South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

Length: 11 inches Wingspan: 16 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Crest, blue upperparts, white underparts, black "necklace", white wing-bars and tail edging

Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristataBlue Jays are brash, sometimes noisy, commonly recognized birds often found in urban settings.  Blue Jays feed on a wide array of items, and will readily attend residential feeders for most commonly offered foods.  They are extremely intelligent, and are quick to adapt to new situations when foraging opportunities present themselves.

Habitat: Breeds in deciduous to mixed forest, never pure conifer stands.  Can be found in a wide variety of woodland and forest settings, including unbroken forest, forest edges and clearings, residential areas and parks, and shelterbelts. 

Diet: Omnivorous, feeding on nuts, acorns, pine seeds, other seeds, waste grain, fruit and berries, insects, eggs and young birds, small rodents, small reptiles, small amphibians, carrion.

Behavior: Blue Jays will use a very wide variety of techniques for foraging, with individual birds often specializing in a certain foraging technique and food item.  They will feed from the ground to the top levels of a forest canopy, at bird feeders, at carrion along a roadside, etc.

Nesting: May and June in South Dakota.  The nest is a cup built of sticks, grasses, weeds, moss, and sometimes mud, built in the crotch of a tree or on a tree branch, usually from 8 to 30 feet from the ground.  The female usually lays 4 or 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  After the eggs hatch, both parents help to raise and feed the young, who leave the nest after about 3 weeks.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Blue Jay Song, also Blue Jay Call.  Can make a very wide variety of vocalizations.

Migration: Generally a permanent resident, with some occasionally moving south in the fall.

Similar Species: Steller's Jay

Bird Feeders: Sunflower seeds, suet, nuts

Conservation Status: Probably increasing in range and numbers, although West Nile virus has taken a heavy toll in some areas in recent years.  They are spread over a very wide geographic region, and are common in many areas.  The IUCN lists the Blue Jay as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Blue Jay

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Blue Jay"

3) Blue Jay

Photo Information: November 15th, 2007 - Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, South Dakota - Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Blue Jay photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident in most of the eastern part of the state and the lower levels of the Black Hills.  Less common elsewhere in the western part of the state.