why do blue jays peck wood

Why Do Blue Jays Peck Wood? A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to looks, Blue Jays are among the most beautiful birds. However, a lot of homeowners consider these birds a nuisance because of the many inconveniences of the bird. After all, Blue Jays are quite chatty and loud, which can deter other backyard birds away from your bird feeder.

Additionally, some Blue Jays may do some peculiar behaviors that can be quite damaging, like pecking at wooden structures, houses, and windows, so why do Blue Jays peck wood?

Blue Jays don’t peck wood naturally like woodpeckers. However, they can still pick up this behavior for some reasons, such as excavating the external layers of wood, chipping paint over wood for calcium, or even communicating with other birds. It also depends on how hard they peck at the wood.

If you want to find out more about Blue Jays, why they do this behavior, and how to stop them from damaging your wooden structures, keep on reading this guide!

7 Reasons Why Blue Jays Might Peck at Wooden Structures

blue jay about to peck

Blue Jays are among the most intelligent species of birds in the world, and since they don’t naturally peck at wood, there are some interesting reasons why they might be doing it. In the following section, we’ll walk you through some of the most interesting ones:

1. To Search for Insects Hidden Inside the Wood

Blue Jays are omnivores, which means that they can eat just about anything, whether it’s plant or animal matter.

While Blue Jays mainly feed on vegetable matter, such as nuts, acorns, seeds, and suet in bird feeders, they also feed on various types of insects. These include caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, ants, etc.

Top Tip: Since many insects will seek refuge inside tree barks, Blue Jays will try to peck on the infested wood matter in the tree in order to excavate these holes and consume the insects inside.

In fact, a lot of homeowners who recently had carpenter bees making holes in trees and decks around their property will soon notice Blue Jays pecking at woods around that area

2. To Chip off Paint for Nutrition

In some cases, you might notice that Blue Jays don’t only peck exposed wood, but also painted ones. If that’s the case in your household, there is a decent chance that the blue jay is not actually going after the wood.

Instead, the bird might be trying to remove the paint chips in order to incorporate these chips into their feed so that they can benefit from the calcium content in the paint chips.

This typically happens when sources for calcium nutrition are scarce, especially around the mating season when Blue Jays need more nutrition.

3. To Scare Other Birds

blue jay pecking a wood stick

As previously mentioned, Blue Jays are among the smartest birds in the world. In fact, it’s one of the few birds that are capable of cracking nuts and acorns open. However, these aren’t the only way Blue Jays show off their intelligence.

Blue Jays are also known for mimicking the loud calls of hawks in order to scare off other birds in the area and mark their territory.

However, it’s theorized by scientists that Blue Jays only after any noise that will keep the birds off, and since loud tabs on the wood are highly effective at spooking some birds, there’s a good chance that they’re doing it for that reason.

4. To Mark Their Territory

Similar to the previous point, Blue Jays may use the tapping sound as a way of communication with other birds and Blue Jays in the area.

Author Note: During the mating season, Blue Jays might use the wood pecking as a method to show dominance and mark their territory.

This is typically done by male Blue Jays as a way to attract female mates and warn other males not to step into their territory.

5. To Store Food

As a smart bird, Blue Jays are capable of figuring out solutions to their problems. Typically, a Blue Jay will stash its food in an inconspicuous area in order to protect it from other opportunists and insects.

One of the spots that Blue Jays may use to hide their food stash is behind tree barks. While trying to find a suitable tree, blue will carry out some tests at various spots by pecking at different wooden structures and trees.

6. To Clean Their Bills

Birds need to keep their bills clean in order to catch food, and Blue Jays aren’t an exception here. In most cases, birds will clean their bills by rubbing them against trees and solid structures.

But, there are some situations where their bills need extra cleaning, so they end up tapping them against wood, which ends up making some noise and giving the impression that they’re pecking wood.

