Slings and Arrows: Why Birders Love to Hate Blue Jays

Slings and Arrows: Why Birders Love to Hate Blue Jays

They're smart, spectacular, and vocally versatile, so is the species really so bad?

By Les Line/Illustration by Jason Holley
Published: September-October 2008

In a nutshell, blue jays are the keystone species in restoring stands of oaks and other mast trees in today's fragmented landscape, where forest patches are isolated by farms, suburban sprawl, and highway construction. If you consider that burnished-brown acorns are a major food item for 150 species of birds and mammals and make up at least a quarter of the diets of black bears, white-tailed deer, raccoons, gray and fox squirrels, wild turkeys, and white-footed mice, to name a few, how can one begrudge jays some bird seed? 

Moreover, blue jays may be called upon for a greater task in the not-too-distant future. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts that climate change will cause a northward shift of native forests that are adapted to cooler environments. In this scenario, New England's maple syrup industry will become a memory as oaks and hickories replace today's mix of maple, birch, and beech trees. (Native chestnuts, of course, are only a memory.) The latter species will displace northern coniferous forests as they, in turn, push out onto the tundra.

No one, of course, can be certain what the American landscape will look like in another century if global warming continues unabated, as seems likely. But I'm sure of one thing: Should it become necessary, the magnificent, misunderstood blue jay will be up to the task of moving North America's nut trees north once again.

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Les Line

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


i think jays carry food out

i think jays carry food out into the woods for other birds and critters to eat. they place seeds of whole or cracked corn or black oil sunflowers in the trees in a woods right outside my kitchen window. i see other birds feed on those seeds. doves, juncos, turkeys,even grey and red squirrels. they are the hawlers and feeders here in Clare, new york

When I was a child I observed

When I was a child I observed a blue jay take a chick right out of the nest as it's mother cried. It made quite an impression on me. I thought it was both cool and wickedly cruel and have always looked at jay's in that manor. I came here from searching for 'Blue Jay Hate' as I have been seeing them at my feeder recently. I was curious to know why there is such animosity towards them. Nature is cruel, life in general is cruel, so it goes. I enjoyed this article and I think I will start to admire the jays more, perhaps even more since I am a Blacksburg resident as my wife gets her PHD.


Yes, the lovely jays that start their boresome, repetitive non-stop screeching every day at 5:00am outside my bedroom window. This goes on for hours,...yes, they taunt the cat in the neighbor's house they can see through the window. This is not an exaggeration, there are 4 jays that make their call one after the other in quick succession. It's an unreal commotion and you can hear it from a block away. The only sound they make is the shrillest, loudest piercing JAAAYYY JAYYYYY over and over, no other. They take a short break for lunch, and then resume throughout the day, and again just before sunset. The cat of course no longer even leaves its house for fear of being dive bombed.

Funny, that no other bird has ever acted that way. Not even the territorial mockingbird that no one seems to mind and sings from 2am-5am. Although it's call does wake me up a bit, its song is at least pretty and is much easier to fall back asleep during.

Say what you will, the question of why the blue jay have few friends is not really such a ponderous question.

Blue Jays are exciting!

I enjoy seeing Blue Jays in my yard. I have so much trouble with starlings that a blue jay is a much welcomed site.

Blue Jays mix with all Birds in my feeder

Over the years I have bought expensive bird feeders, and the cost of wasted food was very expensive. So this year I built my own feeder to bring all birds to gather for a 3 Tray Gourmet feast.
Pictures of my feeder were forward to ( Mr,Zach Slavin Monday). First tray has Nut's and fruit, second tray has mixed small seed for small birds, third tray has Black Oil sunflower seed. and three bird baths with water. Now I'm proud to say I have over 100 birds feeding and more waiting in the tree's
all variety of Missouri Birds. and for the first time I have six Blue Birds, Feeder and house's on my shed. all birds eat together and get along. including 17 too 24 doves.
Back to blue Jays My wife and I love them as we put peanuts in the shall in the fir'st tray and they come in like airplanes and take off exciting to watch. Their is one large jaw and he is the boss.also they all get along with other birds feeding.
the problem i have now is starlings taking over about 150 of them. in order to stop I put all black oil sunflower seed in all trays they will not eat them. I wished I could take pictures of all the bird feeding my camera will not let me get close. Hope you enjoyed my enlightenment about feeding birds

Bluejays are beautiful birds

Bluejays are beautiful birds and for many years I have feeding birds and never had a preamble with them with other birds or otherwise. However I have seen mocking birds be aggressive with the jays and with my family of bluebirds, but never the bluejays.

the blue jay

Loved the piece. The blue jay is indeed a beautiful, compelling bird.

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