Bright blue on top of their heads and back, and greyish white on the belly and chin, there’s no debate that blue jays are beautiful little birds. But what about their mating habits? Are blue jays in it “till death does them apart?”
Approximately 90 percent of all bird species are monogamous, which is when a male and a female join to create a “pair bond”. However, getting involved in monogamy doesn’t necessarily mean the couple will stay together for life.
The period a pair bond lasts may be as long as a single nesting (for example, house wrens), one whole breeding season (as with most bird species), multiple consecutive breeding seasons, or life.
So what’s the stand of blue jays? Do blue jays mate for life?
The answer is yes. Blue jays are one of the bird species that mate for life, remaining loyal to their mates until one of the pair dies. Often referred to as true love birds, a blue jay couple is a fascinating example of commitment and peaceful partnership.
If you’re curious about how blue jays mate, how long they live, or how often they lay eggs, keep reading as we answer those questions and more.
The mating ritual of blue jays takes place over two processes: elimination and consummation. The following is an explanation of how things go down in the blue jay community:
The courtship of blue jays starts somewhat similar to how the show “The Bachelorette” begins. One by one, potential suitors from the flock “volunteer” to form a courtship group that consists of 6 to 10 males.
Author Note: The males gather around a female (this is where the name “courtship group” comes from) high in a treetop. All the focus and eyes of the males are directed towards the female, and then the events below unfold:
- The female flies around the area for a short while.
- The males fly after the female, following her with a combination of blue jay sounds and calls.
- When the female is done flying and lands on another tree, all the males imitate her and land in a cluster surrounding her.
- After that, the males take turns to demonstrate their capabilities and interest by producing high-pitched whistling noises and bobbing their heads vertically.
Then, one of the male birds “ taps out”. Of course, not like in wrestling matches; no fighting occurs and the female doesn’t signal males to leave.
Instead, the selection seems to be based on self-assessment where one male determines that his level of interest can’t overcome that of the rest of the contenders. The male then assumes a pose of submission by ruffling his feathers then exiting the group.
Author Note: Once one male has been eliminated, the courtship group -along with the female- goes on another flight and another round of whistling and head-bobbing. As such, the males back out one by one until a single male is left in the competition.
With only one male left in the run, it’s time for the new couple to seal the deal. The blue jay pair retreats for some private time, each ruffling their feathers at the other and offering food or presenting nesting items as gifts.
Much like the red rose in the reality show, these things mean “I choose you”. From this point forward, the male and female blue jays are mates for life.
Author Note: Although blue jays are a highly social species that lives in busy flocks, mated pairs will keep their “love” alive as they continue to appreciate the special bond they share throughout the year by offering gifts.
Often that not, these gifts consist of food, but they can also be bark or twigs.
On average, the lifespan of a blue jay (not to be confused with a bluebird) is 7 years when out in the wild. That said, the oldest blue jay that researchers studied in the wild reached the age of 17 years and 6 months.
In captivity, however, these birds can live a lot longer. The oldest age recorded of a blue jay in captivity is 26 years and 3 months.
As with the majority of birds, blue jays become sexually mature when they turn 1 year of age. Consequently, blue jays can start participating in mating and breeding rituals in the spring right after they’re born.
After mating, the female blue jay lays eggs anytime between the end of March and late July. The peak season, however, runs from the end of April to late May.
For birds in the north, they may raise just one brood per breeding season. But in southern areas, blue Jays may produce two broods per year.
The female blue jay lays between 3 to 9 eggs at a time. The color of their eggs can be blue, more specifically a light blue with green tones, or yellow with grey or brown spots.
Blue jay eggs must be incubated for a period of 17 to 18 days. This job is usually the responsibility of the female, but sometimes the male will share the load.
Author Note: During incubation, the male is responsible for providing food for his female.
The Nearctic region is the origin of blue jays. The birds are common in the United States – particularly east of the Rocky Mountains- and southern Canada.
Although it’s rare, the males and females of the blue jay species look almost identical. The only physical difference is their size, where males are slightly larger than females, but this can be tough to see.
So, do blue jays mate for life? The answer is yes. Blue jays are one of the bird species that pair for life, remaining loyal to their partners until one of the couple dies.
Blue jays are often considered true love birds, offering a fascinating example of commitment and peaceful partnership.