Blue jays are an easily recognizable, perhaps even iconic, songbird. Their large size, blue feathers, and distinctive call mean that just about anyone can recognize a blue jay. Adults can often be seen eating large acorns, and are drawn to feeders full of things like peanuts and sunflower seeds. They also have been known to occasionally raid the nests of other birds, eating their eggs and chicks. So we know what adult blue jays eat, but what do baby blue jays eat?
What Do Baby Blue Jays Eat?
As with most birds, baby blue jays eat more or less the same things that their parents eat. Adult blue jays bring nuts, seeds, insects and small animals back to the nest for their chicks. For at least six weeks after hatching, the chicks are totally dependent on their parents to bring them food, and the parents bring whatever they can find.
Do Baby Blue Jays Eat Worms?
If their parents bring them a worm, they’ll eat it. Caterpillars and seeds are probably more common, but earthworms certainly make their way into many baby blue jay’s diets. Worms are a little hard to find, since they’re usually underground, but occasionally a heavy rain or human activity brings a bunch of worms to the surface, and the blue jays will definitely go after them. The parents must also take size into consideration, very young nestlings often cannot yet eat large earthworms.
How to Feed Baby Blue Jays
If you need to feed a baby blue jay, use either moist dog/cat food or commercially sold baby bird food, fed through an eye dropper. However in general you should not attempt to do this yourself, and we will talk about why below.
If you’ve found a nest with baby blue jays you suspect is abandoned, don’t jump to any quick conclusions. In most cases of a nest with begging babies, the adults are nearby finding food and will come back periodically to feed the young. Male and female blue jays both take turns feeding the young, however it has been observed that males may often do the majority of the feeding.
Some feedings can be very quick, and the adults will only stop by for a minute before leaving to find food again. Because you could easily miss this quick process, you would have to watch a nest non-stop (not a few minutes at a time) for at least a few hours before you could determine if the babies have potentially been abandoned.
Contacting a Wildlife Rehab Expert
If you have determined that the baby blue jays do need help, it is important to contact a qualified bird rehabber. In many states, only certified rehab specialists are allowed to be in possession of wild birds. Not to mention they are trained in exactly how to care for them.
Care of baby birds can be very tricky. Many nestlings need to be fed every 20 minutes or so for 12 to 14 hours a day! That is a lot of constant time and attention. They also need balanced food with enough protein and nutrients to grow properly. This is why the knowledge and expertise of a rehabber is their best bet for survival.
If you get in touch with a rehabber that isn’t able to take the birds right away, they may instruct you on how to care for them until they can pick them up. For the short term, dog or cat food (moist, fed through a dropper), or specialty baby bird food mix, is often used.
To find a rehabber near you, Google search the name of your state plus “wildlife rehabilitation”, or check your states department of the environment page for a list of licensed rehabbers.
Do Blue Jays Really Raid Other Bird’s Nests?
This is a widely held belief, and it’s not entirely clear why this is so commonly believed. In fact, there’s not really much evidence to suggest that blue jays are nest-raiders. In a study performed on blue jay diet that looked at their stomach contents, researchers found remains of eggs or nestlings in only 1% of adult blue jays, which hardly makes them stand out as “egg snatchers” over other birds.
While blue jays are not big nest-raiders themselves, they have to be on guard against other birds. Crows, especially, will eat blue jay eggs or kill and eat their chicks.
Why Did a Blue Jay Attack Me?
Despite the fact that they are somewhat small in the world of wildlife, blue jays are surprisingly aggressive and fearless. Plenty of people have been attacked by angry blue jays, and most of them were just walking down the street or in their yard when it happened. Fortunately blue jays aren’t really capable of doing any damage, but it’s still an unnerving experience.
In all likelihood, if you’re dive bombed by a blue jay, you were walking too close to their nest. Blue jays like to build their nests high up in trees and they hide them well, so it’s rare to spot them. The parents, though, are fierce protectors and won’t hesitate to chase of potential predators.
This is especially true around May and June, when the babies are just learning to fly. This is when they’re at their most vulnerable, and the adults get extra protective of them. That’s when most blue jay attacks occur.
Do Blue Jays Like Acorns?
Acorns are a favorite food of blue jays, although they’re a bit too big for the babies to eat. That’s fine, since by the time acorns are available the babies will have left the nest and grown to adult size. Acorns are a favorite for blue jays, and each fall adult birds will hide somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 acorns in the ground, saving them for the winter months.
In fact, blue jays are credited with spreading oak forests across the U.S. While they remember where they put most of those acorns, they always forget some of them, which means that each blue jay ends up planting a bunch of oak trees every fall.
Baby blue jays eat just about anything their parents bring them. Mostly, that means seeds, nuts, and insects. If you find yourself caring for baby blue jays that have been abandoned while waiting for help from a rehabber, pet food or commercially sold baby bird food will help to meet their nutritional needs.