where do blue jay birds live

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Range of Blue JayThe Blue Jay, which occurs from southern Canada south to Texas and Florida, is only a straggler on the open plains. It breeds in the mixed-wood forests of central Alberta, Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba, and from there east through central and southern Ontario to southern Quebec, the island of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. In the northernmost part of its range it may be seen with the Gray Jay Perisoreus canadensis, a bird that breeds much farther north to the tree line. In central Florida the Blue Jay coexists with the Scrub Jay Aphelocoma coerulescens. The Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri replaces the Blue Jay west of the Rockies and is fairly similar in general habits. This bird is the “blue jay” to the people of British Columbia. Prince Edward Island and British Columbia have selected the Blue Jay and the Steller’s Jay, respectively, as their provincial birds. The Blue Jay is partially migratory, withdrawing several hundred kilometres in some winters from the extreme northern parts of its range. It migrates quietly by day, usually in loose flocks of 5 to 50 or more. Occasionally up to 3 000 migrants have been seen in one day at Point Pelee National Park where Blue Jays congregate before crossing Lake Erie.

Canadian Wildlife Federation, Wild About Birds posterPrint resources Bent, A.C. 1964. Life histories of North American jays, crows, and titmice. Dover Publications, Inc., New York. Cruickshank, H. 1964. Thoreau on birds. McGraw-Hill, Toronto. Godfrey, W.E. 1986. The birds of Canada. Revised edition. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa. Lansdowne, J.F., and J.A. Livingston. 1970. Birds of the eastern forest. Volume II. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. Long, W.J. 1957. Wings of the forest. Doubleday and Co, Garden City, N.Y. Potter, E.F. 1970. Anting in wild birds, its frequency and probable purpose. Auk 87:692–713. Salt, W.R., and A.L. Wilk. 1966. The birds of Alberta. Queen’s Printer, Edmonton. Stokes, D.W. 1979. A guide to bird behaviour. Volume 1. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 1973, 1986, 1991. All rights reserved. Catalogue number CW69-4/22-1991E ISBN 0-662-14485-6 Text: Robert W. Nero Revision: Robert W. Nero, 1991 Photo: Tony Beck

From the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail, the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) measures about 30 centimeters, making it slightly larger than an American Robin. This bird has a white face and blue wings, tail, crest, and back. It is heavily marked in black and white. Male and female Blue Jays are very similar in appearance. Many jays have an elongated crown of feathers called a crest, which can be raised or lowered depending on the bird’s mood. The crest may fully extend during episodes of intense agitation and aggression, forming a noticeable peak. The Blue Jay points forward when it is extremely startled or delighted. The bird’s crest bristles out like a bottle brush when it gets scared. A black band that crosses over the back of the head and continues as a broad band or necklace across the chest highlights the Blue Jay’s crest position when it is erect. But the crest is laid flat on top of the head when the bird is feeding among other jays, when it is about to flee, or when it is quietly resting, giving the bird a very different and somewhat messy appearance. The scientific name of the Blue Jay is “crested, blue chattering bird,” which is an appropriate description. It is derived from Greek and Latin words. The blue jay is a member of the Corvidae family of crows, which is made up of 100 closely related species, such as magpies, jackdaws, ravens, and rooks. Some of these species are the largest Passeriformes (perching songbirds) members of the order. The family is found all over the world, but it is most prevalent in the northern hemisphere. These birds originate from a very old lineage; 25 million-year-old fossilized corvid remains have been found in Miocene deposits.

Signs and sounds: In eastern North America, the sound of the blue jay’s call is recognizable in the woods. It frequently does so for no apparent reason, but it lets out loud cries to alert other birds and mammals to an impending predator. The most distinctive sound of the Blue Jay, according to writer Henry David Thoreau of the 19th century, is a “unrelenting steel-cold scream,” which has been variously translated as “thief,” “jay,” and “peer.” In actuality, blue jays have a wide range of other calls. One of their most melodic is a mellow whistle called kloo-loo-loo. They also softly deliver a song that is a continuous, sweet warbling that is heard during courtship. The Blue Jay’s seemingly effortless flight allows one to identify it from a distance. It flies with its body and tail held level and slow, distinctly noticeable wing movements that propel it forward at a good clip.

The Blue Jay constructs a large, roughly 18 cm in diameter nest made of tiny twigs and a variety of additional materials, including paper, lichens, moss, and grass. Both sexes assist in constructing the nest and tending to the young. The mud-shaped inner cup of the nest, which has a diameter of approximately 10 cm, is lined with tiny rootlets and feathers. As part of their courtship ritual, the birds construct multiple partially constructed nests before constructing the final one. The nests are located in trees or shrubs 3 to 10 meters above the ground. The blue jay often builds its nests in populated areas, occasionally near structures. Even close to its nest, the Blue Jay can be silent and inconspicuous during the nesting season, particularly in the more isolated areas of its range. The Blue Jay engages in courtship feeding, as do many other species where the male provides food to the female while she is perched on the nest. This starts before the construction of the nest and continues with the laying of the eggs and their incubation, or heating until they hatch. The female who is incubating is sometimes fed on the nest, but more often than not, she goes to a nearby tree to join her mate, adopts a juvenile’s begging posture, and is then fed. Although some group displays involving multiple jays hopping stiff-legged from branch to branch have been reported, not much more is known about their courtship behaviors. A clutch, or group of eggs, consists of four or five eggs. The color of the eggs varies from clutch to clutch, ranging from buffy to greenish or bluish, with brown spots and blotches. Incubation of the eggs lasts from 16 to 18 days. When they first hatch, the young are completely helpless and naked, but they can raise their heads and open their mouths to accept food from the parent bird when they sense certain cues, like the thump of another bird landing on the nest’s edge. They are fully feathered and prepared to leave the nest after seventeen days. By the time they are 21 days old, they are typically fledged—out of the nest and on the wings. After about three weeks, they start looking for food on their own, but they still follow their parents and get fed every once in a while for another month or two, and sometimes even up until they are four months old.


Where are blue jays most commonly found?

The Blue Jay is common in much of eastern and central North America, and this adaptable species continues to extend its range to the Northwest. It’s usually found in pairs, family groups, or small flocks. Four subspecies of Blue Jay are recognized, with only subtle differences distinguishing them.

What states are blue jays found in?

The blue jay occurs from southern Canada (including the southern areas of provinces from Alberta eastward to Quebec and throughout the Atlantic provinces) and throughout the eastern and central United States south to Florida and northeastern Texas.

Where do blue jay build their nests?

Nest Placement Blue Jays build their nests in the crotch or thick outer branches of a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Male and female both gather materials and build the nest, but on average male does more gathering and female more building.

Where do blue jays go in the winter?

Most blue jays in the Northeast stay in the same area year-round. An analysis of data from 8,000 recaptures of almost 102,000 banded blue jays from three northeastern states found that 89% of the population was non-migratory, while 11% travelled to southeastern states for the winter.