Due to their larger size, striking blue color and gregarious nature, Blue Jay’s are probably one of the most well-known backyard birds. They are year-round residents in the eastern half of the United States. These are intelligent and social birds, able to mimic sounds and warn other birds of danger. In this article we will tell you how to attract Blue Jays to your yard, including which foods are their favorite and how to make your yard an attractive habitat for them.
If you live in the west and are outside of the Blue Jays range, this article can still apply to you. There are many other jays found in the United States including Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Steller’s Jay, California Scrub-Jay, Green Jay, Pinyon Jay and Canada Jay. These tips for offering water and food also apply to attracting other species of jays found near you.
How To Attract Blue Jays
1. Offer their favorite foods
Blue Jays are omnivores that eat nuts, seeds, insects, fruits and sometimes small vertebrates. So there are several foods you can offer that will attract them.
Blue Jays like to cache their food, creating stores that they hide or bury for later. They have a gular pouch in their throat where they can store extra food. This helps them grab as much food as they can at one time. They can store about 2-3 acorns in the pouch and hold two in their mouth, allowing them to transport five acorns at a time to their hiding place.
Nuts are perhaps their favorite treat. Peanuts either in the shell or shelled are usually the most highly recommended food for Blue Jays. But they are likely to be happy with any nuts or acorns you leave out for them. Just make sure the nuts are plain, with no flavorings, coatings or added salt. You’ll often see them grab larger nuts and fly off with them to deposit in their cache.
Here is a quick video we got of Blue Jays grabbing peanuts from our platform feeder:
Suet is another common bird food that Blue Jays will eat. They are able to grasp and eat from block suet feeders like woodpeckers, so any typical suet feeder will work. However as birds that like snag extra food for later, a dish of suet nuggets would also appeal to them.
And last but not least, birdseed. Like many backyard birds, they enjoy black-oil sunflower seeds. As larger birds they are able to eat larger seeds, so striped sunflower and cracked corn are also good choices.
2. Use Appropriately Sized Feeders
Blue Jays are larger than many other backyard songbirds. They have a body length of 9.8 – 11.8 inches and a wingspan of 13.4 – 16.9 inches.
This makes tube feeders with small perches hard for them to use. If you want a tube feeder, just make sure it has a large perch. Circular perches that go all the way around the feeder are good choices.
Peanut feeders are great choices for Blue Jays. These can be found in tube shapes with large sized mesh sides for peanut pieces, or circular wire tubes for holding peanuts in the shell.
In general, Blue Jays love to take food from open, easy to access trays or dishes. That’s why platform feeders one of their favorites. You can incorporate a platform feeder in a number of ways. A hanging platform is great for feeder poles. You can also find dishes and trays that clamp onto feeder poles.
For 4×4 post feeders, a fly-through platform mounted on top attracts many birds. This is where I put peanuts and larger food items for Blue Jays in our yard (see above video). You can even get a platform that sits on the ground, which could be handy if you don’t have a pole feeder setup.
3. Have food-producing trees and shrubs
Have some non feeder based food sources in your yard. This includes trees and shrubs that product nuts and fruits.
Blue Jays absolutely love acorns, so they will always seek out areas with oak trees. A small group of Blue Jays can cache up to 5,000 acorns in one autumn!
Other nut producing trees and shrubs such as beech, pinyon pine, hazelnut, walnut and pecan are also great choices. Berry bushes and fruiting trees that Blue Jays enjoy include elderberry, huckleberry, blackberry and cherry.
Many other species of birds will also benefit from these food-producing plants. Adding fruits, berries, nuts and plants that encourage insects will always be one of the best way to increase the variety of bird species you can attract to your yard.
4. Offer Fresh Water
While all birds need water to drink and bathe, Blue Jays have been known to stop for a bath several times a day. So providing a water source for them is a great way to get them to visit your yard.
As with the bird feeders, the bath will need to be appropriately sized to accommodate the larger size of this jay. Choose a wide basin (probably at minimum a 10 inch diameter) that can hold about 2-3 inches of water.
Any type of birdbath, such as this popular pedestal bath from Amazon, will work fine. You can easily make your own solar fountain using our instructions here. As you can see in the photo above (one of my solar fountains), blue jays enjoy it!
But you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a fancy bath. A large plant saucer or trash can lid with water will still be perfectly inviting.
Winter tip: a heated bird bath can help Blue Jays find water year round.
5. Keep Stands of Tall Trees For Nesting & Shelter
While putting up a birdhouse won’t attract Blue Jays, having a cluster of tall trees in your yard might. Blue Jays build their nests in mature deciduous or coniferous trees, on heavy branches about 10-25 feet off the ground. Evergreen trees also provide them with shelter during the winter months.
So keeping your trees and tall shrubs full, instead of pruned down and sparse, can make your yard a more attractive habitat for nesting and sheltering.
Blue Jays are bold birds that happily share suburban habitat with humans. As such, they are pretty easy to attract to your yard. Food and water are the best things to offer them. Even just adding a handful of peanuts to your bird feeder setup can catch their attention!
Melanie is an environmental scientist, birdwatcher, and amateur photographer. She’s been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and learning about birds of all types. Over the years, Melanie has identified more than 250 bird species, with sightings of the Atlantic Puffin, Hawaiian Goose, and Arctic Tern among her most cherished.