Photo Essay

The Beauty of Blue Jays

December Blue Jay

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period. My photos of this handsome bird are all from my back yard in Northeastern Ohio.

Blue Jays are known to take and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but we don't know how common this is. In an extensive study of Blue Jay feeding habits, only 1% of jays had evidence of eggs or birds in their stomachs. Most of their diet was composed of insects and nuts.

The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.

Tool use has never been reported for wild Blue Jays, but captive Blue Jays used strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets from outside their cages.

Blue Jays lower their crests when they are feeding peacefully with family and flock members or tending to nestlings.

The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.

The black bridle across the face, nape, and throat varies extensively and may help Blue Jays recognize one another.

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