Do Blue Jays Migrate? Facts About Blue Jay Migration

blue jays migration

Blue Jays; these songbirds with blue crowns on their heads are not very rare. They can be very easily spotted in anytime in spring across North America or Canada.

Blue Jays are short migratory birds; even when they migrate (which is not all the time), they do not migrate more than a few hundred miles. If you wonder do blue jays migrate at all, we have the answer for you.

Blue jays have a very eccentric pattern of migration. Some term this blue jay migration because at a time, only 20% of these species have been found to leave their breeding grounds or nesting sites for greener pastures or the territories where abundant food would be available in the winters.

It is usually the young blue jays who have been found to have a greater propensity to migrate however some adult birds do leave their nests and join the winter flock to have better chances of survival in terms of food, braving cold and escaping predators.

As can be derived, just as in the case of any other species, the choice migration depends upon individual blue jays and is also reliant upon the prospects of adequate food availability in winter.

If birds are convinced that they won’t suffer any lack of food and their dietary coffers are full, they make the choice not to leave their snuggly nests which they have built with great effort.

That explains why most blue jays do not follow a strict pattern of migration. Because the question of blue jay migration is a subjective one unlike many other species as cranes, flamingos and pelicans.

These birds may opt to migrate one season and may not in other. That’s why they aren’t strictly migratory birds.

If you wish to learn more about their migratory pattern and their nesting sites in various seasons, stay put throughout the article:

Where do blue jays go when they migrate?

blue jays sitting on a tree in winter

The Blue Jay is accustomed to inhabit a variety of environments stretching from Florida’s pine forests to northern Ontario’s spruce-fir forests.

It is commonly known to be spotted in mixed-wood and deciduous forest settings, especially those with beech, hazel, and oak trees, and is less common in the dense forests with very rich foliage.

The majority of corvids (the class to which family of jays belong) do not migrate, however some of them do migrate after the mating season, frequently in small groupings.

The species of Blue Jay adapted to the conditions of human settlement very early on during their evolution. 

They are mostly prevalent in areas with scarcely planted trees, and are more often to be found in populated areas than in the wild. Blue Jay is comparatively gentler around the human population as opposed to the wilds where they are touted to be ferocious belligerents.

They are more vigilant and watchful in the forests for predators which is not the case near residential settlements.

Eastern North America, the Rocky Mountains in the west, and central Canada are some of the typical blue jay nesting areas.

The migratory blue jays spend the winter in eastern New Mexico and eastern Wyoming, while some move towards the pacific northwest.

When do blue jays migrate?

blue jay having food

Blue jays start migrating when winter is imminent. During the months of mid-September to mid-October, flocks of thousands of blue jays migrate south along major flyways including the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes, giving the impression of large blue-coloured streams in the sky often described as blue jay rivers.

One would assume that with so many blue jays migrating south, the chilly regions of Canada and the United States would be devoid of blue jays throughout the winter.

That’s not the case, though. Even in the most northern parts of the blue jay’s breeding territory, many of them choose to spend the whole winter close to home.

Only a small portion of the species of blue jays migrate. Others decide not to and spend the entire winter on their breeding grounds.  

So, a relevant question that arises is that how does a blue jay choose between migrating and staying put?

Though we as of yet do not have a satisfactory answer, scientists are researching and extrapolating to come up with one.

A plausible reasoning that has been supported by many zoologists is that the choice of migration is decided by both male and female blue jays on the availability of food.

Blue Jays typically feed on insects, acorns, nuts and grains.

In the winter when the ground and branches are covered with snow, it often gets hard to prey and dug to find insects. Installing a bird feeders in your backyard will attract blue jays and provide you with an amazing bird watching view.

Acorns are also not widely available throughout the winter, it is in those circumstances that blue jays choose to migrate towards the great lakes (like lake Ontario) in the winter so as to better avail their dietary requirements.

When a pair from a blue jays nest migrate and loose flocks or separates in different flocks. The pair mostly reunites once the flock returns to their breeding grounds in the subsequent mating season.

Do Blue Jays stay occupy the same site throughout?

Blue jays may or may not choose to migrate. Scientists state that almost 80% of these species are non-migratory while only a meagre 20% migrate.

That implies that at a time, only a little portion of these birds move while majority of them stay in their breeding grounds, however that is not strictly important, a matured blue jay couple or individual may choose to migrate if it is not sure to find enough food in the winter.

Where do Blue Jays migrate in winter?

blue jays looking for food in winter

Every year, some Blue Jays migrate south, while others spend the winter on their breeding grounds.

Some years, individual Blue Jay go too south; they do so when they feel their prospects for finding food in the current areas are not bright. Other years, they choose to stay in their breeding locations.

How do Blue Jays survive winters?

Blue jays like many other non-migratory birds stay warm in the winters by practicing behaviours called fluffing and flocking.

Fluffing is when birds fluff up their coat of feather so as to widen the range of feathers around their body, this prevents more cold from entering the body.

Another behaviour is called flocking. A large number of birds gather around in a tight space.

This creates an ambience of relative warmth from the shared body heat of all the birds and thus helps the flock in braving cold.

Do young blue jays migrate south?

Ornithologists suggest that young jays migrate when they hope for better food in winter season.

However, it is also found that since they have no common migratory patterns, it is not easy to claim whether there is difference in older and younger jays migration.

Where do Blue Jays live in summer?

Blue Jays flock around great lake area in North American island.

They nest across eastern North America and their nesting grounds spread west as far as the Rocky Mountains and as far north as central Canada.

Their presence stretches in the northwest as far as Wyoming and in the south as far as New Mexico.

Conclusion – Do Blue jays migrate?

Whether blue jays migrate or not is an elaborate question as these songbirds follow a very unusual pattern of migration. They migrate but partially.

What that means is that a time, only a percentage of them migrate while others choose to stick to their breeding grounds.

However, the other birds that did not migrate a particular season, can migrate in the following one and those that did migrate, cannot migrate in the next season.

The figure that has been reached upon by the audience is that only 20% of blue jays migrate while the major 80% do not. On that basis, they can neither be categorised as strictly migratory or non-migratory.

Donald Bergeson

I have always been fascinated by the skill, strength, and beauty of birds.They help in maintaining a balance of ecological environment. At Best Bird Guide, I share all of my experiences and discoveries that I have got so far and inspire more devoted fans.

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