Blue Jay: Villain or Hero?
These handsome and noisy birds are often maligned as “egg stealers,” because they are thought to seek out and feed on both the eggs and nestlings of other birds.
Being birds of forest edges, blue jays adapt well to urban settings, but also are attracted to the edges created by rural logging operations. As blue jays gain more access into the formerly heavy forest, whose isolation once provided predator protection for many songbirds, some fear nest predation of those smaller birds may increase. Authorities, however, seem divided on whether blue jays pose a threat to songbird populations.
While the verdict may yet be out on the threat blue jays pose to songbirds, we do know they feed heavily on acorns, including hiding them beneath leaf litter for future use. These hiding places are usually at some distance from the mature oaks from which they were obtained and at a depth ideal for germination (unlike squirrels that bury the acorns too deeply). Some of these cached acorns are lost by the jays, germinate, and grow into trees. Blue jays, as a result of dispersing acorns, not only help oaks reproduce successfully, but also create the habitat needed for future generations of blue jays and many other bird and mammal species as well.
For some people, blue jays are strikingly beautiful, highly intelligent, noisy, and desirable birds welcomed at bird feeders. For others, whether rightly or wrongly, blue jays are unwelcomed villains that sometimes eat other birds' eggs and nestlings.
Blue jays may mimic the calls of hawks, perhaps to drive possible competitors from bird feeders and other sources of food.
Blue jays appear to be expanding their range westward into the Great Plains states because of increased numbers of people who feed birds.
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Key ID Features: Slightly larger than a robin. Rich blues above marked with whites and blacks, black facial markings. Has prominent crest.
Present in Park: Year-round, although local populations move south and are replaced by jays from further north.
Habitat: Prefer oak forests; have adapted well to urban life. Nests are bowl-shaped and made of twigs located in trees, often pines.
Did You Know?
The Mississippi River is approximately three feet deep at its headwaters at Lake Itasca and has an average surface speed of 1.2 miles per hour.