What Do Blue Jays Eat In The Wild? [Answers]


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Although many bird species have similar appearances, blue jays stand out, thanks to their vibrant blue plumage. Not only that, but their loud and distinctive call clearly announces their presence. 

As larger birds, many people are curious about what blue jays consume on a daily basis.

Blue jays are opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide variety of foods from the ground, shrubs, and trees. Their diet includes fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, insects, small animals, and even other birds on occasion. These birds are excellent foragers and often carry as much sustenance as possible in their expandable throat pouches to store it in caches for later consumption.

Continue reading to discover more about blue jays’ omnivorous diet and what it includes. We’ll also discuss the best types of food to provide for blue jays in your backyard bird feeder.

Blue Jays As Opportunistic Omnivores

Blue jays are considered omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and other animals. They’re also very opportunistic, so they feed on a vast range of different prey and plants and can adapt to nearly any sustenance available to them. 

Learn more about a blue jay’s diet in this video.

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Foraging And Caching Habits

Many people believe that blue jays are especially greedy foragers. 

This is because they’ll take as many nuts and other foods as they possibly can, storing them in their expandable throat pouches and hiding them underneath grass clippings, leaves, or soil to eat later.

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This behavior is referred to as caching. Forgotten caches will often grow into different kinds of trees and other plants. 

Blue jays’ caching habits are much of the reason why these birds are credited with playing a huge role in North America’s reforestation after the Ice Age. 

Thanks to blue jays transporting nuts several miles from their host trees, chestnut, beech, and oak trees were able to spread several hundred yards per year.


Blue Jay Diet

A blue jay enjoys a diverse diet with multiple components. Fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, and small animals all play a part.

Blue jays find their food on the ground, in shrubs, and in trees.

Fruits

Fruits, along with nuts, seeds, and grains, make up more than three-quarters of the contents of a blue jay’s stomach.

A few of the fruits eaten by blue jays include raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, huckleberries, and strawberries.

They also enjoy various other types of fruit, mainly smaller fruits like grapes and cherries, and some cultivated fruits.

Nuts, Seeds, And Grains

Blue jays are most known for eating acorns, but they also consume beechnuts, other nuts, and multiple types of seeds and grains.

These birds hold nuts with their feet as they peck them open.

Insects

The contents of a blue jay’s stomach are about 22 percent insect. A few of the insects that bluebirds consume are grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders. 

Blue jays are also known for breaking open wasps’ nests to feast on the larvae inside.

There are recorded observations of blue jays catching adult wasps from small nests, crushing them, and dropping them onto the ground below.

Once they’ve eliminated all of the stinging adult wasps, the blue jays break off chunks of the nest and eat the young wasps left inside.

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Small Animals

Small vertebrates, such as frogs, that are injured or dead make up a portion of blue jays’ diets. They also eat small rodents, snails, and carrion (decaying flesh of dead animals).

Other Birds And Bird Eggs

Blue jays have a somewhat poor reputation because of their occasional habit of raiding other birds’ nests for nestlings and eggs.

These birds are also known for consuming dying or dead adult birds. 

However, this habit is not as widespread as was once thought. One study explained that out of 530 blue jay stomachs that were examined, only six stomachs contained traces of bird remains, bird eggs, and nestlings. 

In other words, only a little more than one percent of blue jays consumed birds or bird eggs. However, blue jays are still considered one of the most aggressive and territorial bird types.


What To Feed Blue Jays

The best foods for blue jays are those that they would encounter as part of their diet in the wild. 

Some of their favorite treats include peanuts in any form. If you have a backyard feeder filled with shelled peanuts, whole peanuts, or peanut butter, blue jays are sure to flock to it.

Whole corn kernels, cracked corn, and acorns are also great choices for your bird feeder. Blue jays enjoy sunflower seed, fresh or dried mealworms, and suet cakes or nuggets as well.

The Best Bird Feeder For Blue Jays

Since blue jays are quite large, they require sturdy feeders like open trays, platforms, and hopper feeders. It’s especially important to ensure the feeder is sturdy enough to support multiple birds at once.

You may also wish to keep additional food sources throughout your yard; you’ll notice that blue jays can empty your feeders very quickly, and it can be hard (and expensive) to keep up! 

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These birds will greatly appreciate small fruit trees, berry bushes, and nut-producing shrubs and trees. A few examples are hazelnut, beech, oak, and pinyon pine trees.


Conclusion

As opportunistic omnivores, blue jays consume a wide range of plant and animal food sources. 

These include nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, insects, and small animals. Blue jays sometimes eat other birds and bird eggs, although this is pretty rare.

Blue jays enjoy many types of berries, acorns, and peanuts in particular. 

They’ve been known to rip apart wasps’ nests in order to consume the larvae inside, and they also eat spiders, grasshoppers, and other insects.

These birds like to eat frogs, snails, small rodents, and carrion as well. 

Blue jays are fantastic foragers, and they have expandable throat pouches that come in handy for storing multiple acorns or other food sources until they can be hidden away in a cache for later.

Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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