Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

Corvidae (crows and jays) in the order Passeriformes


Blue jays are relatively large songbirds (about the size of a robin) with blue upperparts and whitish underparts. A blue crest on the head can be raised or lowered depending on the bird’s mood. The back is rather lavender, and the wings and tail are sky blue with black bars and white highlights. The strong bill and feet are black; the face is white and is nearly surrounded by a black collar. The voice varies from soft murmurs to loud screams to clear, chime-like whistles.


Length: 11 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).


Video of a blue jay in the wild.

Blue Jay

A bluejay perches on a branch in winter. Its feathers are puffed out for insulation against the cold.
Blue Jays are best known for screaming, "JAY! JAY! JAY!" Expert mimics, they can also sound like shrieking red-shouldered hawks or meowing cats.

Blue Jay in Gentry County

A blue jay sits on a snow-covered railing in northwest Missouri
Blue jay in Gentry County
Habitat and conservation

Blue jays are found wherever there are trees in our state, but although they are present year round, they migrate, so that the birds in any particular area might be replaced each season by others. Sometimes people see bald-headed blue jays—blue jays without feathers on their heads. This condition usually is reported in summer and fall, when they are molting, and new feathers usually grow in soon after.


Acorns, fruits and seeds make up most of the diet, but blue jays will also feed on insects, eggs, young birds and carrion. Blue jays are often found at bird feeders.

image of Blue Jay Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Blue jays are common statewide in forests, woodlands, parks and suburbs—wherever there are trees.


Common permanent resident.

Life cycle

Blue jays usually form lifelong monogamous pairs and breed in spring to the middle of summer. Usually 4–5 eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest. Eggs hatch in about 16–18 days, and the young fledge about three weeks later. Family groups travel and forage together for the rest of the season, with the young dispersing in wintertime.

Human connections

Although blue jays can sometimes be aggressive toward other birds at feeding stations, bird watchers still enjoy their bright colors, clever feeding strategies and sassy attitude.

Ecosystem connections

The assertiveness of blue jays extends to their relationship with potential predators, and their screaming and mobbing behaviors serve to protect many bird species against hawks, owls, cats and other predators.