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Blue Jay

The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a native bird species that is found throughout Nebraska. This bird is especially common on acreages and urban landscapes in the eastern half of the state. The Blue Jay's appearance is unmistakable with its flashing array of bright blue colorations splashed with black and white accents. The tuft on its head coupled with prominent beak give the Blue Jay that "noble / not to be toyed with" look owned by Corvid birds (Raven - Crow family).

Blue Jays usually become a common sight wherever fruit-bearing plants and trees have set their seeds. They will dominate any bird feeding station that contains nuts, fruits, or larger seeds. Blue Jays are furious feeders acting almost pig-like. They eat great qualities of food at a single feeding and then return daily until all the food is gone. This behavior is fueled by the Blue Jay's habit to store or establish caches of food at many strategic locations throughout its home range. The spread of oak trees in Nebraska is in part due to the habits of the Blue Jay and its caches of acorns.

The adult Blue Jay has very few predators or competitors where it gathers food. Blue Jays are known to chase not only other birds, including Great Horned owls, but squirrels, cats, and even humans away from their food supply. They are labeled as a harasser in the bird community.

Blue Jays prefer to nest in the interior of dense trees and tall shrubs. A pair of Blue Jays will build a nest using sticks and small parts of branches. Both will care for the 4-5 eggs and then young for about a month in late spring to early summer in Nebraska. The Blue Jay has very strong mate and parental bonds, as well as a complex communal system.

The Blue Jay is a very intelligent bird with many interesting habits, so next time you see one, sit back, relax, and quietly enjoy them. And be prepared to duck if it is feeding!

Photo credits: Blue Jay by Ken Thomas from Encyclopedia of Life, Creative Commons.

Blue Jay
Image of Dennis Ferraro
Dennis Ferraro
Wildlife Biologist & Herpetologist Extension Specialist
Dennis Ferraro is the resident herpetologist and wildlife biologist at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln School of Natural Resources. He has been a UNL faculty member since 1990.