The Blue Jay Report

When I asked last Sunday if you’d seen any blue jays lately I had no idea it would be such a popular question.

Many of you commented on the blog right away.  Then the National Audubon Society shared my question on Facebook on Tuesday morning and over 117 people weighed in.  Comments came from Prince Edward Island and New Mexico, from South Dakota and Florida.

Most folks outside Pittsburgh said they’ve seen blue jays regularly this winter while Pittsburghers generally said “No.”

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I made two totally unscientific maps of the blue jay observations using the comments that gave a location.

The first map shows U.S. and Canadian responses.  The second shows the many Pittsburgh area responses.  Red means “No blue jays or fewer than usual.” Green means “Yes, we have blue jays.”  Black means, “We don’t have them, but they don’t occur here.”  (The black dot at coastal North Carolina is a place where there are few due to habitat.)

Here are the U.S and Canadian responses.

And here are responses from the Pittsburgh area:

Can you find your response on the map?

Mine is still a red dot despite the fact that a blue jay appeared for a few seconds outside my window at work yesterday.

I think he was taunting me.

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman.  Blank maps from Wikimedia Commons with data points added by Kate St. John)

20 thoughts on “The Blue Jay Report

  1. I live in Munhall Pa and I have seen a few bluejays this winter but not as many as usual. I have quite a few feeders and the jays have been few and far between. I did see 2 yesterday and today.

  2. I realized after reading your last post that I hadn’t seen any blue jays either this winter!! But when I went outside this morning, I heard one, and thought with relief, “There he is!” I’m from State College.

  3. I always had at least 4-6 outside my condo deck. I used toput shelled peanuts out under a tree & I loved to watch as the squirrels would come & shell nuts & the blue jays flying down & taking them one at a time. However, my neighbors in Jan. complained about my feeding anything outside & once I withdrew the food I saw nary a one since so they must be purely food oriented to obvious food sources because even I do not feed birds or squirrels they still stop by occasionally looking but not the blue jays. So it has been a very interesting discovery with all the conversations regarding them. I know they are loud & pesky but I liked their color & voice added to the mix.

  4. Our daughter at Allegheny College in Meadville said a tree outside the window of a building in the center of campus was covered with tons blue jays last week. Quite a picture, she said, but, sadly, she was unable to take a pic.

  5. I have had blue jays in North Huntingdon most of the winter at my feeder (4), but the last two weeks when you asked for sightings I have seen none of them. I do have a Sharp shin hawk that visits the feeder just about daily and it has taken many a blue jay over the past couple years as well as the doves. I do have blue jay feathers in the yard as I was cleaning up on Tuesday.

  6. Great work! A good follow up question would be for Canadians, did their Jays leave, or did they stick around?
    If northern Jays didn’t travel south, but Pittsburgh’s did, that could explain the gap. And maybe you’re seeing the summer resident Jays returning now? Maybe a banding program would be the ticket.

  7. I have not seen a blue jay in my neighborhood since last October. I 2 adults and their 3 juveniles at my feeder most of the fall, but haven’t seen one since.

  8. Hi Kate. Here in Dormont I haven’t heard or seen any Blue Jays all winter except when I put peanuts out. Within minutes of putting them put, the Jays appear. It’s like they are sitting close by watching. 🙂 Last Tuesday I saw one sitting in a tree (imitating a Red Tail) not far from Consol Energy Center.

  9. I live in evans new york and I have not seen any bluejays at all for at least 2 months. Do you know what has happend to them?

    1. Blue jays do migrate. When I was in Florida for Christmas I saw more blue jays there than I do here in Pittsburgh. I imagine the ones we expect to see are in the South right now.

    I love jays, they are so beautiful,this year 2013 , my sister saw 4
    blue jays in Sept.1212 and said look!! look!! look!!and I missed them.
    this winter I had a squirrel that was getting in all my bird food so I
    went and bought some peanuts,I would lay out 10 to16 each day and they
    would disappear pretty fast, then I notice a couple jays in a tree one
    day and told my husband I wish I knew what jays liked.
    so I looked it up on the internet and ( I FOUND OUT WHERE THE PEANUTS
    But I was so pleased!! I started buying a 5 lb bag of peanuts a week.and
    they would come to my window sill and get peanuts,they would look in
    the window and I would stand real still then they would grab a nut and
    take off, then they got to the place they would pick up 1 to 4 to see
    which weighed the most. I would say” GOOD MORNING SWEETIE” and they
    would look for a min. or so then fly to the tree. I had about 6
    bluejays.that fed each day. until March 7th 1213. I saw one in the tree
    yesterday but that was it.I got some beautiful pictures.It makes me sad
    because I don’t know what I have done wrong, can you help me?
    ? cherry

    1. Cherry, I have some suggestions about your blue jays.

      Temporarily gone: Perhaps something showed up that’s spooking them such as a hawk or a cat. If you see a hawk perched in your yard all the time or a cat hiding near the feeder, that could explain it.

      Left on migration: Though blue jays are present year round, many of them do migrate. I’ve seen them flying along Lake Erie’s shore in the spring waiting to cross to Canada. Your jays might have been visiting for the winter and now they feel spring coming so they’ve moved a little further north. Migration has begun — I’ve noticed new birds in Pittsburgh today.
      The good news is that blue jays are very smart and can remember where good food is for a very long time. If your jays were winter visitors they may well return next winter — the exact same birds — because they’ll surely remember your peanut treats. In the meantime there are other jays still south of you who will come north and discover your peanut feeder.

  11. Not a single blue jay here in the Central Adirondacks NY. They are usually here all winter. They were here in the Summer/Fall of last year then disappeared in early winter.

  12. I believe I saw 3 baby bluejays in my backyard today. They were making small flights around my lilac bush. Two bushes away were the adults watching them intently. Did I really see babies this time of year? The blues that live in our yard tend to be aggressive with other birds so given the small size of the 3 and that the full size ones didn’t bother them, it sure seemed that way. No pictures, sorry. Can someone confirm if this is possible? Thanks

    1. Kathy, you are right that it’s too early for blue jays to have babies. The earliest they lay eggs, in Florida at the southern end of their range, is late March. Another clue is that baby blue jays are the same size as their parents by the time they fly so any bird smaller than a blue jay is not a blue jay.
      My guess is that the 3 small birds you saw were tufted titmice. They have crests just like blue jays and their color scheme is gray back and white breast where the blue jay is blue back and white breast. Here’s what the tufted titmouse looks like:
      The jays were probably watching the titmice without harassing them because the 3 smaller birds were doing something interesting that didn’t involve food. Perhaps the titmice were two males and a female working out their relationship to each other.

  13. I live in New England (RI) and while I am seeing flycatchers, hummingbirds, cardinals – all varieties of birds, we are definitely lacking in blue jays – don’t hear them – don’t see them.

  14. I have a bird feeder out in my yard I have so many kinds if birds coming to feed off if it and one of the birds are blue jays they are so blue in color I just love sitting in my living room and watch them all day long. I am in Shaler, PA

  15. I live in Iowa, a bit SE of Des Moines. I’ve seen a Blue Jay in my back yard a few times since late Feb. I don’t know if it was 1 or the different birds. Sadly, while I was at work yesterday, my mom saw a grown Blue Jay struggling with what appeared to be a broken wing in the back yard. Today, I found it dead, where she had last seen it. No cats, or dogs, have been seen, we have no idea what happened to it.

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