Brooklyn Bird Watch: Blue Jay

Today, Brooklyn Bird Watch features a Heather Wolf close-up shot of the Blue Jay, seen in Shirley Chisholm State Park just west of Canarsie Park along the Belt Parkway.

Although the beautiful, intelligent, and fascinating Blue Jay is one of our most popular birds in the U.S., it does have its detractors who consider the bird to be annoyingly loud, and aggressive and rude at bird feeders. It is also considered an abundant species and, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird website, there have been over 15 million sightings worldwide so far this year. Locally, Brooklyn Bridge Park has registered 1,297 sightings this year while Prospect Park has registered over 29,000 Blue Jay sightings.

In addition to their well known, screech-like calls, the National Audubon Society informs us that Blue Jays do make a variety of musical sounds as well, doing a “remarkable imitation of the scream of the Red-Shouldered Hawk.” Ornithologists conclude that this raptor imitation is to alert other Blue Jays nearby that a predator is in the vicinity or perhaps to fool another species into thinking a hawk is present.

According to a YouTube video by Lesley the Bird Nerd, Blue Jays are corvids, in the same passerine family as crows and magpies. The corvids are considered to be extraordinarily intelligent birds and fossil remains have reveal they have been around for at least 25 million years. For example, regarding intelligence, tool use like with the crow has never been reported for wild Blue Jays but captive Blue Jays have been observed using strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets from outside their cages, and Ornithologists also claim that Blue Jays can recognize individual humans.

On occasion, Blue Jays will eat other bird’s eggs or nestlings, but that’s not the norm. While the Blue Jay’s primary diet is composed of acorns, nuts, and seeds, they will also eat small creatures like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. They are attributed with helping forests by burying acorns and forgetting to retrieve them, therefore, aiding the spread of the forest. Blue Jays love peanuts in the shell and when visiting a feeder you will see them pick one up and put it back down, then select another one. It’s because they’re weighing it, opting for more food in the heavier one. They seldom eat the nut right there because they like to take them and eat in private, or hide them somewhere for later.

By the way, good luck trying to figure out the migrating habits of Blue Jays. Ornithologists have not yet figured out a definitive pattern. It’s a haphazard affair. It makes one think of the line in that Chuck Berry rock and roll song where he says, “Sometimes I will, then again I think I won’t.” For no obvious reason one year a Blue Jay will migrate with a group of 200 jays, and the next year it decides to stay at home. Another fascinating and, in my opinion, baffling fact about the Blue Jay is that not one State has honored this bird with a State Bird designation.

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  1. Watched, fascinated, a Jay devouring bees, one after another without apparent discomfort. Love these colorful birds!


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