Last Updated on November 26, 2021 by Guillermina
Have you seen a long tail blue jay gracing your area? There’s a chance that you may be mistaking the other birds for the beautiful blue jay. Beginner birdwatchers should not worry, because this article may help you evaluate the bird that you saw.
There’s a whole lot of jays that exist on planet earth, totaling 10 species. The blue jays have gained a lot of recognition in popular culture due to Toronto, Canada’s professional baseball team choosing it as their mascot. The striking color and design of the bird has captured bird lovers’ hearts, aside from the sports enthusiasts.
So could you have seen a rare kind of blue jay with a long tail? Read on to learn about what you could have observed!
What Are The Blue Jays Facts?
Before we get into figuring out what is a blue jay and what isn’t, let’s discuss the fast facts about popular blue jays. There’s a lot of information about them that people will be surprised about!
Blue Jays Size And Appearance
The blue jays get their name from the bold and bright lavender-blue hue they dot the landscape with. This color is a result of melanin, which is a brown pigment. It appears blue on the blue jay’s body due to the way the light hits their textured feathers.
Their scientific name, Cyanocitta cristata, is derived from the Greek word for blue (‘kyaneos’ or more familiar, cyan) and chattering bird. The name then roughly translates into the “blue chatterer,” which is a very apt description of how some people may feel about the blue jays that live close to their home!
Blue jays grow to be around 9 to 12 inches long and weigh around 2.5 to 3.5 ounces. Their wingspan reaches up to 13 to 17 inches wide. They have white and black markings as well, making their patterns very artistic and a joy to observe.
There have also been discoveries of subspecies of the blue jay. This includes the Northern blue jay, the coastal blue jay, the Interior blue jay, and the Florida blue jay. The variation observed in these subspecies is not too significant, but it’s good to note that they are able to assimilate in various regions of the continent safe and sound.
Blue Jays Characteristics
So what do blue jays sound like? Are they princessy songbirds? Not quite – in fact, they are known to be noisemakers! Like other birds classified in the corvid family, they have the ability to make sounds similar to human speech. Their calls are even similar to predatory hawks.
Do blue jays kill other birds? Their aggression is also something that may take people by surprise. They are known to attack and bully in order to secure their territory and food supply. This does lead to the death of their enemy birds at times.
Because of this reputation, blue jays have been mistakenly thought of as liable to eat other birds or their eggs. However, upon studying their feeding habits, the evidence is too insignificant to draw the conclusion that this is normal behavior for the species.
The main diet of the omnivorous blue jay consists of bugs and nuts – which they eat by pecking at them while holding the food between their talons. If you have a feeder out in your backyard, you’ll find out how much they love their food – you might catch them defending the supply from other hungry blue jays.
Read more about The Bird Feeder For Blue Jays Guide
Blue Jays Habitat
The Blue Jay is native to the South of Canada and in the Eastern half of the United States. They usually reside in forests, usually ones that have oak and beech trees in the area. They don’t live in the deep parts of wooded lands, instead preferring the edges of the forests.
While there have been some reports of their population declining, they are a common sight even in areas densely populated by humans and where a lot of human activity occurs. Not to worry as they live peacefully in parks and in the suburbs, so they have adapted to living in human living spaces.
So What Exactly Is A Long Tail Blue Jay?
Regular blue jays do have tails, but they are relatively normal in length. Their tail length isn’t something that you would call long, compared to other birds in the family.
However, there is a bird that looks very similar to the blue jay and has a long, majestic tail. This is the black-throated magpie-jay. If you see pictures of the bird, you will notice the striking similarity in color, but they will have upper parts that sweep above their head. Of course, you can’t miss that long tail. Other birds that have the same fabulous attachment include the black-billed magpie, the red-billed blue magpie, and the white-throated magpie-jay.
The black-throated magpie-jay is in the Corvidae family alongside the blue jay. The black-throated magpie-jay is also significantly bigger and heavier than the blue jay, with an average length of 23 to 30 inches and a weight range of 8 to 9 ounces. A lot of the mass and length can be attributed to their tail.
The long tail is especially luxurious and a marvel to look at. They look especially fantastic if you catch this bird in mid-flight.
While they look very similar, they are located in separate but relatively close parts of the world. The blue jay habitat is in Canada and the US spread throughout nearly half of the continent. In contrast, the black-throated magpie-jay can be found in the West of Mexico. They occupy a sliver of the Pacific-facing West Coast of the country.
Don’t worry if you got them mixed up – even the producers of a famous TV show got them wrong!
The long tail blue jay that you’ve seen whether in the wild or as someone’s pet might not be a blue jay at all. It’s possible that you’re looking at a black-throated magpie-jay instead. They do have their similarities, but it’s the size and the length of the tail that will give you away.
From the two birds, which one is your favorite? Have you caught either of them in your birdwatching adventures? Let us know in the comments below!