Cherry

Evergreen Blackberry

Wood Frog

Green Stinkbug

Field Cricket

European Gypsy Moth

Dogday Harvestfly

Chinese Mantid

Mourning Dove

Relationship to Humans:

Blue Jays are well-liked by most people. They are beautful birds that are not shy and will nest in a yard. They also control insect populations. Blue Jays will eat huge numbers of tent caterpillars when they leave their tents.

Blue Jays are very protective of their nests and have been known to dive bomb people who get too close. They can also be tamed as pets and will eat out of one's hand.


Cyanocitta cristata


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