Attracting Blue Jays

Last Updated on November 15, 2020 by Nancie

Inquisitive Blue Jay

Blue Jays are fun birds. Members of the Corvidae family, they are smart and bold. Yes, they can seem a little obnoxious to human eyes. But if you watch them, they don’t so much bully other birds at the feeders as behave in a loud self-important “me first” way.

They fly in, take what they want, announcing it with loud calls, and then move on to other business. And sometimes other backyard birds call their bluff and they are the ones who have to back off! Would you like Blue Jays in your yard? Offer them the foods they like!

Blue Jay Eating a Peanut
Blue Jay Chooses a Peanut

Blue Jays Love to Eat Peanuts

In my yard, Blue Jays seem to like four things from the feeders: sunflower seeds, dried mealworms, suet and PEANUTS. They LOVE peanuts. I put out three large handfuls of peanuts (in the shell) every day in a platform feeder. 

Blue Jay in a Tree Looking Down at a Feeder
Blue Jay Checking Out the Feeder

When one of the local Blue Jays spots that the peanuts are out, she lands on a branch overlooking the feeder. She calls very loudly for a minute or so, announcing to the local world that something good is here.

Then the jay will swoop down to the feeder to pick out the best peanut. She will pick up one peanut in her beak, seemingly to judge the weight and size of it, put it down and check out a few more until one that suits her is found.

Blue Jay Eating a Peanut
Blue Jay Eating a Peanut

Then she’ll fly off to land high in a nearby tree to break it open to eat. If the peanuts aren’t too big, she might even get a couple of peanuts at once. She’ll stuff one down into her throat pouch and then take a second one in her beak.

Blue Jay Caching a Peanut in a Leaf Pile
Blue Jay Caching a Peanut

The jays don’t only eat the peanuts immediately; they also cache some for later. I once watched a jay go straight from a feeder to cache peanuts in leaves blown against the base of a chain-linked fence. This site didn’t seem all that secure to me in a yard full of squirrels. 

In our yard, there is typically a family of five to seven Blue Jays. They usually descend on the feeders together. While there is often some jockeying, mostly they do take turns, pacing themselves like planes on a runway waiting for their time to land. They keep coming back, keeping up their calls, until all the peanuts are gone. 

Blue Jay Eating Mealworms
Blue Jay Eating Dried Mealworms

Once the peanuts are depleted, one or two jays sometimes eat a few dried mealworms that get mixed in on this feeder. They might eat a few safflower seeds but it doesn’t seem to be a favorite. But once the peanuts are gone, they fly off to patrol the neighborhood, look for other food and mob Coopers Hawks, American Crows and Fish Crows. They circle back periodically to see if there is anything new at the feeders.

My strategy with the peanuts is to put them out once a day in one feeder. There is not a constant supply available. I do this because the Blue Jays are pretty loud and disruptive when they descend on the feeders to eat. All the other birds temporarily back off. They seem to know the jays will only be doing this for about ten minutes and then the feeders will settle back to normal. So they don’t usually go far.

Blue Jay in a Feeder Choosing a Peanut
Blue Jay Choosing a Peanut

This is the feeder that I use to feed peanuts and mealworms to the Blue Jays. It is a Birds Choice hanging platform type feeder. (I reviewed it here if you are interested..) This feeder is nice for this purpose. Jays can easily fly in and out; they can grab their treats and go efficiently. It’s large enough that two or even three of them can grab peanuts at once. (Although that can sometimes lead to some bickering.)

Blue Jay Hanging From A Suet Feeder
Blue Jay Hanging From A Suet Feeder

Suet in the Spring

In the spring, the local Blue Jays come to the suet feeders quite a lot. I think they feed the suet to their young. So it can be as popular as peanuts then.

The suet feeders I’m using now are the upside-down type feeders that woodpeckers and other clinging birds like. They are a more difficult for birds like European Starlings to feed from and dominate.

Blue Jays, and some other birds, can cling temporarily underneath these feeders to get beak fulls of suet. I sometimes make it easier on them by chopping up a little suet and putting it in the platform feeder with the peanuts.

Acorns, Water, Etc.

Like most birds, Blue Jays don’t get all of their food from feeders. They also really like acorns (which are abundant in my wooded yard) and other seeds and grains they find in nature.

They do also seem to appreciate the birdbaths in the yard. I keep two of my birdbaths heated in the winter. So even when there are no peanuts out, a Blue Jay might still stop by for a quick drink.

Blue Jay Sitting on a Shepherd's Hook
Blue Jay Sitting on a Shepherd’s Hook

Blue Jays are Fun

I like the Blue Jays. They are bold and brassy and completely full of themselves. But they are also the feathered cops of the neighborhood. They warn the other birds when there is a predator around. They will mob hawks and crows aggressively, which I think evens the playing field a bit for backyard birds in general.

Blue Jay on a Bench with Peanuts
Blue Jay Grabs a Peanut a Few Feet From Me

I think they can recognize people too. I think they know I’m the one that puts out the peanuts and watch my movements in the yard. Sometimes if I walk out the back door, a jay will call out, I think hopeful that peanuts are coming. Sometimes, when the weather is warmer, I’ll sit on the back step and put peanuts on the ground or on a bench a few feet from me. One bold Blue Jay will come up and quickly grab a peanut and fly off. This is repeated several times.

