Found across the Eastern and Midwest portion of the United States, the blue jay is a native Missouri songbird. It's a wonderful bird to start with when learning bird identification, especially for children.
Jays are conspicuous because of their size and striking color. White patches and black bars highlight the bird's blue wings and tail. And the white underbelly and black necklace on its front are easy to spot as well. A jay also sports a distinct crest on its head.
Jays belong to a family of birds that include magpies and crows. All these birds are aggressive -- a trait that might strike people as unappealing when they watch blue jays bully smaller birds around feeders. This aggressive trait is often why the blue jay is chosen as a mascot for sports teams.
Blue jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. They act as the danger alarm of the forest as they greet intruders with a piercing call. They can sound like they're saying, "thief! thief! thief!". People, owls, hawks, and other potential predators prompt this reception.
Jays' voices are harsh, but their calls are a varied repertoire that includes what sounds like a very good impression of a squeaky pump-handle.
The bird's powerful, all purpose bill efficiently handles a wide-range of food, although acorns are their favorite. Blue jays will bury several acorns in a special place and come back to eat them later. Some acorns are never recovered -- giving them a good start to becoming oak trees!
Blue jays are often sighted near oak trees at the edge of a forest, towns, cities, and parks.
For more information about songbirds in Missouri, go online to mdc.mo.gov.