Birds – Blue Jay

(Cyanocitta cristata) Crow and Jay family

Length—11 to 12 inches. A little larger than the robin.

Male and Female—Blue above. Black band around the neck, joining some black feathers on the back. Under parts dusky white. Wing coverts and tail bright blue, striped transversely with black. Tail much rounded. Many feathers edged and tipped with white. Head finely crested ; bill, tongue, and legs black.

Range—Eastern coast of North America to the plains, and from northern Canada to Florida and eastern Texas.

Migrations—Permanent resident. Although seen in flocks moving southward or northward, they are merely seeking happier hunting grounds, not migrating.

No bird of finer color or presence sojourns with us the year round than the blue jay. In a peculiar sense his is a case of “beauty covering a multitude of sins.” Among close students of bird traits, we find none so poor as to do him reverence. Dishonest, cruel, inquisitive, murderous, voracious, villainous, are some of the epithets applied to this bird of exquisite plumage. Emerson, however, has said in his defence he does “more good than harm,” alluding, no doubt, to his habit of burying nuts and hard seeds in the ground, so that many a waste place is clothed with trees and shrubs, thanks to his propensity and industry.

He is mischievous as a small boy, destructive as a monkey, deft at hiding as a squirrel. He is unsociable and unamiable, disliking the society of other birds. His harsh screams, shrieks, and most aggressive and unmusical calls seem often intended maliciously to drown the songs of the sweet-voiced singers.

From April to September, the breeding and moulting season, the blue jays are almost silent, only sallying forth from the woods to pillage and devour the young and eggs of their more peaceful neighbors. In a bulky nest, usually placed in a tree-crotch high above our heads, from four to six eggs, olive-gray with brown spots, are laid and most carefully tended.

Notwithstanding the unlovely characteristics of the blue jay, we could ill spare the flash of color, like a bit of blue sky dropped from above, which is so rare a tint even in our land, that we number not more than three or four true blue birds, and in England, it is said, there is none.