Blue Jays are familiar birds to many backyard bird feeders. Their habitat ranges from the eastern coast of the United States to the Rocky mountains. They are known for having big personalities, intelligence, a wide range of vocalizations and of course, beautiful coloring. However, there are many birds across the country that bear similarities to the Blue Jay in shape, personality and coloring. In this article we will give a quick refresher on the Blue Jay, and then look at ten birds similar to Blue Jays.
10 Birds Similar To Blue Jays
First, let’s take a quick look at the Blue Jay
The Blue Jay is a colorful bird found year-round across the eastern half of the United States, and may visit some areas of the west during the winter. They have a long and slender shape, with a crest on their head and long thin tail. Their head, back and tail are blue, with a white chest and belly. A black stripe extends around their neck like a “necklace”. The feathers of their wings and tail have black striping with some white spots, and some of the blue feathers appear iridescent. Blue Jays are bold and vocal birds that can mimic sounds they hear and also are good at sounding the alarm to warn others of danger. They readily visit backyard feeders and will eat almost anything, but prefer peanuts, large nuts and suet.
Now let’s look at some similar birds.
1. Florida Scrub-Jay
The only bird species living exclusively in Florida, the Florida scrub-jay, lives in patches of low-growing scrub oak. This Jay has a blue head, wings, and tail, and white or light gray on its breast, belly, and back. Their head is notably flat and without a crest. Florida Scrub-Jays are often seen hopping on the ground. They gather acorns and insects to bury and store for later. The Blue Jay and Florida Scrub-Jay are roughly similar in size and shape, with the Blue Jay getting slightly bigger in some cases.
2. Steller’s Jay
Steller’s Jay is a large and impressive jay of the western U.S. They are a deep, almost navy blue color that blends into a dark charcoal gray neck and head. Their shape is very close to a blue jay so they have a nearly identical silhouette. In fact, outside of the Blue Jay, the Steller’s Jay is the only other jay in North America that has a crest on top of its head. Steller’s Jays are common in forested mountain regions, campgrounds, parks, and backyards. They breed at high elevations and migrate to lower elevations in winter.
Like their Blue Jay cousins, they are also good at mimicking sounds and have a large repertoire of imitations including cats, squirrels, other birds and machines. Attract them to your feeder with peanuts, large nuts and suet.
3. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay habitat spans from Nevada to Mexico. They specialize in the pinyon pine habitat, and have developed somewhat long and thin bills to better reach the pine nuts inside of pine cones. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay can look gray-blue or bright blue depending on the light. They have a white or gray underbelly and specks of white on their forehead and breast.
This Scrub-Jay does not have a crest like the Blue Jay, so they’re easy to distinguish. Like other members of the jay family, they’re vocal and aggressive. You may think they look a lot like the next bird, the California Scrub-Jay, and you would be right. Until somewhat recently they were considered to be one species, but were split into two in 2016.
4. California Scrub-Jay
The California Scrub-Jay is the “blue jay” of the Pacific Coast. They enjoy a habitat of dry shrublands, oak woodlands, and backyards from Washington to Mexico. California Scrub-Jays do not have the head crest like the Blue Jay. Instead, they are blue, gray-brown with a white underbelly. The California Scrub-Jay looks similar to the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay but has more vibrant colors. In some areas their range may overlap with the Steller’s Jay, but you can tell them apart by their crest-less head and lighter blue coloring. These jays have been known to stand on the back of deer and pick off ticks and parasites to eat.
5. Mountain Bluebird
The Mountain Bluebird is a small migratory thrush that lives in the Rocky Mountains and spread out in trees and shrub areas. They migrate to Mexico and western Canada during the winter. Mountain Bluebirds are a vibrant blue color. The heads are entirely blue, and the underparts are mixed with light blue and white.
Unlike jays where the males and females look the same, the female Mountain Bluebird is much more dull in color with only hints of pale blue. While the bright blue of the male Mountain Bluebird may make you think of a Blue Jay, their size and shape are quite different. Bluebirds do not have the crest on their head like the Blue Jay. They are also smaller, with a more rounded body and shorter tail.
6. Indigo Bunting
Indigo Buntings are migratory birds living in South America during the winter. They come to the eastern half of the United States during the spring and summer to nest. Sometimes nicknamed “blue canaries” these birds are about the size of a sparrow and have short tails and conical bills. They are much smaller than the Blue Jay, and only the males sport a bright blue color. You can identify Indigo Buntings by their bouncy songs, which are sometimes accompanied by a single trill. They’re usually seen hopping around branches looking for seeds and insects.
7. Canada Jay
Once called the Gray Jay, the Canada Jay lives across the northern part of the North American continent in Canada and Alaska and down the Rocky Mountain region of the US. Canada Jays are found in higher elevations where they nest and forage for food. They will store food using saliva to stick food pieces to branches for later consumption. While member of the same jay family as the Blue Jay with a similar shape and long tail, their coloring is quite different. They are gray with some white on their head and around their neck. Canada Jays don’t sport the head crest for which the Blue Jay is known.
8. Pinyon Jay
The Pinyon Jay is a crestless jay found in shrub wooded areas of pinyon-juniper and chaparral. They travel in noisy flocks that forage together. They feed mainly on pinyon pine seeds, and store them by the thousands in caches. This Jay is solid light blue with a slightly darker head and wingtips. Pinyon Jays are found in the western desert region of the United States, although they may be found outside of their normal range during years where the pinyon trees don’t produce as many seeds. Their territory does not overlap the territory of the Blue Jay, so they’re likely not going to be seen together.
9. Mexican Jay
The Mexican Jay looks similar to other Scrub-Jays with a light gray-blue color and lighter underside. However, it has a smaller black bill and lacks a blue necklace. The ranges of these birds stretch from Mexico into the pine-oak-juniper woodlands of the southwestern United States. They can live in groups of up to 25 birds. Mexican Jays often share the same habitat as Pinyon Jays, Steller’s Jay, and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. They feed on and store the same seeds and pine nuts. Like other Jays, the Mexican Jay stores caches of nuts and seeds to feed on later. They will fill their craw with food when foraging.
10. Green Jay
Green Jays are similar to Blue Jays in shape, behavior and feeding habits, but their appearance is significantly different. With vibrant green as their primary color, rather than blue. Green Jays have a blue head and face with a dark black throat. The Green Jay does not have a head crest like the Blue Jay. Instead, they’re more sleek birds and have a dark-colored beak. Green Jays are just as clever as their Blue Jay relatives. They use sticks and other tools to pry bark off trees to find prey. Mainly a bird of Mexico’s Gulf coast and further south, you’re only likely to spot a Green Jay in the United States at the southern tip of Texas.