How to Identify and Attract Blue Jays in Your Backyard

Blue jays are bold, beautiful backyard visitors. Learn how to attract blue jays, one of the smartest songbirds in North America.

Blue Jay Range

Blue jays are some of the biggest, most colorful backyard birds in North America. Most of the Eastern half of the U.S. sees blue jays, from the northern border with Canada all the way to the Gulf coast. Many birders welcome any sighting of this beautiful flyer.

What Do Blue Jays Look Like?

At 11 to 12 inches and sporting bright blue feathers, jays are hard to miss when they pass through your yard. Males and females are difficult to tell apart, so you might want to refrain from calling the blue jay hanging out in your tree a “he.” The species is distinguished by a prominent crest and noticeable white and black patterns throughout the predominant blue.

Attract Blue Jays: What Do Blue Jays Eat?

To attract blue jays, you can’t go wrong with peanuts, either in or out of the shell. Some people put them out on a tray feeder, though this will make them easy pickings for squirrels. You can also invest in a feeder made just for peanuts. One more idea: Blue jays love acorns, so on your next fall walk, gather some up and offer them at your feeder. Birders can also attract blue jays with birdbaths.

blue jay nestCourtesy Lori Rajo

Blue Jay Nests

Both parents take part in nest building, with males usually doing more of the gathering and females specializing in construction, typically in the crook of a tree. It’s not uncommon for jays to start building more than one nest; if they detect a predator, they’ll move right away. Female blue jays lay up to seven eggs. Once they hatch, baby blue jays fledge at between two and three weeks old. Learn how to identify bird eggs by color and size.

Do Blue Jays Migrate?

Blue jays are the only migratory jays in North America, but they are still typically considered year-round residents. Not all of them migrate, and others move in when migrants leave. The blue jays that do migrate travel in large groups—sometimes by the hundreds—from one spot to another. The next time you notice a flock of migrants, look up to see if they’re blue jays.

Blue Jay Personality

Blue jays are some of the brassiest birds. Some people find them too bold and loud, or even obnoxious, but consider giving them a second chance. They’re also part of the corvid (crow) family, so they’re very smart, too.

Similar Species

Look for the Steller’s jay and Western scrub-jay in the West, the green jay in south Texas, the Canada jay in northern forests, and the Florida scrub-jay in Florida.