What Do Blue Jays Eat? (Feeding Tips & How to Attract Them)

A blue jay eating a peanut

Learning about what Blue Jays eat opens a window into the fascinating world of these vibrant birds. Known for their eye-catching blue feathers and loud calls, Blue Jays are more than just a pretty sight.

These birds bring both beauty and personality to many backyards, and understanding their dietary preferences can enhance your bird-watching experience.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the eating habits and favorite foods of Blue Jays and share tips to make your yard inviting to these beautiful birds. So, if you’re curious about Blue Jays and want to attract them to your yard, read on!

What Do Blue Jays Typically Eat?

Two blue jays feeding on nuts

Blue Jays have an omnivorous diet that includes seeds, nuts, insects, fruits, and occasionally small animals and bird eggs. But for the most part, they prefer to eat plant matter, which actually makes up about 75% of their diet, especially in the winter.

Here’s a closer look at what Blue Jays typically eat:

  • Seeds and Nuts: Blue Jays love acorns and often store them for winter. They also enjoy sunflower seeds and peanuts, which they usually pick from bird feeders.
  • Insects: Blue Jays like to munch on caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and other bugs, especially in summer. In gardens, they also help control pests by feeding on insects like aphids and caterpillars.
  • Fruits and Berries: Blue Jays enjoy a variety of berries, such as raspberries and blackberries, along with small fruits like cherries and grapes. They often visit fruit trees and berry bushes in both wild and garden settings.
  • Human-provided Foods: In urban settings, Blue Jays are known to enjoy suet, dried mealworms, and peanuts from bird feeders. They are also attracted to table scraps and other leftovers.
  • Small Animals: Blue Jays sometimes eat small animals like frogs and snails, as well as rodents like mice, particularly when other food sources are limited.
  • Carrion: During harsher seasons, when food is scarce, Blue Jays might feed on carrion to survive.

As you can see, they are versatile eaters. Their varied diet allows them to adapt to different environments and helps them thrive throughout the year.

Fun Fact: Occasionally, Blue Jays may prey on the eggs and nestlings of other birds, although this behavior isn’t very common.

In fact, some studies of Blue Jay feeding habits revealed that only about 1% of these birds had any evidence of eggs or birds in their stomachs.

What Is a Blue Jay’s Favorite Food?

A Blue Jay’s favorite food can vary, but they have a few top picks that stand out. Acorns are a big hit with these birds, making up a significant portion of their diet, especially in the fall and winter.

They’re often seen storing acorns for later use, showcasing their forward-thinking nature.

Another favorite is sunflower seeds, which they frequently seek out at bird feeders. Black oil sunflower seeds are very appealing to Blue Jays because of their high fat content, which provides an excellent source of energy.

Peanuts, either in the shell or shelled, are also a top choice for these birds. They’re not only nutritious but also a fun challenge for Blue Jays to crack open.

In addition to these, Blue Jays enjoy suet, a type of animal fat, especially in the colder months. It’s a high-energy food source, which is perfect for keeping them warm and active during winter.

Feeding Tips and Attracting Blue Jays to Your Yard

Blue jay eating at bird feeder

Attracting Blue Jays to your yard can be a delightful way to enjoy wildlife and add a splash of color to your outdoor space. To help you out, here are some tips to make your yard a favorite spot for these lovely birds.

Offer their favorite foods

Blue Jays are particularly fond of certain foods, and offering these can quickly attract them to your yard. Peanuts are a top choice, whether they’re whole, shelled, or even in the form of peanut butter.

Sunflower seeds, especially the black oil variety, are also highly favored by these birds. Suet, mealworms, and other common bird feeds are also popular.

Scatter these foods in your feeder, and you might soon hear the lively chatter of Blue Jays.

Use the right feeders

Blue Jays are pretty big birds, so they like feeders where they can fit comfortably.

From my experience attracting Blue Jays to my yard, I found that using open tray feeders or hopper feeders mounted on a sturdy post worked really well.

These types of feeders provided a stable and secure platform for these birds to feed comfortably.

On the other hand, hanging feeders, while good for some birds, didn’t work as effectively because they tended to sway and make it less enjoyable for the Blue Jays.

Provide fresh water

Water is essential for Blue Jays, not just for drinking but also for bathing. Adding a birdbath or a shallow water dish to your yard can really draw them in.

Just remember to keep the water clean and change it often to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of diseases.

Plant food-producing trees and shrubs

While feeders are great, having natural food sources can make your yard even more appealing to Blue Jays. Planting nut-bearing trees like oaks can provide them with acorns, one of their favorite foods.

