Yes, Blue Jays Do Migrate

This week, I’ve noticed some large groups of Blue Jays hanging around the bird feeders.  This is actually very common as fall approaches.  The reason is that Blue Jays in the eastern U.S. migrate south in some numbers. 

Blue jays are related to crows

Blue jays do what I call a “partial migration”.  This is when a bird species shifts their range hundreds of miles vs. thousands of miles that other species do.  They are moving further south in their range so that weather is a little milder and food more available.  This will be more common by birds in the northern part of their range than their southern cousins. 

So, in the case of Blue Jays, birds in Ontario, Canada are probably migrating down into the the midwestern states while jays down in Georgia probably don’t go anywhere.  In any case, Blue Jays are very common at birdfeeders year-round in most states in the eastern U.S. 

If you do feed the birds, Blue Jays are very fond of sunflower seed (both black oil and striped) and peanuts.  If you REALLY want to be their friend, put out peanuts in the shell!  You’ll enjoy seeing the Jays come to the feeder repeatedly to pick up a peanut and fly off with it.  Some of them they eat, but most of them are stored in some hiding place for a future meal.  It is this caching of nuts that help the spread of oak forests – since jays don’t remember where they put every single acorn!

Although some people think Blue Jays are bullies to other birds, I think they are one of the most striking birds color-wise in the backyard.  So, just enjoy the flashes of blue in your backyard and the Jay’s ebullient behavior.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology