Members of the corvid family, such as different types of jays, ravens, and crows, are known for their loud and varied vocalizations. Blue jays, in particular, are recognized for their loud calls, which tend to reach peak intensity in the fall.
Blue jays’ vocalizations often sound like screams, leading birdwatchers and non-bird watchers alike to be curious about what they’re communicating with these noisy calls.
Blue jays scream to secure mates, let their flock know about nearby food, and alert all birds of danger, such as approaching predators. They also scream to scare other birds away from the area and to communicate with the rest of the flock before changing location. Young blue jays scream to ask their parents for food as well.
Read on to learn more about each of the reasons why blue jays scream.
7 Reasons Why Blue Jays Scream
1. Find Mates
Male blue jays that are a part of a “courtship flock” will follow their desired female mates around and make loud, raucous calls. They’re extremely noisy as they fly in pursuit of the female blue jays, flying when she flies and landing when she lands.
You’ll usually hear these calls in the morning; once afternoon comes around, the blue jays are typically more focused on finding food. However, they will continue to be noisy during the mornings until all of the females have selected their mates.
2. Notify The Flock That Food Is Available
Another reason that blue jays scream is to let the rest of the flock know that there is food available nearby.
Many bird watchers have shared anecdotes explaining that any time they refill their bird feeders, the blue jays begin to scream to let the rest of the flock know about the new food source.
If you’re curious about what a blue jay’s call sounds like, be sure to watch the video below.
3. Alert Other Birds Of Danger
Blue jays also make screaming noises to alert the flock and all other birds of danger, such as a predator in the area. This predator could be a larger bird, a cat, a snake, a human, or another animal.
Of the common bird species, blue jays provide the loudest and most prominent warnings of danger, which smaller birds often benefit from.
Hunters also take advantage of this blue jay behavior. The phrase, “When jays are squawking, something’s walking,” serves as a tip that many hunters follow.
It means that when blue jays are making a lot of noise, there’s often an animal like a deer walking nearby.
4. Defend Themselves From Predators
Not only do blue jays scream to let other birds know that danger is near, but they also use their voices to defend themselves from predators.
They do this by gathering in a group around owls, hawks, and other predators like raccoons, weasels, and cats, and screaming at these animals to essentially scold and mob them.
This behavior increases in intensity during the nesting season, but can happen during any time of year.
Blue jays first raise awareness of the threat with their loud voices, attracting the attention of other birds so that they can all join together to mob the nearby predator.
Mobbing is highly effective, and this study shows that birds who do not engage in mobbing behavior are 8.75 times more likely to become owls’ prey. Mobbing might be dangerous for blue jays, but it often pays off!
5. Scare Other Birds From The Area
This type of behavior is put on display when multiple small birds are enjoying a meal at a bird feeder, only for blue jays to swoop in and scream at them until they all scatter.
At that point, the blue jays happily take over the feeder for themselves.
In many cases, blue jays will imitate hawks with their screams. Some ornithologists propose that this is an attempt to fool smaller birds into thinking there are predators nearby and cause them to leave the area to escape becoming prey.
This would definitely come in handy if blue jays came across a feeder filled with other birds that they wanted to take for themselves. They can even scare away squirrels with this behavior.
However, others suggest that blue jays imitate hawks as a form of mimicry and a warning to other jays that hawks are lurking nearby.
6. Beg For Food From Parents
Juvenile blue jays often scream as a way of eliciting food from their parents. You’ll most often hear this during the autumn months.
Blue jays are very family-oriented, and the young are highly dependent on their parents, who provide food for them.
It’s common to see young blue jays following their parents around and screaming for food as their parents focus on foraging and gathering sustenance for them.
7. Communicate With The Flock
Finally, blue jays sometimes scream to gather the flock so that they can all leave an area together.
Some blue jays migrate, so screaming is a way to unite the flock before doing so.
There are many reasons why blue jays make their signature loud, screaming calls.
One of these reasons is to secure a mate. Male blue jays form noisy courtship flocks when in pursuit of female mates.
Blue jays also scream to inform the rest of the flock that there is food nearby. If you have a bird feeder, you’ll likely hear blue jays letting the flock know whenever you refill it.
Another function of blue jays’ screams is to alert all birds in the area of approaching predators and other forms of danger.
However, blue jays will also scream to scare away other birds, especially from food sources that they want for themselves. They are skilled at imitating different types of hawks.
Young blue jays are extremely dependent on their parents and will frequently scream to ask them for food.
Finally, blue jays scream to gather their flocks before changing locations or migrating.