Moreover, berry-producing shrubs offer a natural and nutritious food source, and they also add beauty to your garden. These natural food spots can attract other wildlife as well, making your yard a real nature hub.

Create a safe environment

To make your yard more appealing to Blue Jays, it’s important to create a safe environment. They feel comfortable when they have tall trees or thick bushes to perch on and keep an eye out for potential threats like cats or hawks.

Additionally, when you place feeders, make sure they are in a spot where the birds can easily see any approaching predators. This helps them feel secure while they enjoy their meal.

Another key consideration is keeping your pets away from the feeding area. A peaceful spot means Blue Jays are more likely to visit and stick around.

Pro Tip: Make your yard safer for Blue Jays by reducing window collisions. Place feeders either very close to windows, within 3 feet, or farther away, beyond 30 feet.

This helps them avoid high-speed collisions when flying to and from the feeders. You can also enhance safety by applying window decals or screens to minimize reflections and protect these beautiful birds.

How Do Blue Jays Hunt for Food?

Blue jay eating bird seeds

Blue Jays forage for food both in trees and on the ground, adapting their methods based on what they’re after. When it comes to seeds and nuts, they use their strong bills to crack them open.

For bugs, which are a big part of their diet, Blue Jays are pretty agile. They dart around leaves and branches to grab caterpillars, beetles, and other insects.

If they’re after small animals or bird eggs, they usually use a more stealthy approach, quietly approaching nests or hunting on the ground.

But they are not just skilled hunters; they’re also smart planners. They have this clever habit called “caching,” where they store food like acorns for later use.

This is particularly useful during winter when food is scarce. They use their strong bills to gather and hide these nuts in various spots, usually in holes in the ground or even in tree bark.

In addition to caching, Blue Jays are also frequent visitors to bird feeders, where they’re known to grab food like suet or seeds, sometimes storing these as well.

Meanwhile, check out this video of Blue Jays being active on bird feeders:

Picky Blue Jay Plucks The Perfect Peanut At Cornell Feeders – Sept. 11, 2023

Fun Fact: Blue Jays are surprisingly clever when it comes to choosing their snacks. These smart birds have a knack for picking the heaviest peanuts from a bunch.

They do this by shaking the peanuts in their beaks, which helps them ‘feel’ the weight and listen to the sounds the nuts make. This way, they can tell which peanuts are full and worth the effort, all without cracking them open.

What Do Blue Jays Eat in the Winter?

Blue jay eating in winter

When winter hits, Blue Jays mostly stick to plant-based food, which makes up around 75% of their food intake. They’re also more likely to scavenge for carrion and human leftovers at this time of year.

They’re big on nuts like acorns, beechnuts, and even hazelnuts and hickory nuts. They’re clever, too; they stash these nuts away in warmer months to munch on when it’s cold.

Seeds become a significant part of their diet as well. Blue Jays are known to visit bird feeders more frequently in the winter, feasting on sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet.

They’re also pros at finding wild seeds and berries in the woods, so they’re never short on food options.

While insects and caterpillars are a staple in their summer diet, Blue Jays shift to these plant-based foods in the winter. However, they do keep an eye out for any available larvae or dormant insects as additional protein sources.

What Do Baby Blue Jays Eat?

Baby Blue Jays mostly eat what their parents bring them, which includes a mix of insects, berries, seeds, and grains. These foods are essential for their growth and development.

For harder foods that are part of the baby birds’ diet, like seeds and certain insects, parents partially regurgitate these items to make them softer and easier for the chicks to eat.

Most of the time, however, the parents feed the chicks whole foods, especially when it comes to softer items like berries, soft fruits, and smaller insects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Blue jay perched on a post eating peanuts

Do Blue Jays Eat Insects?

Yes, Blue Jays do eat insects. In fact, some studies have found that about 22% of their diet consists of various insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers.

Do Blue Jays Eat Meat?

Yes, Blue Jays do eat meat, but it’s not the main part of their diet. Occasionally, they may eat small rodents, frogs, and carrion if they get the chance. Their diet reflects their opportunistic nature and adaptability.

Do Blue Jays Eat Peanuts?

Blue Jays love eating peanuts. It’s a favorite snack for them, especially in urban areas where people offer bird feeders with peanuts. Their strong beaks help them crack open the shells to access the nutritious nuts inside.

Now that you know what Blue Jays like to eat, are you ready to welcome them into your yard? Feel free to share your plans and questions in the comment section below!

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