Winter Feeder Birds: Identifying Blue Birds

Blue jay at Fort Washington State Park . Photo courtesy of Donna L. Long
Blue jay at Fort Washington State Park. Photo courtesy of Donna L. Long

Blue Birds (Sialia spp.) generally don’t visit bird feeders. But birds with blue plumage do visit feeders. There are only three species of blue colored birds that will eat from your free buffet. Here’s a visual guide to identifying the species.


Blue Jay  (Cyanocitta cristata) – eastern and western North America

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata Welland, ON Canada
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata Welland, ON Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia

The blue is my favorite color and Blue Jays are one of my favorite birds. I don’t see Blue Jays at my feeders very often. But every once in while one shows up for peanuts and thrills me to no end.

Blue Jays are large birds, 11 – 121/2″ long. They are larger than Robins and smaller than crows. Blue Jays are vocal and can mimic hawks. They live year-round in eastern North American and southern Canada. The most distinct feature besides their blue color is their crests and black necklace. A Blue Jay will lower its’ crest when peacefully feeding with its family or flock. the black bridle across the face, nape of neck and throat varies widely among individuals and can be used to identify particular birds.

At the feeder: Blue Jays prefer tray feeders or hopper feeders mounted on poles than hanging feeders. This explains why I don’t see them very often. I need to get a tray feeder. The birds have a fondness for acorns and will eat peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. Blue Jays will also drink from bird baths. Blue Jays use mud to build their nest, and a mud puddle in your habitat garden may draw them to your garden.

Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). Photo: public domain,
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). Photo: public domain,

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) – western North America

Another bluebird I can’t wait to see in person. The Steller’s Jay, a large dark bird with a prominent crest on its’ head, is the bird I thought of as the Mockingjay of The Hunger Games books.

It is a large, dark bird with a charcoal black head and all blue body. A prominent crest tops its’ head. A social bird the Steller’s Jay travels in groups, that often play and chase each other.

The Steller’s Jay is a noisy bird and excellent mimic. It can imitate dogs, cats, birds, chickens and some mechanical objects. During winter they join mixed-species foraging flocks. In fall,   the Steller’s Jay will carry several large nuts, such as acorns or pinyon pine seeds, at a time in their mouth and bury them one by one. These nuts will be a winter food story. With the Jay’s excellent memory, few will be forgotten.

This Jay is a ground feeder and eats insects, seeds, berries, nuts, small animals. eggs and nestlings. To draw this bird to your feeders supply peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. Skip the nestlings.

The Steller’s jay also uses mud to build its nest. A pan full of mud in spring may draw them to your habitat garden.

Western Scrub-Jay (Apnelocoma californica) – western North America

Western Scrub Jay photographed in Aloha, Oregon - May 2000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Western Scrub-Jay photographed in Aloha, Oregon – May 2000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never seen a Scrub Jay in the flesh but I’ll be traveling out west this year and look forward to seeing this bird. This Jay’s wings and tails are solid blue, without the white and blue “stain-glass” markings of the eastern Blue Jay. The Scrub Jay doesn’t have a crest and the back is a brownish tan. To draw this striking bird to your feeders, mimic how it eats naturally. It forages on the ground and a platform feeder would work best. The Scrub Jay eats insects and fruit during spring and summer and nuts and seeds during fall and winter. For winter feeding try sunflower seeds, peanuts corn, almonds, walnuts, and cherries.

More Winter Birding Posts

Winter Birding: How to Master It (with video)

Winter Bird Migrations and Irruptions (with video)

Learn the Fall and Winter Colors of These Birds

Winter Feeder Birds: Identifying Woodpeckers


Identifying Bird by Color

Birds by Color: Blue

Birds by Color: Yellow Birds

Birds by Color: Yellow Warblers

Birds by Color; Red Birds

Identifying Little Gray Birds


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