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Blue Jay
Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata.
Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
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Where are they found? North America

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Prince Edward Island’s provincial bird is unmistakable: the Blue Jay's crest, back, wings and tail are bright blue. It has a white and black face with a black collar, and it is strongly marked with black and white on the wings and tail. From the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail, it is about 30 cm (1 ft.) long.

Although this bird is recognized by its striking blue colour, this appearance is deceiving: blue pigments do not actually exist in birds! The blue that we see is caused by the way that certain internal feather structures reflect the light that shines on them. The reflected light is blue, so the birds appear blue. If these feathers are backlit, their surfaces don't reflect the light the way they usually do, so they no longer seem blue, but brown.

The Blue Jay's crest can be raised or lowered depending on mood. When the jay is excited or experiencing high levels of aggression, the crest may be fully erect, thereby forming a prominent peak.

Males and females of this species look very similar, except during the breeding season. Between March and July when the birds are breeding, the female will develop a naked patch on her stomach called an incubation patch. This naked area is filled with tiny blood vessels that provide a direct source of heat for the eggs while she sits on them to brood them.

The Blue Jay is sometimes seen applying ants, or the material expelled by ants, to the underside of its wings. It is believed that the birds do this to get rid of mites and other parasites.

In Canada, the Blue Jay is found in central and southern Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Its range extends further south also, throughout the eastern United States.


More Images
Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata. Photo: Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata.


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To cite this page for personal use:
“Blue Jay”. [Online]. Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature.
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Who's Calling?

Practice recognizing bird calls and songs in order to improve your ability to identify the birds in the wild.
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