The scientific name is Cyanocitta cristata. The bird whose name graces the name of this blog. Blue Jay. It’s about time that I posted something about these amazing creatures. While out and about in the yard the past couple of days, I’ve noticed that blue jays are far more numerous than they have been last year or the years before then. West Nile virus had nearly decimated the entire blue jay population in Northeast Nebraska. Last year was the first time in the past five or so years that I shared my yard with a blue jay family.
This week, I’ve been delighted with entire flocks of them. There’s one dominant bird who has ventured to within a few yards of me when I’m outdoors. He’s camera shy, though, so I’ve had to rely upon public domain photos for this blog post.
I feel sorry for folks who live in areas outside of the geographical range of blue jay habitat. Blue jays are found east of the Rocky Mountains to much of the eastern seaboard from the Mississippi Delta to the mid reaches of the southern Canadian provinces east of Alberta. I suspect the above mentioned blue jay has wintered here because of his familiarity and a strange vibe I pick up from him. Blue jays sometimes migrate and sometimes they don’t. Biologists have studied the birds and can’t find any sort of pattern as to which jays will or won’t fly south for the winter. Those who have migrated one year, might not do so the next, or maybe they will.
Anyhow, this one particular bird comes around and approaches near enough so that I’ve become a bit acquainted with him. At least I think it’s the same bird; they do all look alike to me. I can only recognize this one by his behavior.
Most folks know that blue jays screach a lot. Their call is very noticeable to me. I go outdoors and hear “jay jay…jay jay”. Like anyone else, when I hear my name or nickname, I pay attention. The bird in question will sometimes be present in a nearby tree when I go outside. He’ll say, “jay jay” once. When I look at him, he starts to warble.
Many people don’t know that blue jays can sing beautifully. They only hear the noisy aspect. The best times to hear them sing are early morning and late evening just before sunset. I suspect the song has something to do with mating behavior.
Usually, a singing blue jay will screach like a hawk, call “jay jay”, then fly to a different tree, where it will warble. The jay pumps his whole body up and down during the warbling which might last around a couple of minutes. When the warbling is finished, the bird calls out “jay jay” then flies away. I don’t know if the behavior is that predictable for all the individuals, maybe only that one particular jay.
Blue jays are omnivorous, but lean towards vegetarianism. I’ve noticed they’ll gorge themselves on corn and other grain before eating anything else. They can be like crows and snack on carrion, but they’re usually desperate if that’s the case.
Early this morning I tossed an old chunk of sourdough bread into the yard for the squirrels. When I arrived home from the gym later, I noticed a jay tearing out a portion of the bread to eat. My car startled the bird. It flew to a different part of the yard, then flew into a tree and began warbling then screached its hawk call. How they utilize their voices is a mystery to me. The chunk of bread was grabbed by my alpha male squirrel, so a plan to photograph a blue jay near my living room window has been spoiled. Oh well.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says the oldest blue jay in captivity lived 26 years.