The Blue Jay is typically found in eastern North America, but its steadfast expansion westward has recently led it to the toe of the Rocky Mountains. The Blue Jay has been able to expand its range partly as a result of the spread of human development. Feeders and landfills enable overwintering birds to cope with harsh winters, and forest fragmentation has invited the jays deeper into the once impenetrable forests. Blue Jays possess one of the most complex vocal repertoires east of the Continental Divide. They readily imitate other birds, barking dogs and even lawnmowers. Blue Jays cache food for winter; they store acorns, nuts and seeds in a variety of places, such as loose soil, from late summer through fall. If Blue Jays populate your yard, try identifying individual birds by their characteristic head patterns.
I.D.: Sexes similar: blue crest; black 'necklace'; blue upperparts; white underparts; white flecking on the wings; white wing bar; black bill.
Size: L 11 in. (28 cm).
Range: rare year-round in the southern U.S. Rockies; very rare summer breeder and uncommon migrant in the Canadian Rockies; typically occurs east of the Continental Divide; population is expanding westward.
Habitat: mixed deciduous forests and townsites with feeders in the eastern foothills.
Nesting: in the crotch of a tree or tall shrub; pair builds a bulky stick nest and incubates 4-5 eggs for 18 days.
Feeding: forages on the ground and among vegetation for nuts, berries, eggs, nestlings and bird seed; also eats insects and carrion.
Voice: noisy, screaming jay-jay-jay; nasal too-wheedle too-wheeled, like the horn of a Model-T Ford; also imitates other sounds.
Similar Species: Steller's Jay: dark hood; dark underparts. Western Scrub-Jay: no crest; light gray underparts. Pinyon Jay: no crest; blue underparts.