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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Songbirds of North Dakota

Jays, Crows, and Magpies

Family Corvidae

The crow family has evolved the highest degree of intelligence among birds. Experiments with captive birds have shown that they are capable of counting, are good at solving puzzles, and quickly learn to associate noises and symbols with food. Their harsh and aggressive behavior draws attention to these large, gregarious birds. Members of this family which can be seen in North Dakota include the black-billed magpie, American crow, blue jay, and occasionally the common raven.

Blue Jay
Cyanocitta cristata

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

The blue jay is a familiar and handsome bird of backyards and mixed woodlands in North Dakota. It is probably the second most recognized bird in the U.S. next to the robin. It is easily identified by its bright blue color, large size, and outstanding character of being noisy. The blue jay's call is a piercing "jay-jay-jay", but it is also known to mimic the calls of other songbirds.

Blue jays are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. Their diet ranges from acorns and sunflower seeds to frogs and snails. They often visit feeders in search of suet and birdseed and are fond of bathing in birdbaths. Nests are built in the crotch of a tree and are rather bulky and made of leaves, dry grasses, and bark. The breeding season occurs from April to July and the female lays 3-5 eggs which are olive or pale green and spotted with brown and gray.

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