I’m not sure if it is the same jay over and over or a series of jays, each taking their turn like they do at the feeders. I suspect it may just be one that is brave enough (or hungry enough) to take the chance.

Blue Jay in a Tree

Want Blue Jays in your yard? Try offering peanuts. I suspect they will love you for it.

Nancie

Learn more about Blue Jays

Check out All About Birds’ Blue Jay pages.

Learn More About Maryland Birds

See my post on Maryland Backyard Birds.

Backyard Birds That Eat Other Birds


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6 thoughts on “Attracting Blue Jays

  1. Nancie, I love your article. Exactly the experience I have with my Blue Jays. I have a flat tray on my patio, I put a big cupful of peanuts in the shell every morning, and watch them swoop in like a jet landing on an aircraft carrier! At some points, they’ll be 6-8 gorgeous, sassy birds at once. I know a couple will start calling first thing when they see me in my kitchen window. Not everyone might believe that, haha. And, I watch them pick the best peanut, the record is when the fella went through six, and finally picked the seventh! So entertaining to watch them, thank you for your writing, puts a smile on my face knowing someone else is tending their blue jays and loves it as much as I do. Best wishes. Barb Gabbert, Wichita, Kansas.

    1. Hi Barb,
      Blue Jays are such fun to watch! I do think they come to recognize people who regularly feed them. There have been times when I’ve gone out in my back yard to do other things and a jay will start calling in apparent anticipation of peanuts! And sometimes that works for them and I’ll go back inside and grab an extra handful for them. LOL
      Nancie

  2. Hi Nancie!

    Thanks so much for your very entertaining and informative story. I too LOVE my Blue Jays and put out a daily endless supply of peanuts. I sit on a step down into my dining room with a cup of coffee every morning with the perfect view to the deck outside, of the table on the deck that I place the peanuts on.

    I’ve been filling my feeder every day of the year for the past 23 years that I’ve lived in my house. I never noticed Blue Jays until my son was murdered in a terrorist attack two years ago. Out of the blue, Blue Jays started appearing at my feeder. My son’s name is ‘Jay’. I’m presuming that’s a sign, his way of ‘visiting’ me every day.

    So since, I’ve researched all I could about Jays which started my routine of putting out the peanuts.

    Thanks for loving and caring for the Jays too!

    Jea

    1. Hi Jea,
      I am so sorry about your son. I’m glad that the Blue Jays arrived to bring comfort. They are such energetic birds to watch and they do so very much love their peanuts!
      Good wishes,
      Nancie

  3. Absolutely delightful article about our beloved Blue Jays! I love the mentioning by you and in one commenter about them being like fighter jets coming in to land when going for their food. That’s exactly what I’ve thought of them, and part of what tickles me pink about them.
    We live in the frozen tundra of ND on a farm with lots of trees around our place and usually don’t see alot of the Jays in the deeper winter (don’t know if they travel to warmer climes then??) but this year we’ve had a really good winter by our standards, until just recently now it’s been bitterly cold, subzero in daytime with frightening wind chills. So since they have stuck around, we’ve been putting peanuts and other feed (particularly peanut suet pellets – hubby calls them ice cream for the birds, lol) out throughout the day just to make sure our birds stay extra fat to insulate them.
    We’ve also observed they seem to like cracked corn for extra energy for a quick and easy feed particularly towards the end of the day to tide them over til the next morning. I’m now getting some mealworms and try putting those out too like you do to see if they eat them…once the peanuts are gobbled up of course 😉
    I appreciate your mention of them stashing the peanuts away to eat later. When our group of Jays swarm the feeder and fly off with their peanuts, it seems too fast for them to return for more, since it would take some time for them crack open the shell and eat before returning, so I’ve long suspected this but because of all the trees haven’t really been able to directly observe it.
    We’ve read about how smart Jays are, some people who’ve taken in foundlings and raised them from young say they’re as smart as ravens.
    Our feeder is a platform that we don’t hang but have nailed to a post outside our kitchen sink window so we can see them pretty clearly while they’re feeding. It’s hilarious how they pick through several peanut shells til they find just the right one.
    But one thing I noticed only recently is that when they pick those shells up, they shake or bob their head just a little bit each time. I think they’re so smart that once they start eating those peanuts, they learn that some shells, although they look big, have only one peanut in them, or maybe the peanut that’s in there is runty. I believe the Jays are “rattling” the peanuts to make sure they’re getting the most out of their food run!
    Since they can see us clearly moving around in the house and Jays are often pretty skittish, if they see us suddenly move they fly off from the feeder right away.
    There is however one Jay who is huge and wide and clearly a bit older than the rest that the hubs calls Grandpa Jay, who will stare right at us while scooping up the shelled peanuts that we also put out or the cracked corn, other Jays will swoop in and try to start a fight with him, but he’ll just staunchly sit there and continue to eat. He’s seen too much of life to be easily rattled or scared away from getting his fill!

    1. Hi Becky,
      : ) I totally agree. Blue Jays are such fun birds to watch. It’s cool that you have such a close view of what they are doing at your feeder. I think they know they have competition for the peanuts so they want to at least start off by picking the biggest best peanut first. Eventually, between them, they will grab every last one but they start with the best and work their way through them. It’s interesting that you can see them rattling the nuts. My feeder is farther out in the yard so I can see them picking up nuts one by one testing them, but I hadn’t caught the rattling. Very cool.
      Nancie

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