- The blue jay, a member of the Corvidae family, is related to the crow and raven, which are big, aggressive and intelligent birds. The smaller bluebird is a type of thrush belonging to the Turdidae family.
- Male and female blue jay have the same coloration, only differing slightly in size. The blue jay has a white face, and blue on its wings, tail, back, and crest, with a black collar around its neck that goes up the sides of its head. The wings are beautifully patterned with bars of black, blue, and white.
- The male western bluebird, mountain bluebird, and Eastern bluebird sport bright blue colors with bodies that can be rust-red, orange or gray. Their female counterparts have less vivid plumage.
For a lot of people, a blue bird can be a lot of birds. Depending on where they live and what they see, it can be a jay bird, or a bluebird, an indigo bunting, a giant pitta, a blue whistling thrush, or a blue grosbeak. This blog concerns two of the most popular blue birds in North America, the bluebird and the blue jay. Despite the fact that their feathers are shades of blue — which is an optical illusion — they are very different.
The blue jay is much bigger and louder than the bluebird. Though it is classified as a passerine, or songbird it doesn’t sing so much as it shrieks, squawks, caws, and makes other interesting noises. It’s a member of the Corvidae family, which means it’s related to the crow and the raven, which are also big, aggressive and intelligent birds. The bluebird belongs to the Turdidae family and so is a type of thrush. There are also four subspecies of the blue jay and three species of the bluebird. Read on for more ways to tell the blue jay and the bluebird apart.
Comparing Bluebird vs Bluejay
This table allows you to be able to spot the differences between the bluebird and the blue jay at a glance.
|Size||5.9 to 8.3 inches||9 to 12 inches|
|Weight||0.85 to 1.31 ounces||2.60 to 3.26 ounces|
|Habitat||gardens, orchards||scrubland, forests, parks|
|Lifespan||Six to 10 years||Seven to as much as 26 years|
|Body||Stocky||Long, with a crest|
|Nest||In a cavity or nest box||Cup-shaped nest in trees|
|Sexual dimorphism||Females duller|| Males and females alike, but|
males a bit larger
The three different bluebird species also have subspecies. The eastern bluebird has seven subspecies, mostly found in Mexico, Central America, southeastern Canada, and the eastern and central United States.
The western bluebird has six subspecies, most of which are found in Mexico. The mountain bluebird, known for the overall sapphire blue plumage of the male, has no subspecies.
The blue jay is divided into four subspecies, but they are so much alike that some scientists don’t believe they are subspecies at all. The largest blue jay is Cyanocitta cristata bromia, which is found in the northern United States and Canada. The smallest blue jay is Cyanocitta cristata semplei, which is found in the south of Florida.
The Five Key Differences Between Bluebird vs. Bluejay
1. Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Size
The blue jay is considerably larger than the bluebird. The largest of the blue jays, the Northern blue jay, can be 12 inches long compared to a large bluebird’s 8 inches. The blue jay’s size and aggressiveness give it the edge over the bluebird where they share a habitat.
2. Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Where the Blue Is
The blue color is distributed differently around the bodies of the bluebird and the bluejay. The male mountain bluebird is vivid blue all over, while the female is mostly gray, and the blue on her wings and tail is a gray-blue. The wings, back, and head of the male Eastern bluebird are sapphire blue, and it has a rust-red breast. Females have a gray head, streaks of blue on their tail and wings, and their breast is more orange than rust.
The male western bluebird has a bright blue head and throat, its breast and sides are orange, and its belly is gray. It has a brown patch on its back. The female is a less vivid blue on her wings, tail, and body. Her throat and belly are gray, and the breast is a dull orange.
In contrast, the blue jay has a white face, and blue on its wings, tail, back, and crest, with a black collar around its neck that goes up the sides of its head. The wings are beautifully patterned with bars of black, blue, and white. The bird’s underparts are off-white. Unlike bluebirds, males and females have the same coloration, but males are a little bigger.
Blue jays also have that crest on top of their head that rises when the bird is annoyed and bristles when it is scared. The crest lowers when the bird is relaxed. Bluebirds lack a crest.
3. Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Behavior
Blue jays are notorious for being aggressive and not just to other birds. They’ve been known to mob birds-of-prey and humans that get too close to their nest. They sometimes raid the nests of other birds, including bluebirds, for their eggs and chicks. They run other birds away from feeders or force them to drop their food. In regions where they have become overpopulated, they will even kill and eat other birds. On the other hand, smaller birds, like bluebirds, will mob blue jays if there are enough of them to do so. The blue jay is also a slow flyer and a favorite meal of birds of prey such as hawks.
Blue jays are gregarious and and active birds that live in groups and are highly social. Much like crows, they will gather in whatever size group their environment will support. Also like crows, they are opportunistic scavengers. They are quite territorial and try to chase off any invaders.
Bluebirds are not necessarily timid birds, but their small size makes them vulnerable to attacks by birds that are larger and bolder. While not timid, they are solitary and shy. House sparrows are smaller than bluebirds, for example, but assertive and numerous so they will take over nests and feeding stations. Bluebirds, who naturally nest in tree cavities, are also attacked by cats, raccoons, squirrels, snakes, and opossums as well as birds of prey. Jays are belligerent, outspoken, bullies who will take on all comers. Bluebirds actively avoid confrontation whenever possible.
4. Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Vocalization
While bluebirds are known for the sweetness of their song and calls, blue jays are known for their alarm call and other interesting vocalizations. As corvids, they can imitate both the speech of humans and the calls of hawks. Other calls sound like squeaky water pumps, rattles, or bells. On the other hand, some calls are so soft that they are difficult for humans to hear.
5. Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Reproduction
Blue jays form monogamous pairs that last for life. Bluebirds are somewhat monogamous. They will form pairs, at least for one breeding season, but aren’t above mating with other birds on the side. Bluebirds from an older brood often help raise the hatchlings from the latest brood. This isn’t seen in blue jays.
Bonus: Bluebird vs Blue Jay: Sports
Both the bluebird and the blue jay have come to represent sports teams. The most famous is the baseball team Toronto Blue Jays, who chose the name for their team after holding a naming contest. Of 30,000 submissions, 10 finalists were selected for the board of directors to analyze. 154 people had suggested the name Blue Jays, and they settled on that one, as two other baseball teams also sported “bird” names (St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles).
In the U.K., the Bluebirds United Soccer Club was formed 1970, and they borrowed the name ‘Bluebirds’ from the insignia of the English Football Association club, Cardiff City.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the difference between a bluebird and a blue jay?
A bluebird is a smaller bird with a stocky body. It lacks a crest on the head, and the breasts of the western and eastern bluebirds are orange or rust-colored. The male mountain bluebird is a uniform bright blue, though the female is duller. Blue jays are larger and have a slimmer silhouette, and their feathers come in patterns of blue, white, and black. The crest on the bird’s head is an indicator of its mood, and males and females look alike.
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