Like most Louisianans, blue jays are loud and colorful. Also like us, they like to hang out at the edges of forests, but are also at home in suburbia and cities. That’s where the similarities end. Everybody knows Louisianans are polite and hospitable. Y’all, blue jays can be rude.
Blue jays live in North Louisiana year-round and breed twice a year. They are members of the crow family, along with crows, magpies, and other jays and are somewhat migratory birds, meaning that individuals may or may not migrate on any given year.
While the populations of many of our animals have declined due to habitat loss, blue jays have thrived, not only here, but throughout their range, as humans have expanded. In fact, the Audubon Guide to North American Bird posits that their range seems to be expanding further northeast.
Blue jays generally nest 10-to-25 feet above the ground in thick limbs of trees in yards and at the edges of forests, and nests are especially prevalent where the limb meets the trunk. Males expend their energy gathering building materials, including twigs from live trees and rootlets from fresh graves and ditches. Females, meanwhile, build the nests.
As with other birds, blue jay females are less ornate than the males, and, although they have coloration that matches the male blue jay, they do not have the tufted crest at the top of the head.
Blue jays are vegetarians most of the time, and their diets are composed mostly of nuts, seeds, grains, and berries. They also eat insects! Yay! …and dead or dying birds and rodents...and baby birds and eggs of other species. They eat baby birds! Although this behavior accounts for only a small portion of their diet, bird-on-bird cannibalism, even in small doses is still really, really rude…especially when it involves babies.
Blue jays are famous for their ventriloquism; they can mimic other birds, and even humans and cats. They use this ability to draw mom and pop birds away from their nests so that they can kidnap and eat their kids. Blue jays are incredibly hypocritical in this respect, as they will attack predators that get near their nests, often dive-bombing their targets repeatedly.
Because of their opportunistic, omnivorous nature, blue jays are not only bad neighbors to other birds; they often destroy crops, especially corn, peas, and fruit. Their habit of ruining a farmer’s day has earned them the designation as one of the most despised nuisance birds in Louisiana.
It’s not all bad with blue jays. (I know; it’s a little late to get to this point, but here we are). They are also beautiful birds that may have helped repopulate forests after the last ice age by dropping and burying acorns as they migrated from one oak forest to another. Blue jays can carry roughly four acorns at a time, using their esophagus and beak. Because they can carry more food than they need, they sometimes bury caches of acorns and other seeds in the ground, often not returning for their food.
Where to Find North Louisiana Blue Jays
Blue jays can be found throughout residential neighborhoods, in the woods, and along pipelines throughout North Louisiana.