Blue jays are corvids, though they are much more colorful than their crow cousins. However, the description of a group of crows as a “murder” might better fit blue jays in some birdwatchers’ minds.
Blue jays have a reputation for eating other birds and even stealing eggs from other nests to eat. How accurate is this image of blue jays as aggressive bird-eaters?
Blue jays will eat baby birds and eggs, but it’s not the main staple of their diets. Most of a jay’s diet consists of plant matter, and only a small portion is protein. When they do need protein, they’re more likely to get it from insects or carrion. However, blue jays are aggressive and will attack other birds.
Blue Jays Are Omnivorous Corvids
Blue jays are part of the Corvidae family, though they look very different from the other members. Corvidae includes pitch-black or monochrome birds like crows, ravens, and magpies.
Blue jays are bright blue with some black and white markings.
Common in North America, blue jays are omnivorous birds. They eat insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. Most of their diet is plants and fruit.
As much as 75% of what they eat is plant matter. This percentage is even higher in the winter.
Acorns are common food for blue jays. They hold the acorn with their strong feet, then use its heavy beak to crack it open.
Blue jays prepare for winter by gathering acorns and other nuts in the fall. They have an expandable throat pouch in which they can store their finds. Then, similar to squirrels, blue jays will bury the nuts in the ground.
Sometimes blue jays forget to dig them back up. So, these forgotten nuts end up contributing to forest growth.
Blue Jays Will Eat Baby Birds And Eggs
It’s true that blue jays will raid the nests of other birds to eat their eggs or even baby birds.
However, protein is a small portion of their diet. Additionally, they’re more likely to get that protein from insects or even carrion.
Blue jays are resourceful animals like other corvids. These birds are famous for their intelligence. A jay has plenty of ways to scavenge and hunt for food without resorting to baby birds.
Jays will take food wherever they can find it. This includes those in bird feeders and pet food that remains outside.
There’s even evidence that wild blue jays can form basic tools in order to get food.
Additionally, blue jays have great imitation skills. They can even imitate several different hawk calls. This is useful when scavenging for food from other birds.
Blue jays will scare other birds by imitating a hawk.
The other birds will drop or abandon their food as they escape, and the blue jay steals it.
Blue Jays Will Attack Other Birds
Blue jays also use their calls to defend their homes. They are very territorial birds and use various calls and growls to warn other birds away from their habitats.
They’ll even bully birds away from bird feeders in residential areas.
Though blue jays typically only eat baby birds, they will attack any bird or animal that comes near their nest.
Baby blue jays will stay with their parents for about two months before striking out on their own. During that time, the parents aggressively defend them.
Blue jays will fight off birds much larger than them, including hawks and falcons. A mature blue jay only reaches about 12 inches (30 cm) in size. Even the smallest hawks can grow to over 13 inches (34 cm).
A jay’s friendly blue feathers belie its aggressive nature. They are territorial birds who frequently fight off much larger animals from their homes. They even scare other animals away from food sources.
Their most notorious behavior is that of eating other birds. Blue jays are omnivores, and they need protein. Blue jays will steal into the nests of other birds to eat their young. They will also steal eggs on occasion.
However, protein is a small portion of a jay’s diet. And when they do need protein, they often utilize other sources. Blue jays prefer to eat insects and nuts over other birds to fulfill their protein needs.