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Blue Jays—Clever Mimics of the Bird World

Male Blue Jay

male blue jay
male blue jay

Short Video of Blue Jay Sounding Like a Hawk

Clever Mimics

The other morning I followed the sound of what I thought to be a baby hawk, possibly in distress. Walking deeper into the woods as quietly as I could, I stopped often to home in on the insistent sounds. I hoped to catch a glimpse of a juvenile hawk, or at least the nesting site.

I finally reached the spot where the hawk sounds were the loudest. However, much to my surprise it was not a red-shouldered hawk that flew out of the tree, but a blue jay uttering the same shrill but nasal ‘keyeer, keeyeer’! It was then I knew I had been fooled by one of the best and most versatile mimics in the bird world.

Blue Jay eyeing seeds in the squirrel baffle/seed catcher tray
Blue Jay eyeing seeds in the squirrel baffle/seed catcher tray | Source

By sounding like a hawk, blue jays easily scatter other birds at the feeder. This gives them the freedom to dine at their leisure with little to no competition. They also have their own form of insect control. Did you know that blue jays often comb their feathers with ants? Presumably they are using the insects to catch and remove lice and other irritating parasites. Very clever birds!

Extensive Repertoire of the Blue Jay from LesleytheBirdNerd

For at least 15 years now, every Spring there is a very special blue jay that comes to my feeder. This jay has always imitated the sound of an old rotary phone being dialed. It is a very unique sound. I must admit that I look forward to hearing it again every year. I know that jays are long-lived, and my phone dialer is the proof!

Mating Behavior

In addition to being raucous and sometimes aggressive, blue jays can be gentle and quiet. I watched as two males vied for the attention of a beautiful soft gray-blue female. They each flew from branch to branch cooing softly and trying to get closer to her. Then one male would fly upwards engaging the female to do the same. The pair gently floated downwards in a spiral of unfurled wings, landing on the ground and then retreating to separate branches.

This happened several times as each male took turns trying to impress the female with body bobbing and soft comforting sounds. All three flew off together to another spot in the woods to repeat the same dance. I can only imagine how long it took that female to finally decide which male blue jay was to be her mate. It was fun and fascinating to watch.

Signature Call and Mate Attracting Softer Calls of the Blue Jay

Blue jay nests incorporate bits of thread, and all kinds of found objects.  They love to decorate!
Blue jay nests incorporate bits of thread, and all kinds of found objects. They love to decorate! | Source
Blue jays love bread, crackers, any day-old bakery items!
Blue jays love bread, crackers, any day-old bakery items! | Source

Masters of Stealth

Blue Jays are very secretive when it comes to building nests. They use alternate routes and decoy locations so that no predator can easily follow them to the nesting site. They love shiny objects and will often incorporate bits of foil wrappers into their loose twig nests. They like a well-decorated home as much as we humans do! There will be as few as three or as many as seven olive-green eggs covered with brown spots.

Burying stores of food to be unearthed later when food sources are scarce is another tactic employed by these large 11” to 12” birds. Their favorites are sunflower seeds, peanuts, cracked corn, pieces of stale bread or baked goods, suet and berries. They are also fond of other birds’ eggs, so it is a good idea to provide protection in the way of bird houses and nesting boxes.

Blue Jays visit the bird feeders frequently in the winter time.  I occasionally add peanuts as a treat for them.  That gives them additional oils that help their feathers stay in tip-top shape; and the fats maintain warmth and energy levels.
Blue Jays visit the bird feeders frequently in the wintertime. I occasionally add peanuts as a treat for them. That gives them additional oils that help their feathers stay in tip-top shape; and the fats maintain warmth and energy levels. | Source

Colorful and Familiar

Sometimes here in the northeast, if the Winter is relatively mild, our blue jays will stay and frequent the feeders. It is so nice to see their beautiful blue coloring against the white snow. Jays have a white face, black collar, blue wings and back with a blue tail trimmed with white and black feathers. Their distinctive blue crest will give a hint as to what they are feeling. For instance, when they are calm their crest will be flattened. On the other hand, if they are in an aggressive mood, the crest will be pointed forward.

When both colorful cardinals and blue jays appear on a grey, snow-covered day, it is a sight that helps the winter months seem not quite so long. It is no wonder that they are very often depicted on holiday greeting cards!

