This elegant songbird is a resident of the far abroad. The blue jay is cunning, nosy and strikingly artistic - easily imitating any sounds, distracting the attention of other birds from the discovered food.
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Description of blue jay
The bird, together with the Steller black-headed blue jay, represents the genus Cyanocitta (blue jays), a member of the corvidae family... A distinctive feature of the species is a long, bright blue crest, thanks to which the bird is called blue and crested, or, taking into account the range, the North American jay.
Due to pronounced sexual dimorphism, males are traditionally larger than females, but the difference between the sexes does not apply to coloration - the upper plumage of males and females casts a bright blue color.
It is interesting! Those who held the jay in their hands claim that the blue color is just an optical illusion. Light is refracted in the inner structure of the feathers, giving them a blue glow that disappears as soon as the feather falls out.
Adult blue jays grow up to 25–29 cm (with a tail equal to 11–13 cm) without stretching more than 70–100 g. The wingspan of a blue jay approaches 34–43 centimeters. The crest is either bright blue or violet-blue. The feathers under the tuft are painted black. The bridle, beak and circular outline around the eyes are painted in the same color. The throat, cheeks and underside of the body are gray-white.
The edges of the tail are white, with bright white spots visible on the wings / tail. The North American jay has blue tail and flight feathers, which are crossed by black transverse stripes. The bird has black and shiny eyes, dark gray legs and a strong beak, with which it easily splits seeds enclosed in a hard shell.
Character and lifestyle
Mark Twain once joked that blue jays are called birds only because they have plumage and do not attend church. Otherwise, they strongly resemble people: they also cheat, swear and deceive at every step.
It is interesting! The blue jay often mimics the loud cry of a hawk to ward off its food competitors, including Florida bush jays, woodpeckers, starlings, and gray squirrels, from the forest feeder. True, this trick does not last long: after a short time, the misled neighbors return.
Crested jays have an active social life, which is not limited to pair unions. In addition, birds form family groups or small flocks, communicating with each other by voice or body language, or rather, with the help of their beautiful crest. The feathers of the crest, directed forward, tell about surprise or excitement, about the accumulated anger - its vertical position.
When frightened, the tuft puffs up like a dishwashing brush... The blue jay is the consummate onomatopoeic. Her singing arsenal contains numerous sounds, once overheard in nature, ranging from quiet melodies to the creak of a rusty pump.
The jay is capable of whistling, shrill screaming (imitating predatory birds), imitating bells ringing, squealing (warning of danger), barking, meowing or bleating. A caged jay quickly learns to reproduce human speech. Jays do not just notify all forest dwellers about the approach of the enemy: often birds unite to attack him with a united front.
From July to September, adult North American jays molt, with young animals the first molt occurs at the end of summer. During the moulting period, they, like many birds, arrange a procedure called anting: they bathe in an anthill or stuff ants under their feathers. This is how the birds get rid of parasites. Most of the blue jays living in the north of the species range fly away to winter in the southern regions. For flights, which are usually done before dark, birds gather in large (up to 3 thousand individuals) and small (5-50 individuals) flocks.
Blue jays occupy almost half of the North American continent, inhabiting mainly the eastern regions of the United States and Canada. The range of the crested jay, named in the homeland of Blue Jay, extends to the Gulf of Mexico. In western North America, the habitat of the blue jay is closely related to the range of a related species, the Steller black-headed blue jay.
Currently, 4 subspecies of the crested jay are described, distinguished, among other things, by the area of their distribution:
- Cyanocitta cristata bromia - inhabits Newfoundland, Northern Canada, North Dakota, Missouri and Nebraska,
- Cyanocitta cristata cyanotephra - Found in Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas
- Cyanocitta cristata cristata - lives in Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and Texas,
- Cyanocitta cristata semplei - lives in the northern regions of Florida.
The North American jay prefers to settle in deciduous forests, more often in mixed (oak and beech), but sometimes, especially in the west of the range, it settles in dense bushes or dry pine forests. The jay is not afraid of humans and does not hesitate to build nests in residential areas, where there are park and garden areas. Birds living in the north of the range are larger than their “southern” relatives.
Blue jay diet
The eating behavior of the crested jay testifies to its omnivorousness, impudence (it takes food away from other birds) and lack of disgust (it eats carrion).
The diet of the blue jay consists of both plant (up to 78%) and animal feed (22%):
- acorns and berries,
- seeds and fruits,
- beech nuts,
- grasshoppers and caterpillars,
- beetles, spiders and centipedes,
- chicks and bird eggs,
- mice, frogs and lizards.
Jays that stay at home for the winter store food by pushing acorns / seeds under the bark or fallen leaves, as well as burying them in the ground.
It is interesting! At one time, the bird is able to bring five acorns to the winter pantry, three of which it keeps in the crop, the fourth in its mouth, and the fifth in its beak. During the fall, one blue jay harvests up to 3-5 thousand acorns.
Reproduction and offspring
The mating season begins as soon as warmth comes to the forest: in the north of the range, it is usually May-June. In southern birds, breeding occurs twice a year. During this period, noisy jays calm down so as not to give out their nesting places to the predator. The nest is built by both parents, breaking off the rods that go to the frame directly from the growing trees. The nest is usually located in the fork in the lateral branches of coniferous / deciduous trees at a height of at least 3–10 m.
The frame (up to 20 cm in diameter and up to 10 cm in height) is compacted with roots and twigs that jays find nearby, in ditches and next to trees. Birds often "cement" building materials with earth or clay, lining the bottom with lichen, wool, grass, leaves, paper and even rags.
Before the construction of the main nest is completed, several additional jays are erected - this is part of the mating ritual. Another essential element of courting a female is her feeding. She sits on a branch, imitating a hungry chick, and accepts food from a male flying up to her.
It is interesting! The female lays 2 to 7 eggs (yellow-green or bluish with brown spots), incubating them for 16–18 days. The blue jay is able to permanently leave the nest if it is discovered by a predator.
Newborns are helpless and blind. The parents not only feed and guard them, but also heat and clean them. On the fifth day, the chicks open their eyes, on the eighth, the first plumage breaks through.
The mother flies away in search of food when the offspring are 8-12 days old... A day or three before independent departure, the chicks already travel along the branches, but do not leave the nest further than 4.5 m. The brood leaves the parental nest for 17-21 days, not moving away more than 20 m. parents until the fall, finally breaking off family ties by the winter.
Population and status of the species
North American jays are beneficial by eliminating forest pests (beetles, weevils, and caterpillars) and by spreading seeds / acorns. But the harm from these birds is considerable - they annually destroy the nests of small birds, pecking out their eggs and killing chicks.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red Book lists the blue jay as “the species of least concern” as it is currently not threatened.