How to Identify and Attract Blue Jays

Updated: Nov. 15, 2023

Blue jays are smart, bold and beautiful birds. Learn how to attract blue jays, what males, females and babies look like, and hear their calls.

spring blue jay sitting in crabapple treeCourtesy Karol Habersetzer
Blue jay

What Do Male and Female Blue Jay Birds Look Like?

Blue jays are some of the biggest, most colorful backyard birds in North America. At 11 to 12 inches, with a wingspan of 16 inches, blue 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 blue crest and back, a gray breast, and noticeable white and black patterns throughout the predominant bright blue feathers.

Check out 20 photos of breathtaking blue colored birds.

Blue jay on peanut bird, attract blue jaysCourtesy John Pizniur
Blue jays love to visit peanut bird feeders.

How to Attract Blue Jays

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 invest in a feeder made just for peanuts. If you’ve ever attempted to grab a big handful of potato chips, you’ll laugh when you watch jays try to do the same with peanuts. Discarding those that don’t fit, they stuff as many as possible into their throat pouch and bill. Blue jays are enthusiastic peanut eaters— and stashers, caching their treasures under tree bark, in crevices or beside rocks to retrieve later. Studies have shown they have amazing memories for finding these hidden caches.

Blue jays will also visit feeders for suet and sunflower seeds. Another idea: These birds love to eat acorns, so on your next fall walk, gather some up and offer them at your feeder. In addition to nuts and seeds, they may eat fruits, insects and frogs.

Birders can also attract blue jays with birdbaths.

blue jay nestCourtesy Lori Rajo
Baby blue jay

Blue Jay Nests and Eggs

Both parents take part in nest building, with males usually doing more of the gathering and females specializing in construction. The nest is typically well hidden in the crook of a tree, made of twigs, roots, grass and sometimes mud. 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 blue or brown spotted eggs. Check out 9 proven tips to attract nesting birds.

Baby Blue Jays

Once they hatch, baby blue jays fledge at between two and three weeks old. Learn how to identify bird eggs by color and size.

Blue Jay Bird Call and Sounds

Listen for their harsh scream, “jaaay, jaaay, jaaay.” This species also has makes many other sounds, including whistle phrases, rattles and a harsh “shkrrr.” Blue jays can also imitate hawk calls and may do so to trick other birds into thinking a hawk is around.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Many blue jays crowd a tree stump.Courtesy Bonnie West
Many blue jays crowd a tree stump.

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. Some migrate one year and not the next one. When and why some blue jays migrate and others don’t have left researchers mystified for decades. 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 Bird Range Map and Habitat

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. Look for them in backyards, parks and woodlands. Here’s why the blue jay’s range is expanding westward.

Blue Jay Bird Species

Are Blue Jays Mean Bully Birds?

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.

If a blue jay’s crest is raised, it can be a sign of aggression.

Birds That Look Like Blue Jays

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