When volunteers compared notes after the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count on 1 January 2012, someone remarked that they hadn’t seen many blue jays this winter. Everyone at the Pittsburgh CBC Dinner nodded.
This morning I remembered that remark and looked through my bird observations to see how often I’ve recorded blue jays.
Amazingly I’ve seen them only four times this winter: On November 6 and 13, December 4 and 11. Three of those observations were at the same spot at Moraine State Park and were perhaps the same individual bird. Meanwhile, I have not seen a blue jay in Pittsburgh for at least four months.
If the blue jays aren’t here, where are they? (*)
Have you seen any blue jays lately?
(*) UPDATE, September 19, 2019: Science Magazine reports today that the blue jay population has declined in North America by 25% since 1970. Those birds haven’t left for somewhere else. They’re gone.
BLUE JAY ABUNDANCE INFORMATION: February 2012 to March 2019
- Click here for an eBird map of blue jay abundance in Pennsylvania 2014-2019. On an annual basis blue jay abundance peaks in Pennsylvania in September and falls to its lowest point in late February. Click on the [Change Location] button to choose your own state or province.
- March 2012: I mapped readers’ sightings on The Blue Jay Report here.
- June 2013: New comments have come in from folks who are seeing far fewer blue jays than they expect. I asked 1,200 observers in Pennsylvania (via PABIRDS) if they were seeing fewer blue jays. Everyone said they were seeing plenty of blue jays but one person commented that 17-year cicadas seemed to depress blue jay abundance in advance of the cicada emergence. If you have fewer blue jays, are you also in a cicada area?
- September 2014: Lots of blue jays moving south through Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine when I was there in early September. Lots of blue jays in the Pittsburgh area.
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)