Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Blue Jays
Nature Bulletin No. 133   November 29, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Where there are blue jays there is action. Of all our winter birds, only its relative, the crow, is smarter or more noisy. Only the bright red cardinal is as colorful. In autumn the blue jays gather in small flocks and, from then until the nesting season in spring, you will see them flying through the woodlands and hear their cold hard screams.

They are quick to find a feeding tray in your back yard. They eat greedily, stabbing at the food, and then fly away with the biggest chunks they can carry. They delight in diving at the tray to scatter the smaller birds, but a downy woodpecker will pay them no attention, and they fly when a brown thrasher darts at them with out-thrust beak. They are all bluff and bluster.

Males and females are hard to distinguish. Larger than a robin, the blue jay is a handsome bird light gray below, a black collar and blue above. The wings and long tail are a brighter blue with showy markings of white and black. With its conspicuous blue crest, black beady eyes and long sharp beak, the blue jay looks like a bold smart rascal. And it is. They have a bad reputation for eating the eggs and young of other birds.

But they are responsible for the planting of many trees, because they like acorns and beech nuts and, like squirrels, hide and bury more acorns and nuts for winter use than they can ever find. They also are important as destroyers of insects. In spring and early summer they feed almost entirely on insects. In winter, about half of their food is the larvae and eggs of insects. They are also fond of berries, and of grains like corn.

Few people know that the blue jay is second only to the mockingbird as an imitator of the calls of other birds -- from the mewing of the catbird to the scream of a red-tailed hawk.

The noisy boid annoys a woim!

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