Fledgling Blue Jay Begging For Food.
Fledgling Blue Jay Begging For Food. | Source

My clever blue jays never cease to amaze me with their beauty, aggressive raucousness and mimicry. I enjoy watching them grab a bite to eat at the feeders before winging their way easily and gracefully through our woods. They will be back many times during the day with their now familiar ‘keeyeer’ to scatter the smaller birds--self-proclaimed kings and queens of the backyard bird feeder!

Do You Think Blue Jays are Bully Birds?

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Comments 24 comments

aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 5 years ago from Puttaparthi, India

Your comment led me to this beautiful bird! That's a wonderful study. I have photographed the blue Jay in my place too in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. Its also called the Indian roller and though beautiful, it is different from the blue jay you have pictured. Hope the Indian Blue Jays are also great mimics. I have to find him again and study him. Thank you for the inspiration


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

This is fascinating to me. I didn't know about the Indian blue jay. Thanks so much for sharing. Here it is often thought of as a 'bully bird' partly because of its size. When it lands at the feeder, all the other birds naturally scatter. But I still think it is a beauty.


Apostle Jack profile image

Apostle Jack 4 years ago from Atlanta Ga

Your story bring to my thoughts about the blue jay that comes to a place in my yard where I feed the birds and squirrels and such,and they are a wonderful sight.They eat a little and then get a mouthful and take off in the woods.They return again and again,as do the red bird and the sparrow.The baby birds are a greater amazement to me because of their small intellect. Voted up and awesome.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

I am so glad you stopped by, Apostle Jack. We seem to share a great love of nature. I derive so much enjoyment from watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks and the like. Their antics uplift my soul. I am glad they find our yards appealing and useful. Thank you for the Vote and your inspiring words.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Interesting,beautiful,awesome and up for this one again. I am also saving these hubs as some of my favourite.Thank you so much for this wonderfully written articles Pearl. Great work and here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here.Have a great day.

Eddy.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

We don't get to see these birds here.

They look lovely

Thanks for sharing..


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

So nice to see you Eddy as always! Your supportive and awesome comments make my day. I am touched that these are some of your favorites--we share a love of nature and birds and all things of this Earth and Beyond. It is wonderful to connect to the beautiful spirit that you are, my dear friend. Thank you so much. Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi thumbi7! I am so glad you stopped by and commented. I love my blue jays, and they are indeed beautiful birds. I have one that visits now and then that is almost an aqua color. On several occasions I have attempted to take its picture, but it grabs a piece of food and flies away before I can capture its beauty! I am sure you have some very lovely birds as well. Thank you so much for your visit and comment. They are very much appreciated.


KerryAnita profile image

KerryAnita 4 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

Wow, I just learned a lot about blue jays! I've always thought that they were such pretty birds, but who knew that they were such good impersonators, or used ants to clean themselves! How interesting:)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi KerryAnita! I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. Blue Jays are amazing birds for sure. Even though they are a bit aggressive at the feeders, I love their beautiful colors and their mimicry. They have fooled me more than once with their clever impersonations. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Your visit is very much appreciated.


TheSavvySongbird profile image

TheSavvySongbird 3 years ago

Blue Jays are clever birds! I remember when I first a Blue Jay hopping from peanut to peanut on the deck rail. He would pick one up and then put it down and then move to the next. He would finally decide on one and fly away with it. He would come back a little later and start the process again. At first I was stumped. Then I knew. He was weighing them to find the largest ones!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi TheSavvySongbird! I'm so glad you stopped by and left such a great comment. You know, I've seen them do a greedy thing with pieces of bread. They jam as much into their beaks as possible, and then try for more, especially if there are other birds around! I often make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for them with the 2 end crusts of bread. I cut it up into bird-manageable pieces and watch the fun!

Have a great day :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have the pleasure of seeing Blue Jays bathing in our birdbath in our backyard on a daily basis year round here in Houston. We also have the cardinals, doves and many other birds. We also have mockingbirds who mimic sounds. Up and interesting votes. Nice that you help feed them in the northern winters. They have an easy time foraging for food where we live. Will share this nice hub with my followers.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

Hi grandmapearl,

Thanks for this very informational

And detailed hub. I learned a lot.

Thanks again and Voted up


bridalletter profile image

bridalletter 3 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

I have a pair that always stay around and feed. Last year the wind blue their babies to the grass. I made a nest in an empty plant container and hung it in the tree. Their loudness led the parents back and they fed and cared for them till they flew away. It was an interesting experience.

