Aug 22 2010

Bald Blue Jays

Published by at 7:20 am under Songbirds

Oh my gosh!  What happened to this bird?  Is he ill?

No, he’s molting. 

This week has been notable for the number of bald blue jays hanging out in my neighborhood.   The first one gave me a shock but now there are three and I’m getting used to it.  

Many birds are molting now but most of them lose a few feathers at a time so it’s not noticeable.  The exceptions – usually blue jays and cardinals – really stand out. 

They’re not unique to Pittsburgh.  This bird was photographed by Nancy Castillo who writes The Zen Birdfeeder in Saratoga Springs, NY. 

So why am I seeing three blue jays with bald heads?  At this time of year blue jays hang out in family groups so I might be observing a family with an inherited trait for temporary baldness.

Frankly I can’t wait until they’ve grown their new head feathers.  I’m embarrassed for them but it’s nothing a little time won’t heal.

(photo by Nancy Castillo.  Click on the photo to see her blog about this bird.)

18 responses so far

18 Responses to “Bald Blue Jays”

  1. Jennieon 22 Aug 2010 at 12:00 pm

    What timing! A bald headed cardinal has just recently been visiting my backyard feeder.

  2. kat walterson 22 Aug 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Kate, I love your blog!!! I never know what I might learn today but it is always interesting. Don’t think I have ever seen a bald headed blue jay. Are they embarassed? What fun. Thank You for all your knowledge and helping us learn new stuff every day!

  3. faith cornellon 22 Aug 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Never saw one. Comedy & drama everywhere. Thanks again Kate for an interesting tidbit or bird seed bit!!!

  4. SueGon 22 Aug 2010 at 8:05 pm

    We had one this weekend, too. He was also making a strange call we did not recognize as blue jay until we saw him.

  5. Donnaon 23 Aug 2010 at 8:51 am

    I also saw one this weekend. I had always thought they had some kind of infection – glad to know it’s a normal part of life for them.

  6. Mary DeVon 24 Aug 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I saw a bald blue jay yesterday — how funny-looking! Fortunately, my cardinal family still seem to have their crests. I have a new digital camera and have been trying to get some photos , but so far the cardinals haven’t been willing to “pose” for me! I’ve had slightly better luck with the hummingbirds!

    At the yard feeder:

    And at the porch feeder (taken through a window, distorted a bit by screen):

    She’s out there now, in fact! 🙂

  7. The Zen Birdfeederon 25 Aug 2010 at 9:30 am

    Nice post and thanks for sharing my bald Blue Jay!

  8. Melissaon 25 Aug 2010 at 3:00 pm

    We have a bald blue jay, as well. We are in Gainesville, GA. It’s a little comical, and my kids come running when I announce its presence at the bird feeder.

  9. espyville bobon 26 Aug 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I have also seen a bald male cardinal for the last few days at my backyard feeder in crawford county – it really had me checking my bird book to try to identify this strange looking bird -thanks for your info — i follow your birdblog regularly

  10. Jesson 30 Aug 2010 at 11:26 am

    I just saw about eight of them in my front yard. I thought something was wrong with them at first. This post made me feel a lot better. thanks for posting it.

  11. Deeon 30 Aug 2010 at 5:19 pm

    We live in Ontario and have 2 bald Jays at the feeder. They look healthy other than their heads. Do you really think they are molting or is it a weird gene.

  12. Janiceon 08 Sep 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks for your timely posting!! I had one blue jay earlier this month that went bald and this morning I had 3 more blue jays with bald heads. In all of my years of feeding the birds at my Berkley, Michigan home, I never knew that blue jays molt their head feathers. In the past, I’ve seen a couple blue jays and crows with bald heads but I thought they were sick. I was really concern when I saw so many bald headed blue jays!! Thanks again for your timely posting and judging from the comments I feel better that I’m not the only one concerned!

  13. Tammyon 14 Aug 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I just had a bald blue jay at my feeder and it also made a strange call as SueG posted a year ago. Why do they make a different call during this time of molting or is it just coincidence?? I would not have ever suspected that was a jay making that noise if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes!

  14. Kate St. Johnon 14 Aug 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I haven’t heard the strange call… but maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

  15. jackieon 26 Aug 2011 at 7:58 am

    I started seeing a bald jay about a week ago by the feeder, and I just thought he was sick. When a few more started to show up, I scolded my cat, for what I thought was wounds on the birds! I am very relieved to find out that the baldness is perfecly normal. Thank you for your great info. Now I must apologize to my cat!

  16. Janeton 10 Aug 2012 at 8:25 pm

    One at camp now. I have seen them before and thought they had some kind of disease. Glad to know its nothing more than molting.this one is camera shy…..can’t say as I blame her(him) most likely a female…everyone knows how we don’t like getting out picture taken unless we look just right.

  17. Carolon 25 Aug 2013 at 7:37 am

    Thanks so much…best write up of why bj’s go bald. I feed my jays peanuts in the shell every day. At one time I had 13! Then almost all went bald and their vocals went wild. When in 2 years they were gone, I thought they all died. I have a new family this year…they’re calling now for peanuts now…twice a 7am and whatever time iget home from work. They share the peanuts with cardinals and squirrels. Bless them all.

  18. Sybil Nunnon 10 Aug 2017 at 9:30 am

    Well, here I am in Nova Scotia in 2017 Googling “bald Blue Jays” and up pops your website.

    Yup it’s August.
    Yup they look odd.

    Glad they’re just molting.

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