Blue Jay vs. Bluebird: A Detailed Guide on Who’s Blue and Who’s Who?

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Birdwatching is a popular hobby for many people across the globe. It’s a great way to get fresh air and connect with nature. For beginners, it can be tricky to tell different types of birds apart.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the difference between two types of bluebirds: the blue jay and the bluebird. Keep reading to learn more!

Blue Jay vs Bluebird: A Quick Comparison

  Bluebird Blue jay
Songs and voice Warbling, low-pitched Vclicks, chucks, whirrs, whines
Size 6.5-8 inches 9.8-11.8 inches
Wing shape Long, wide Long, wide
Tail shape Short, narrow Long, wide
Flight 17 miles per hour 20-25 miles per hour
Flocks 6-100 individuals 5-250 individuals
Color blue head, wings, back, and tail, red chin, throat, chest, and flanks Bluish purple head, white face, throat and chin, black necklace, bright blue wings, and tail
Behavior Quiet, gentle Aggressive, intelligent
Lifespan 6-10 years 6-8 years
Habitat Southwestern, Central, and Northern United States Western North America

Appearance

One of the easiest ways to tell a blue jay apart from a bluebird is by its appearance. Blue jays are larger than bluebirds, weighing in at around 2.5 ounces.

They like living in their natural habitat, especially during summer and late summer. This is because these environments have their favorite food.

They also have a stouter build with a larger head. Their plumage is darker blue with some white on their wings and tails. These differences between bluebirds are evident in their body shapes and rounded heads. 

Meanwhile, bluebirds are much smaller, only weighing around 1 ounce. They have slender bodies and delicate features. Their plumage is a brighter blue with some reddish tinges near their throats.

Vocalizations

Another way to tell these two types of bluebirds apart is by their vocalizations. Blue jays are known for their loud, harsh calls. They make a lot of noise and can be quite obnoxious!

Blue Jays are also excellent mimics and can imitate the calls of other birds and animals like hawks.

Meanwhile, bluebirds have much softer, sweeter-sounding calls. If you’re trying to identify a bluebird by its call, listen for a trill or a warble.

Behavior

Another way to tell these two types of birds apart is their behavior. Blue jays are known for being very loud and aggressive. They are also known to mimic the sounds of other animals, such as hawks.

Blue Jay

Bluebirds, on the other hand, are much more gentle and timid creatures. They tend to stick to themselves and are rarely seen in flocks like blue jays are.

Habitat

Lastly, you can tell these two types of birds apart by their habitat preferences. Blue jays are most commonly found in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains.

They prefer heavily wooded areas with many trees for them to perch in. Bluebirds, however, are most commonly found in western North America and parts of Canada and Mexico.

They prefer open spaces such as fields or meadows with fewer trees to hide in. Habitat loss is detrimental to these birds because they cannot access certain types of food.  

Nesting & Reproduction

When it comes to nesting and reproduction, there are a few key differences between Blue Jays and Bluebirds.

Bluebird

Bluebirds are cavity nesters, meaning they build their nests in tree holes. They will often use abandoned woodpecker holes or man-made nest boxes.

Blue Jays, on the other hand, build their nests in trees but do not use cavities. Instead, they build flat nests made of twigs and leaves.

Bluebirds also generally have a shorter breeding season than Blue Jays. Bluebirds will typically start breeding in late February or early March. Blue Jays, on the other hand, can start breeding as early as January!

Genealogy

Interestingly, despite their similarities, these two types of birds are not closely related. Blue jays are in the family Corvidae which also includes crows and ravens.

This group of birds is characterized by their loud, strident calls and somewhat sociable personalities. They also have a bright, glossy plumage devoid of sexual dimorphism.

Bluebirds are in the family Turdidae which also includes thrushes. In general, this family is referred to as the songbirds. Sexual dimorphism is seen in songbirds. The females are generally darker in color than the males.

Diet

When it comes to diet, there are some similarities and some differences between these two types of birds. Both blue jays and bluebirds are considered omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and animals.

Both birds consume insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets. They will also eat small rodents such as mice and voles.

Fruit is an important part of both of these birds’ diets. Some of the fruits they eat include berries, cherries, and grapes.

Blue Jays will also eat acorns and other nuts. In fact, they play an important role in the dispersal of oak trees! They will store acorns in their nests and then forget about them, leading to the sprouting of new oak trees.

Tips for Identification in the Field

Now that you know some of the key differences between these two types of birds, here are a few tips to help you identify them in the field:

  • Listen to their calls. Blue jays have loud, harsh calls, while bluebirds have softer, sweeter calls.
  • Observe their behavior. Blue jays are known for being loud and aggressive, while bluebirds are more gentle and timid.
  • Look at their habitat preferences. Blue jays are typically found in heavily wooded areas, while bluebirds prefer open spaces such as fields or meadows.
  • Pay attention to their nesting habits. Bluebirds build their nests in holes in trees, while blue jays build flat nests made of twigs and leaves.

Attracting Bluebirds and Blue Jays

These two species are both attracted to bird feeders, so if you’re trying to attract one of these birds to your yard, setting up a bird feeder is a good idea.

You can use various bird seeds to attract blue jays and bluebirds. Here are some of the best seeds to put out for blue jays and bluebirds:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Cracked corn
  • Fruit such as berries or grapes

If you’re unsure what type of bird you’re looking at, remember to look for these key differences: size, behavior, and habitat preferences. Now that you know the difference between blue jays and bluebirds, happy birdwatching!

FAQ

Do Blue Jays and Bluebirds Get Along?

There is no evidence to suggest that Blue Jays and Bluebirds don’t get along. In fact, they are often seen in the same general area and may even share birdfeeders.

However, because Blue Jays are known for being aggressive, it’s possible that they may chase away bluebirds if there is not enough food to go around.

Do Blue Jays Eat Bluebirds?

It is unlikely that a Blue Jay would eat a Bluebird as they are not typically on the blue jay’s menu. However, if a Blue Jay was desperate enough, it is possible that it would eat a Bluebird.

Are Blue Jays or Bluebirds More Common?

Blue Jays are more common than bluebirds. This is likely because Blue Jays have a larger range and can live in various habitats.

Bluebirds, on the other hand, prefer open spaces such as fields or meadows and are not typically found in heavily wooded areas.

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Sophie Herlihy

After an early start in the veterinary industry and as a conservation educator at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, Sophie has since been a successful Zookeeper and Conservationist, specializing in native New Zealand species. When she isn't bird watching in native forests or crawling through the underbrush at midnight searching for rare frog species, she can be found with her husband on their sheep and beef station, far from civilization.