You have a great image of the jay. The birds are a joy. Thank you for sharing.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

I too, love to watch the beautiful blue jays. I have a few around the house here from time to time. I have never seen one at one of my bird feeders though. I have hung a larger, saucer type bird feeder on the other side of the house with dried bread, scraps for fruit and nuts, but still no blue jays. Maybe once spring is officially here, they will come back again. I enjoyed your hub, voted up and interesting! :)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Peggy! I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. Blue Jays have a bad rap, and they are considered 'bully' birds. I figure it's all part of the natural order of things. But I love their colors and their crazy mimicry. It's great that you can enjoy them year round. Your supportive comments, votes and shares are certainly very much appreciated.

Thank you!

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

torrilynn, so glad you stopped by! I'm pleased you enjoyed this and learned some new things about these beautiful birds. Last year's batch of blue jays yielded a bird that I call my 'whistling jay'. I can always tell when that one is coming close. It has a specialized whistle that I've never heard before. I'm not at all sure where he picked it up, but it is interesting that he has adapted it as his own personal voice.

Your comments and vote are so very much appreciated. Thank you!

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

What a sweet and caring thing you did for the blue jays bridalletter! Most people don't realize that it is a myth about human scent, bird nests and baby birds. You proved that the 'smell' of humans handling birds or their nests does nothing to deter the parents from continuing to care for their young. I give you a big round of applause for saving that nest full of baby blue jays!!

I loved reading about your blue jay experience. You must be a true bird lover, and a kindred spirit ;)

Thank you for commenting and sharing; they are very much appreciated.

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

So glad to see you sg! Aren't they just the most beautiful shades of blue?! Sometimes I can distinguish the males from the females, but not always. There were several at the feeder off and on the other day as I watched them gobbling down the pieces of stale crackers I had provided. It was obvious that 2 of the jays were much more subdued in their coloring, especially on the sides. I'd say it was more of a soft grayish blue. So I'm quite sure they were females.

When blue jays have lots of natural food available, they go for that before they head for the feeders. My blue jays were decidedly absent most of the milder part of the winter this year. But now that it is cold and snowy, they are at the feeders daily.

I'm sure you're right about spring. As soon as nesting is in full swing, they will need the extra boost you have kindly provided for them; and hopefully you will be rewarded for your patience.

Thank you for your votes and your great comments; they are very much appreciated my friend!

Pearl


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

I am birds lovers. I really enjoy reading this hub. Thanks for writing and share with us. You have beautiful picture as well. Voted up!

Prasetio


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

prasetio30, I am so glad you stopped by to enjoy reading about these beautiful and clever birds. Their colors are so vibrant, and their sounds can sometimes be crazy depending upon what they are mimicking! Your supportive comments and votes are so very much appreciated. We bird lovers are kindred spirits I think!

Thank you,

Pearl


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I love Blue Jays! When I lived in Connecticut recently, I visited the park across the street often. One particular area was my favorite. There's a pond, and I like to sit at one of the benches, and feed the animals. I bring bird food (and bread sometimes), and whole peanuts. The ducks, birds and squirrels would all compete for my attention. I always got a kick out of the Blue Jays, because they would swoop down and catch a peanut in mid-air if I threw it. The first time it happened, I was actually trying to throw it to a squirrel, so it caught me off guard!

I have seen you on Bill's site (billybuc), as well as Joe's, so I decided to see some of your bird posts. I'm gad I did! I enjoyed it. I also learned a lot. I didn't know the birds could mimic other ones so well!

Thank you for sharing this charming article with us, and I hope you have a fabulous week. Take care.

~ Kathryn


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Kathryn, I am so pleased you stopped by to visit me and my 'birds'! Judging by your very enjoyable comments, you are a person after my own heart. I learned something from you--I had no idea that blue jays would catch food in midair! I probably should have expected it, though, because they are very intelligent and charmingly opportunistic birds.

Just this morning as I was adding bird seed and a mixture of fruit and nuts to one of the feeders, a blue jay landed within inches of me! He downed several peanut halves and then took off. That's a first--they usually wait until I move on to the next feeder. Guess this one was extra hungry!

I am so glad to meet you, and to learn about your wildlife encounters. I hope the recent storms have moved away from your area, and that you enjoy a wonderful upcoming weekend ;) Pearl

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    grandmapearl profile image

    Connie Smith (grandmapearl)240 Followers
    60 Articles

    At a very young age Connie learned from her Grandma Pearl to observe and love backyard birds. She stills feeds and studies them everyday.



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