Blue Jays | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Blue Jays

Sep 19, 2020


Charles Flugum in his book Birding from a Tractor Seat had this to say about one of our feathered friends.  I wonder if you can identify the bird he is describing.    

“The flagrant rascal evidently enjoys hearing its own voice, putting forth its utmost effort to make the loudest possible noise and bowing impressively to emphasize each call.”

If you guessed the blue jay, you are correct!  The blue jay, of course, is one of our more well-known birds.  It is a permanent resident over much of North America east of the Rockies, with more seasonal residency elsewhere, particularly in the northwest.  The blue jay is a member of the crow family, so is a close relative of crows, ravens, and magpies.  The family is well known for their intelligence.  

Although we may commonly see blue jays, they are often silent in flight.  So we often hear their calls emanating from the woods but may not actually see the bird.  I cannot help but wonder if the casual observers connect the blue jay with their calls.  Although blue jays are known to have quite a repertoire, a couple calls are quite common.  Here they are.

“Call 2 and 3 from All About Birds website”

Sound familiar?  Not only do blue jays communicate vocally, they also communicate through their crest.  Crests on birds, for example blue jays, pileated woodpeckers, cardinals, and waxwings function in body language, more specifically aggression.  The more aggressive the bird, the more spiked the crest.  Crests are spiked up for example when defending a territory, asserting their place in the pecking order, fighting over a mate, or when mobbing a predator.  The crest is dropped when they are relaxed, such as when feeding peacefully or perhaps associating with their mate or flock.  But of course, if a squabble commences, the crest will be up!

Acorns are a favorite food for blue jays.  And now that there seems to be acorns everywhere, they will be busy caching them for later use.  So be on the lookout for the blue jays and listen for their calls.  These loud mouths will be declaring their presence and showing us some flashes of blue amongst the fall vegetation.

-Chuck Lura