Do Scrub Jays Eat Other Birds

Do Scrub Jays Eat Other Birds? The Backyard Bully

A bright blue western Scrub-Jay perched on a bird feeder pole

Watchers love scrub-jays because they have a vibrant blue color, they like to express themselves vocally, and they move in bold lunges that are a sight to watch. The small birds live near Oaklands, and they’re known to visit backyards every once in a while. If you’re lucky (or not) you’ll run by one or two jays on your feeder. Looks aside, scrub jays are, in fact, some of the few birds that are rumored to kill their own kind. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But do scrub-jays eat other birds?

Yes, scrub jays do eat other birds. They are among the rare birds that may resort to killing other birds to eat them. The thing is, when scrub jays kill other birds, it’s usually for food. They either kill them to steal their food or to feast on their bodies. In the case of predators, it’s always the latter.

Although the topic is a bit controversial, it does spike some questions. They’re not natural predators, but that doesn’t mean they don’t attack one or two birds every now and then.

Let’s see all about that!

Do Scrub Jays Eat Other Birds?

But scrub-jays aren’t predators, so why do they eat other birds?

Author Note: Well, it’s more out of territorial tribalism than anything else. As with chickens, scrub jays live by a pecking order. So, when they see a smaller bird, they presume it goes lower than them in their established order. They see this as a free pass to kill the bird and steal its territory or announce it as theirs.

The odd thing, though, is that scrub jays are too small to kill other birds themselves. That’s why the process usually goes through a large group. The multiple scrub-jays round a smaller individual and start delivering harsh blows. Eventually, the bird gives up and dies, and it’s left to the jays to claim its territory or its food source.

While it’s in the nature of animals to kill others of their own kind, it’s tough to believe when it comes to small birds that aren’t predators. It defies the peaceful nature that birds are known for, and that’s why a lot of bird lovers don’t favor scrub jays.

Photo by Gonzalo Zepeda Martínez

Why Do Scrub Jays Kill the Other Birds?

The violence of scrub jays is non-fathomable for a lot of people. They’re supposed to be nature’s elegant birdies with their blue suits that distinguish them from others. So, what went wrong?

When you look at the birds’ nature, you’ll find that the scrub jays’ behavior isn’t as odd as it seems. Birds have a territorial instinct. As a matter of fact, all animals do; not all of them act on it, though. The difference with scrub jays is their size and intelligence.

Although not too large, scrub jays are larger than bird species that are considered small. Their size allows them to gang up on a bird and bully it or kill it. Plus, their intelligence enables them to cooperate together. Those are two reasons that scrub-jays are violent and sometimes deadly.

When you think of it, scrub jays are doing the violence solely for the tribe or group. If killing the other bird or preying on it isn’t beneficial for their tribe, they wouldn’t do it. However, they find it as a way to defend their territory and increase their food sources. Besides, they think that by killing the bird, they’re securing their own nests.

Scrub jays aren’t too different from humans. Our species, too, have gone to wars because of territorial controversies, resulting in a lot of people of the same species dead. The two concepts don’t stray far from each other, yet a lot of people still hate the aggressive behavior of scrub jays.

Do Scrub Jays Kill Other Scrub Jays?

A Western Scrub Jay perched.

Well, it may come as a surprise, but scrub-jays do kill other scrub jays. It rarely happens, but it does, and the birds’ violent nature only encourages it.

Scrub jays have their reasons, though. When it comes to territory and food, they could very well kill other jays for victory. They don’t think it through. The way they think of it, other birds are trespassing or controlling my territory, so I need to get rid of them. The fact that they’re born to the same species doesn’t protect them.

We’re not saying that these facts justify the scrub jays’ behavior, but it gives you a better insight into their reasons and the things they have at stake. In the end, they’re protecting their territory. Or, they think they’re doing so.

Are Scrub Jays the Bullies of the Bird World?

Scrub jays don’t only kill other birds; they also resort to bullying sometimes. That especially happens when it’s only one scrub jay in competition with another bird because it won’t be able to kill it. Or, it happens when a group of scrub jays finds a stray bird in their territory.

