Jan 15, 2014 | Featured Web Article

Blue Jay Migration

Handsome members of the corvid family, blue jays are widespread and common all year round in the East.

Some of the blue jays you see in your yard during the winter might not be the same individuals you see during the summer. Some blue jays migrate. Some opt not to, and stay on their breeding territory for the duration of the winter. Some that spend the winter in your yard might be migrants that breed farther north, and those that breed in your neighborhood might have headed south. Some jays head south some years, but not every year.

From mid-September to mid-October, some bird watching hotspots along major flyways such as the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Coast report thousands of blue jays heading south—practically rivers of blue flying past. With so many blue jays heading south, one would think that the cold areas of Canada and the United States would be empty of blue jays in winter. But that's not the case. Many blue jays opt to stay close to home for the entire winter, even in the most northerly areas of the species' breeding range.

So how does a blue jay decide whether to migrate or sit tight? Scientists don't have a good answer right now, but are actively trying to figure it out.

Blue jays nest across eastern North America and west as far as the Rocky Mountains and as far north as central Canada. Some have expanded into the Pacific Northwest, and some winter in eastern New Mexico and eastern Wyoming.

About Dawn Hewitt

Dawn Hewitt is the editor at Watching Backyard Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald-Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.

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