Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bird Profile: Blue Jay

Blue Jay
This majestic bird is loud and raucous, and you probably notice it most early in the morning as it calls loudly outside your window long before you want to open your eyes. While you may want to pull your pillow over your head and go back to sleep, I recommend taking a peek outside your room to observe this intelligent and stunningly beautiful creature. First of all, it is BLUE. Not just dull primary color blue---no, this bird is part metallic blue, part iridescent blue, part sutble-yet-eye-catching blue. It boasts black and white accents around its face, as well as beautiful black stripes on its wing and tail feathers (known as flight feathers). It also has a "mohawk", known as a crest in the bird world.

The Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, is in the Corvid family, which means it is related to Crows and Ravens--highly intelligent birds. Blue Jays have "complex social systems with tight family bonds", according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website ( You will often see them in groups flying between trees or following each other to their next feeding site. Blue Jays eat acorns and are helpful in dispersing oak trees due to their caching behavior (they bury thousands of acorns to save for later, but they don't come back for all of them so many of them germinate). They also eat insects as well as other seeds.

 Cool Facts about Blue Jays:
1. The pigment in their feathers is actually brown, but the miniscule barbs that keep the feathers hooked together (see photo) have modified cells on their surface that scatter the light instead of absorbing it, so the color we see is blue.

The feather structure of a Blue Jay feather up close. Feathers  are actually made up of many compound structures that "zip" together to form a flexible yet durable surface.

2. Blue Jays are long-lived. The oldest known Blue Jay in the wild lived to be at least 17 and a half years old. That's how old your little brother is! (Or could be).

3. Blue Jays use their crests to send messages about how they are feeling. When they are agitated or alert, their crest is raised high. If they are tending to their nest or associating with their mates and family, their crest is relaxed on their head.

For more information on Blue Jays, go to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website "All About Birds".

All information taken from

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