Monday, January 16, 2012

Species Profile: Blue Jay

Blue Jays are a common, and commonly recognized, bird species throughout the eastern US.  They are an inhabitant of deciduous and mixed deciduous/coniferous forests throughout most of NY.

Their moderate size, bright blue coloration, and loud voices make them hard to miss along woodland trails or at  a backyard bird feeder.  And though they're typically deemed a bully by many backyard birding enthusiasts, there's so much more to know, and admire, about the Blue Jay.

Interesting facts about the Blue Jay:

  • Like their cousins, the crows, Blue Jays are exceptionally intelligent and have strong family bonds.
  • Blue Jays are renowned for their ability to imitate the sounds of hawks, especially Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks.
  • Their loud "jay!, jay!, jay!" calls are familiar to many people and are also recognized by other species of wildlife, earning Blue Jays the nickname "Alarm of the forest".
  • The Blue Jay's coloration is not from pigmentation in its feathers.  The blue coloration is refracted sunlight cast back to our eyes as a blue color.
  • Blue Jays are partial migrants.  The Blue Jays you see in your yard in winter are likely to be winter visitors from somewhere further north - "your" Blue Jays have mostly likely migrated south and will eventually return as Spring approaches.  Individual Blue Jays have been known to migrate in some years but not in others.  Large groups of migrating Blue Jays are a common sight around the Great Lakes and near the Atlantic coast in Fall and Spring.

Attracting Blue Jays:
Bird feeders are a good start.  From Fall through early Spring, Blue Jays are attracted to feeding stations offering black oil sunflower and peanuts (their favorite).  Commercial and homemade suet blends are also a preferred food choice for Blue Jays during especially cold days.

Breeding and nesting Blue Jays will use a variety of tree species to construct a stick nest high in the crotch of a tree.  Availability of a variety of insects, fruit, seeds, and nuts would likely increase the chances of Blue Jays nesting in your backyard.

Record and report your Blue Jay sightings during the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count.  And submit your bird sightings from anywhere, anytime at eBird.org

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist
Westmoreland Sanctuary

Sources:
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/lifehistory/ac
Birds of Ohio Field Guide by Stan Tekiela

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