For example, if a small bird is feeding on a backyard coneflower feeder peacefully, a passing group of jays may find it to themselves to bully the bird. They do that by lunging suddenly with a loud, rough squawk. As a result, the small bird gets terrified and flees the scene.

Sometimes, the scrub jays may take it to themselves to prey on the bird or its nestlings and eggs. You can say scrub jays are the high school bullies of birds!

What If You Want to Place a Backyard Feeder for Small Birds?

Author Note: If you live in an area with an abundance of scrub jays, you have a couple of things to think about. If you want to install a backyard feeder for small birds, you’ll be in for a surprise!

If scrub-jays catch sight of a small bird on your feeder, there’s a high chance they’ll bully it into retreating and steal its place in the feeding station. As a result, the poor bird won’t get food, and you won’t catch sight of it, which is the reason for installing a feeder in the first place.

To solve that, you can get a backyard feeder with a built-in outer cage. The cage aims to exclude the larger, more violent birds from feeding. That way, they won’t find a place to feed, so they’ll fly away.

Alternatively, you can put food that’ll only appeal to the small chickadees, finches, and titmice. For example, a large bird with predatory tendencies won’t feed on nectar or find it delicious enough to kill another bird for it.

If you’re going to do that, you can add food that the scrub jays aren’t fond of. These foods include millet, nyjer, and nectar.

These are the only methods you can prevent scrub-jays from coming along to your feeder. Leaving it without a cage while providing nuts, sunflower, or suet, it becomes an open invitation for the birds to come by.

More About the Scrub Jays Behavior

Western Scrub-jay

Violence aside, let’s see the normal bird-like behavior of scrub jays. For starters, these birds fly in lunges and hops, making their flight a sight to see for passers-by. They sometimes turn their head sharply from side to side, looking around for food or nests.

In winter and fall, you’ll likely find scrub jays in flocks of 30 individuals or so. They join floaters, which are known to be birds that don’t have their own territories.

Author Note: To protect their nests, breeding pairs of scrub-jays keep pecking and calling at other jays that come around. Sometimes, they resort to violence if a bird gets too close for their liking.

Moreover, scrub jay pairs are likely to stay together throughout the year, not just during the breeding season. This habit, in particular, is odd to birds since they’re used to having multiple mates throughout their lives.

Scrub jays still split from their partners, through. It’s said that around 11% of the breeding pairs part ways each year.

Furthermore, Californian scrub-jays leave their territories when winter comes by, but that mostly only happens when the acorn crops fail. As a result, other birds take their estate and live there. Nevertheless, when spring comes around and scrub jays return to their home, it’s the cue for other birds to flee the scene.

The hostile behavior of scrub jays toward other birds is the reason their species isn’t loved among bird watchers. Although the birds are beautiful, the fact that they attack, bully, and feed on other birds is unsettling. Especially that they’re not too large themselves.

Closing Thoughts

They say looks are tricking, and scrub jays are living proof of that! You wouldn’t believe that these blue beauties are capable of killing until you read about it or watch it yourself. Also, the fact the non-predatory birds can have violent tendencies can come as a surprise.

When you learn about the scrub jays’ reasons, you may empathize with them, but it’s still hard to believe. We hope you found this article on why do scrub jays eat other birds useful.

The world of animals and birds doesn’t cease to amaze us. Let’s hope that the next time, the surprise will be a bit nicer!

Fly high friends!

Photo by panza-rayada


How do you get rid of blue Scrub-Jays?

Well, you can’t really and you shouldn’t. The best thing you can do if they are causing trouble in your garden is to give them a feeder of their own. Fill it with sunflower seeds and peanuts.

What is the difference between a scrub jay and a blue jay?

They are different species but both in the Corvidae family. They are also related to crows and ravens, which might explain their aggressive nature.

How smart is a scrub Jay?

As part of the Corvid family, they are very intelligent. That might be less known than how smart crows and ravens are but they are equally as bright.

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