7. An Individual Behavior from a Single Blue Jay

Last but not least, you should always keep in mind that Blue Jays are very smart birds, and different Blue Jays will have different personalities and approaches to finding solutions. In many cases, wood pecking might be the Blue Jay’s way to address the issue that they have.

Are Blue Jays Related Woodpeckers?

blue jay and woodpecker

Some people might suspect that Blue Jays and woodpeckers are related because of the wood pecking. However, this is not true.

Blue Jays belong to the Corvid family, also known as “Corvidae”, which is the same family that includes crows, ravens, magpies, rooks, coughs, etc, all of which might end up pecking wood for the same previously mentioned reasons.

On the other hand, woodpeckers are a group of birds that belong to the family “Picidae” along with sapsuckers, wrynecks, and piculets.

Author Note: These birds dig a much larger hole in trees than the ones made by Blue Jays because their peaks are optimized for pecking. This pecking is mainly for nesting as well as catching insects that hide in trees.

What Do the Holes Made By Blue Jays Look Like?

As previously established, Blue Jays and woodpeckers are not related, and therefore, Blue Jays don’t actually have the anatomy that gives them the ability to dig large holes.

In fact, most Blue Jays will peck around already formed holes rather than digging a fresh one like woodpeckers.

For that reason, Blue Jay holes are usually very small and shallow, but they can vary slightly in size depending on the purpose they had in mind while pecking.

Tips to Keep Blue Jays from Pecking at Wood Around Your House

blue jay on house

If you find the pecking behavior annoying and you want it to stop, there are some things that you can do, depending on the reasons why Blue Jays are doing it in the first place. Let’s have a quick look at them:

Deploy a Fake Raptor in Your Backyard

One of the easiest ways to keep birds out of your backyard is to use a realistic toy raptor to scare off other birds.

The most common ones are owls because owls naturally perch at the same spot for a very long time.

Put the fake owl in a relatively high spot, such as your house roof, and make sure that you change the owl’s location every few days to stay effective.

Provide the Blue Jay with an Easier Source for Nutrition

Blue Jays will always try to find as much nutrition as possible without too much trouble. If they go to the length of pecking wood, they’re that desperate for food.

For that reason, providing them with an easy source of nutrition will eliminate the damage and pecking.

However, you need to keep the food away because Blue Jays will spend their day making loud calls to deter other birds.

Relocate and Use a Different Type of Bird Feeder in Your Backyard

Blue jay feeding

If you want to keep the Blue Jay away but you don’t want to keep your house inviting for other backyard birds, you should look into the type of your bird feeder.

Blue Jays like to perch while eating, so they’ll always prefer tray and hopper bird feeders over a hanging one. Similarly, you might want to shut off the bird fountain because Blue Jays are usually attracted to these fountains for a quick sip.

Use Motion-Sensing Sprinklers to Deter the Birds

Lastly, you can try to use sprinklers in order to deter Blue Jays from your household. Sprinklers don’t only spook birds with water but they can also be loud.

Author Note: Motion-sensing sprinklers will detect the motion of the bird and spray water when it senses any movement, keeping the bird away from your wooden structures and trees.

Wrap Up

blue jay looking at you

With that said, you now have a brief answer to the curious question “why do Blue Jays peck wood?”. As you can see, this is a relatively rare behavior and it’s uncommon for Blue Jays to do so.

For that reason, it’s not easy to pinpoint the reason why they do it. Instead, you’ll have to check the surrounding conditions for reasons why the bird is acting erratically.

You might also want to check the size of the holes the bird makes and whether you had any previous infestations from wood-eating bugs, as this can be a sign that you haven’t fully addressed the problem.


Are Blue Jays an aggressive bird?

Yes, they are. Usually directed towards other birds but their aggressive nature could help to explain why they peck at wood.

Why are Blue Jays so smart?

As a member of the Corvid family, they are born to be smart. Crows, ravens and magpies are all super smart.

Can Blue Jay birds talk?

Blue Jays are able to use their vocalizations to mimic and that might include a human voice to a certain extent but they cannot talk in the same manner that we do.

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