Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)


French: Geai bleu German: Blauhäher Spanish: Chara azul

Corvus cristatus


, 1758,

in America septentrionali = south-eastern South Carolina, USA


Analyses of mtDNA suggest that this species and C. stelleri probably split from a common ancestor over 5 million years ago (cytochrome b gene divergence of 10.7%). Known to hybridize with C. stelleri, and also with Aphelocoma coerulescens and Cyanocorax yncas. Geographical variation rather weak and clinal, and semplei perhaps better subsumed into nominate. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. bromia Oberholser, 1921 – S Canada from E British Columbia E to Newfoundland, S in USA from North Dakota to E Montana, NE Nebraska and C Missouri and, in E, to SC Illinois, C Indiana, NE Kentucky, NE Tennessee and SC Virginia; in winter also to SE USA (Texas to NE Georgia).
  • C. c. cyanotephra Sutton, 1935 – from SE Wyoming and Nebraska (except NE) S through E Colorado, W Kansas and Oklahoma to N Texas.
  • C. c. cristata (Linnaeus, 1758) – from S Missouri, S Illinois, SW Indiana, W Kentucky, Tennessee (except extreme NE), SW Virginia and North Carolina S to SE Texas, coastal Gulf of Mexico and C Florida.
  • C. c. semplei Todd, 1928 – S half of Florida (S from Hillsborough and Osceola Counties).
  • Descriptive notes

    25–30 cm; 70–100 g. Small jay, blue, white and black with distinctive but short erectile crest, medium-long graduated tail, and grey to blue rictal bristles... read more


    Large vocabulary of graded calls, divided into five broad categories. (1) "Jeers" are... read more


    Forest and woodland, whether coniferous, deciduous or mixed, with openings and extensive edge.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous, but seasonal specialist on mast crops. Large sample of stomach contents from 1920s contained 22% insects, 43% hard mast (mostly... read more


    Nest-building begins in mid-Mar, and laying from early Apr in S to mid-May in N of range. Long-term socially monogamous pair-bond. Solitary... read more


    At least some individuals resident in all parts of range. Except in extreme S, up to probably not... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common throughout range. Density variable with habitat, 7–28 pairs/100 ha; densities in towns may exceed those in forested areas. Has bred once... read more

    Recommended citation

    Marzluff, J. (2020). Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 January 2020).