Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by Guillermina
Do blue jays fly south for the winter? We take a look at the blue jay and the curious mystery of their migration patterns.
Some blue jays do fly south for the winter. Others stay in their habitat all year round. It is not clear why and which blue jays have this migration pattern – it’s still a mystery for experts.
Are you wondering what the typical patterns there are for this specific bird? In this article, we tackle different topics to satisfy your curiosity about blue jays.
Do Blue Jays Fly South For The Winter?
Do blue jays migrate? The answer seems to depend on each specific blue jay you observe. Some blue jays migrate to warmer climates, and others stay put for the holidays. Experts to this day have not been able to find out the underlying reasons for the sporadic migration patterns (or lack thereof).
To make it even more complicated, a blue jay could migrate one year, then stick around for the next year – and it’s up in the air what it will decide to do in the winter seasons after that. There doesn’t seem to be a schedule for their annual move down south.
In a study done of 8,000 recaptured blue jays from a large flock that has been tracked, 89% were found to not have migrated anywhere. The remaining 11% were the ones that traveled.
Theories About Blue Jay Migration
Are blue jays migratory? Despite not having solid scientific reasoning and evidence, there are some theories and assumptions that people have made to explain the migration phenomenon in blue jays. These have been made through observations, though some scientific studies have been executed to determine the facts from the figures.
The blue jay subspecies that hail from Canada are most likely to migrate for the winter, due to the harsh weather conditions in the region. It’s not a surprise that their survival instinct has urged them to look for warmer pastures while the winter ravages their homes!
One of the foremost theories is that of food sources. It’s more difficult for birds to secure food in the winter season. Going out to forage and gather food for themselves is tough in the cold weather. They also have added competition from small animals like squirrels and raccoons.
Blue jays have the tendency to store food like nuts in the pouch of their mouth. Some even hide scavenged food in the nooks and crannies of trees. This is usually for later consumption or for feeding other blue jays in their flock. Having a shortage of this kind of food will be a problem for winter survival.
Age Of The Blue Jay
It has also been theorized that younger blue jays are more likely to migrate than their adult counterparts. However, adult blue jays are also observed to migrate as well. It’s unclear how much more often younger blue jays leave their homes.
Hierarchy In Blue Jay Flocks
The blue jays of the corvid family of birds were always known to have unprecedented intelligence. One such display of their advanced brains is the observation of a “pecking order” within their flock. This determined decisions like who gets to eat first. Perhaps this hierarchy also leads to the decisions being made by close-knit flocks to migrate in short distances or not.
How Do Blue Jays Fly South For The Winter?
Blue jays are located all over the American continent. They are found in Southern Canada, over the East Coast of the United States, and even in some parts of Mexico.
Of the blue jays that do migrate, a good number of them hail from Canada, which gets extremely cold in the winter. This move is made out of absolute necessity for the survival of the birds.
Even if they make the journey for warmer soil, they don’t typically make a grand expedition like the Arctic Tern. These birds make a fantastic trip from the Netherlands all the way to Antarctica. They don’t end up too far from their habitat, ending up only some hundred miles from where they originate.
What Do Blue Jays That Stay Do In The Winter?
Now, for the blue jays that do stay for the holidays, it’s not much of a change of pace. The blue jay in winter is more likely to poke around suburban areas for food.
If you are an avid birdwatcher and blue jays are your favorite, you might want to install a heated birdbath in your backyard or around your house. Blue jays love to splash around in the water, and the opportunity to do that in the winter is even more of a treat for them. They’ll be sure to love your place.
Another thing that you could do is to provide them with high-energy foods that will help keep them warm in the winter. Their typical diet of seeds and nuts may be a little harder to find in the winter season. Providing them bird feed in your backyard, especially the fatty suet feeders, will help them get through the winter in good health.
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Birdwatching During Blue Jay Migration
The sight of flocks of blue jays coursing through the skies is exhilarating. While you might not be able to clearly see their bright blue feathers while they are in flight, having a peek at their daring expedition to the south is a wonder of nature.
If you’re interested in catching this sight for yourself, some places are better than others to get a good view. Blue jays have been observed in the area of the Great Lakes and to the Atlantic coasts. You can observe their flocks very well in these regions.
It’s anyone’s guess why certain blue jays do not need to fly south for the winter, while others do. While there are theories about their migration, there hasn’t been any solid explanation for their choice of migration year on year. They feel almost human-like in this indecision and holiday planning!
Have you ever watched a blue jay migration? How was the experience, and do you do this annually? Share your experience and thoughts with fellow bird lovers below in the comments!
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