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Mountain Nature Network has become THE place for learning about the birds of the Canadian Rockies.

Blue Jay
Cyanocitta cristata

Jays and Crows
Corvid Family (Corvidae)

Size: Length: 25-30 cm (10-12 in)

Description: Like other members of the jay family, the call of the blue jay ensures that nobody enters their territory without the entire forest being alerted. This easily identified jay has plenty of blue to help it stand out. The head has a blue crest, and white cheek and throat. The lower cheek and throat lines are outlined with a black line that runs from the base of the throat, under the cheek to the bottom of the blue crest. There is also some black on the forehead and a black eye-streak. The breast is gray, becoming white on the belly. The back is blue. The wings and tail are a darker blue, with the feathers outlined with black. There is also some white visible in the wings and tail when perching.

In flight, the speculum and the tips of the greater coverts are white, along with the outer border of the tail.

Similar Species: Occasionally, visitors will mistake the blue jay for the Stellar's jay . Upon closer look though, the two birds have little in common. The Stellar's jay has a distinctive black head and crest as opposed to the blue, white and black head of the blue jay.

Range: The blue jay is an eastern bird, well known throughout much of eastern Canada and throughout the eastern U.S. It is moving westward though, and becoming a more common sight along the eastern margin of the Rockies. It can now be seen along the foothills and front ranges of the Canadian Rockies, and is becoming more common throughout the American Rockies.

Habitat: They prefer mixed and deciduous forests, In the east, they show a preference for oak and beech, but as they expand westward, they are moving into aspen and poplar forests.

Diet: They are a very diverse feeder, enjoying a multitude of insects, small mammals, eggs, nestlings. They supplement the meat in their diet with many different seeds, and are particularly fond of sunflower seeds. In winter, large numbers may invade bird feeders and compete with the squirrels for these fleshy seeds.

Nesting: They build their nest in a bush or shrub, usually between 3 and 12 m (10-40 ft) above the ground. The nest is built by both parents, and is made up of a cup of twigs, bark, grass, paper, rags, etc. There may be some mud used to cement the cup. The female lays between 2 and 6 olive or buff speckled eggs which are incubated by the female. Hatching takes place after 16-18 days, with the altricial hatchlings growing quickly, fledging after 17-21 days. They may hang around for a few weeks longer, begging for food.

In the warmer southern climates, they may have a second, or even a third brood.

Related Links:

Hinterland Who's Who - Blue Jay

Search for recent Blue Jay sightings

Hire an expert guide to help you locate Blue Jay

Bird watching in the Canadian Rockies offers endless opportunities for seeing new species. Mountain Nature Network is your source for birding and bird biology.

All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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