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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Blue Jay -- Cyanocitta cristata

RANGE: Resident from extreme east-central British Columbia and central and southeastern Alberta to southern Quebec and Newfoundland south to central and southeastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, and west to eastern Montana and east-central New Mexico. Northern populations are partly migratory to the southern parts of the breeding range.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits deciduous and mixed woodlands, especially prefering those with oak, beech, and hickory, but also occurs in coniferous forests, preferably where pines predominate. Also frequents wooded islands, farms, gardens, parks, cities—almost anywhere trees are found in grassland areas.

NEST: Hides nest well in the fork, crotch, or outer branches of trees, occasionally in shrubs, typically from 10 to 25 feet, but ranging from 5 to 50 feet, above the ground. Prefers conifer thickets in mixed woodlands for nesting.

FOOD: Forages from the tree tops to the ground for its food, which consists of 76 percent vegetable and 24 percent animal matter. Feeds omnivorously, primarily on mast but also takes a variety of other foods. Also eats grains, weed seeds, wild fruits, insects, a few mice, young birds and eggs, fish, salamanders, and crustaceans. Is easily drawn to bird feeders.

REFERENCES: Beal 1904, DeGraff et al. 1980, Goodwin 1976, Johnsgard 1979, Wilmore 1977.

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